Notes on the Atrocities Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...
Thursday, April 08, 2004
[Fred Fielding, the fourth commissioner, is questioning her as I write this.]
After an hour and a half of testimony to the 9/11 Commission, two themes have emerged: responsibility and competence. Listening to her opening remarks (which I did badly--it was 6 am our time and I was still in a half-doze), I was struck by how keen Condi was to reward the administration for due diligence, but absolutely to disavow any responsibility for the undeniable, resulting failure. She wants to avoid criticism that she didn't do enough, but won't take responsibility for the facts.
[Jamie S. Gorelick, the fifth commissioner, is has now started questioning.]
The responsibility, according to Condi, apparently rested with the intelligence agencies. The fault was in the "structural problem" based on "cultural" and historical (she failed to mention legal) separation of the FBI and CIA. We did our work, Condi insists, but we weren't given good intel.
The theme of competence looms above the whole proceeding. Condi seems defensive and scared. Her voice wavers and cracks. When asked direct questions about culpability, she searches for someone else to take the blame--Clinton, structure, intelligence, Tenet. She often fails to know answers to direct questions about details and resorts to grand explanations about White House procedure.
Clark, who appeared even-tempered and confident, knew the answers to the Commission's questions. When he didn't know the answer, he knew why he didn't know. He appeared to be a man fully in control of the situation, fully in command of his sphere of influence. Some of the commissioners asked very tough questions. His response, unlike Condi's, was confidence in the facts and his behavior. Most significantly, he was ready to accept his own responsibility.
Condi, by contrast, seems not to know where her responsibility rested, and is overly defensive and vague. Like a teenager who isn't exactly sure what she's done wrong, Condi is quick to eschew any hint of wrongdoing for fear that it will expose some greater failing.
Anyway, at 10:42 EDL, that's the impression I have.