TCU Daily Skiff Tueday, April 13, 2004
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President doesn’t need hand-holding
Commission gave White House too sweet a deal


Last week National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice defended the Bush administration before the September 11 Commission. Her testimon y was quickly dissected and digested by the mainstream media.

But mostly ignored in the cacophony of instant analysis from talking heads on both sides of the political spectrum was the deal the administration struck with the commission to get Rice to testify.

(A brief bit of background if you haven’t been paying attention: The administration had vigorously refused to allow Rice to testify on principle of executive privilege, claiming it would create a precedent that would allow national security advisers to be hauled in front of congressional committees at will. But the position became politically untenable and is logically incoherent — the commission, for starters, is not congressionally appointed, meaning it would not, by definition, create such a precedent.)

No matter who wins the spin battle, it’s hard not to conclude that Bush didn’t work out a sweet deal.

The White House, which had agreed to questioning by only two members of the commission, backtracked and consented to questioning by all 10 panel members. But there’s a catch: In exchange of the Rice testimony, the commission will privately question Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney together.

The president, apparently, needs somebody to hold his hand.

You don’t have to be a legal scholar to understand the absurdity of this arrangement. When police question two victims — or suspects, or witnesses, or anyone, for that matter — they do so separately. Why? To see if their stories match up.

The administration’s defenders might say that joint testimony can save time for both the commission and the administration. But it seems that Bush has no problem making time to campaign — on a platform of strong defense and homeland security at that — or visit his Crawford ranch, which is where he was, incidentally, when he received the now infamous Aug. 6, 2001, memo.

There is no good reason for Bush and Cheney not to testify separately to the commission. We hope the administration’s attempts to stonewall continue to backfire.

 
 
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