See Richard Clarke hurt George. See widows hug. See widows cry. See Condi talk, talk, talk. See George worried. See Dick mad. See Dick say “Clarke is bad.” See Condi Testify. See more soldiers and civilians Die. See Dick and George testify. See Dick save George.
Another week of damaging testimony before the 9-11 Independent Commission has placed the Bush administration in a peculiar and precarious political spot. Peculiar because the notoriously recalcitrant and by all accounts ultra-secretive administration is once again being dragged before a ‘truth’ commission, another indication that their guarded stance is not paying off in political protectionism. Precarious because the White House’s attack on former Counter-Terrorism Chief Richard Clarke seems to have done little to obstruct the carriage of truth that Clarke is proclaiming in his just published political memoir.
Clarke’s testimony before the 9-11 Commission drew public praise from widows and parents of 9-11 victims. Photographs of a cadre of families hugging and crying after Clarke’s apologetic salvo before the commission must worry the Bush administration. Clarke’s testimony composed a new political dictum between 9-11 families, still hungry for answers and apologies, and the image that Bush’s re-election team have tried to craft of a President too busy fighting a continuing war on terror in Iraq to testify before any commission.
The damage that Clarke’s testimony has wrought on the administration, despite questions about his memoir’s ax grinding, has compelled the president to order Condoleeza Rice to testify before the commission under oath. More importantly, the 9-11 panel won another major concession from the President: his own appearance before all ten commissioners (not just the secret meeting with the chair of the commission, as previously decided upon). The move evoked praise from the commission, but the future proceedings may be the undoing of Bush’s re-election effort.
During Bush’s “interview,” Vice President Dick Cheney will accompany him. This will be politically damaging to the President in several ways. First, this interview will place both Bush and Cheney before the commission in a tactic admission of the central commanding role of the Vice President in the “War on Terror.” Although Cheney’s central leadership role is obviously known by any generally informed citizen, it will further tarnish the glow of Bush’s assertion that he is the actual commander-in-chief. Second, the public’s opinion of Cheney is far more negative than that of the President. This dual interview fuels doubt about the ‘steady leadership’ that Bush touts. Consequently, the President will be assailed with questions about why he will not testify alone-a mighty pile of fodder for late-night comedians’ jagged barbs at the President. A President who posters himself as the supreme leader in “times of change” is ultimately graffitied as a fool if unable to appear confident and alone answering questions about the administration that is supposedly in his charge.
What the president is hoping for may be that which is impossible to achieve with Dick Cheney: a popular ally who can defend the president better than he can defend himself. Cheney will make every attempt to save the face of the president in the 9-11 interview. This, however, will be the undoing of the very image that the administration is desperately trying to facilitate: that of a President whose steady leadership is really leading us through these supposed times of change.