Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Thursday, April 08, 2004  

Condi Blogging...Final Thoughts

Condi's appearance before the 9/11 Commission was damage control and PR. She had already testified and wouldn't have appeared if the public hadn't demanded it. So her intent was to avoid catastrophe. Clearly, there was no way for her to exonerate the White House or somehow impress the Commission and the public that the White House had done a wonderful job. She went in with a script and she stuck to it. I suspect the reviews will be split and polarized. Righties will applaud her candor and aplomb and lefties will criticize her in much the manner I already have.

That said, I doubt seriously that the Commission will be impressed with her testimony. They have so much material that a PR stunt by the National Security Advisor is likely to have no effect in their final analysis. What will the Commission have heard? Several things.

1. Circular logic. The White House's argument is that it was focused on terror, but there was nothing "actionable" about the intelligence, nor were the reports from the CIA and FBI coordinated. But why, the Commissioners kept asking, if you were so heartily concerned about terror did you not push to get better, more-coordinated intelligence? The WH can't have it both ways: either they weren't concerned about terror or they didn't sufficiently act on their concern.

2. Blame. Each time the Commission challenged Condi's or the White House's behavior, she directed blame elsewhere. Catch phrases introduced were "structural failures" and "threat warning." The failures weren't the WH's, but structural problems in the way intelligence was gathered. The intelligence gathered did not contain a "threat warning"--that is, they were general rather than specific, so the WH couldn't act on it. Condi quickly tried to point out that it was the current White House who solved these problems, even though the Office of Homeland Security, one of the fixes Condi identified, was opposed by the President. Again, her testimony won't align with everything else the Commission has heard.

3. The "war footing" argument. Regarding that blame, Condi tried to forward the argument that the whole process of fighting terror was inappropriate before the WH took over. As a justification for the pre-emption doctrine, she asserted that terror had previously been prosecuted as a crime and that it was only with President Bush that the WH adopted a "war footing" against terror. This was a fairly serious charge, because she was essentially arguing that before the Bush administration, America hadn't dealt with terror. It also strains credibility because in adopting a "war footing," the President has now abandoned the original threat--Osama bin Laden, whom he hasn't mentioned in 18 months.

In a comment below, Susan asked whether I was being too harsh on Condi. I'd like to address that question, because I suspect it will play out beyond this blog. Condoleezza Rice is the National Security Advisor. Her purview is the national security of the United States. For over three years, she has rarely been challenged about her qualifications or her performance. Yet on her watch, we were attacked at home. She has steadfastly refused to take any responsibility for her handling of her office prior to that attack. Am I being harsh? I look at a cabinet-level official who has obfuscated, lied, and misdirected for 2 1/2 years since 9/11. I think harsh is the least she could expect from people who wonder what the hell has been going on.

posted by Jeff | 10:30 AM |
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