Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. Like this one, swiped from the AP:
There’s Condoleeza Rice watching Bush speaking at some press event. Doesn’t her expression, and the way she seems to be trying to merge herself into the flag, speak volumes about what she’s been going through lately?
Here are a few interesting links on the embattled national security advisor. From Scott Forbes of A Yank in Oz: Witness protection. From Ryan Lizza at The New Republic: Logic jam. And from Joshua Micah Marshall: How low will they go? (Also from Marshall, though it focuses more on Clarke: Last night I heard…)
There are more good links at the Center for American Progress: Bush admits negligence.
Republican Senator Bill Frist is apparently among those encouraging Bush to have Rice testify publicly, under oath, for the commission. And I have to say, that would certainly help clear up a few things. At this point, Rice is the one most directly damaged (well, beyond Bush himself, I guess) by Richard Clarke’s testimony. He pretty much called her a liar.
From his 9/11 commission testimony:
GORELICK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Mr. Clarke, for your testimony today. You have talked about a plan that you presented to Dr. Rice immediately upon her becoming national security adviser, and that in response to questions from Commissioner Gorton, you said elements of that plan, which were developed by you and your staff at the end of 2000 — many elements — became part of what was then called NSPD-9, or what ultimately became NSPD-9.
When Dr. Rice writes in the Washington Post, “No Al Qaida plan was turned over to the new administration,” is that true?
CLARKE: No. I think what is true is what your staff found by going through the documents and what your staff briefing says, which is that early in the administration, within days of the Bush administration coming into office, that we gave them two documents. In fact, I briefed Dr. Rice on this even before they came into office.
CLARKE: One was the original Delenda Plan from 1998, and the other document was the update that we did following the Cole attack, which had as part of it a number of decisions that had to be taken so that she characterizes as a series of options rather than a plan. I’d like to think of it as a plan with a series of options, but I think we’re getting into semantic differences.
GORELICK: Thank you.
I’d like to turn NSPD-9, the document that was wending its way through the process up until September 4th. The document is classified so I can only speak of it in generalities.
But as I understand it, it had three stages which were to take place over, according to Steve Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, over a period of three years.
The first stage was, we would warn the Taliban. The second stage was we would pressure the Taliban. And the third stage was that we would look for ways to oust the Taliban based upon individuals on the ground other than ourselves, at the same time making military contingency plans.
Is that correct?
CLARKE: Well, that’s right. The military contingency plans had always been around, but there was nothing in the original draft, NSPD, that was approved by the principals to suggest U.S. forces would be sent into Afghanistan on the ground.
GORELICK: In addition to that, Director Tenet was asked to draft new additional covert action authorities. Is that right?
CLARKE: That’s right, in part because Mr. Hadley found the existing six memorandums of covert action authority to be talmudic — it’s actually I think Mr. Hadley who gets credit for that word.
But it wasn’t really meant to expand them significantly other than providing direct aid to Afghan factions.
GORELICK: Now you have just described, then, the skeleton, if you will, of what was approved by the administration as of September 4th. And we know that no further action was taken before September 11th.
GORELICK: And so I would read to you — and these are questions I would have put to Dr. Rice had she been here, and I will put to her, the White House designee, Secretary Armitage. She says our strategy, which was expected to take years, marshalled all elements of national power to take down the network, not just respond to individual attacks with law enforcement measures. Our plan called for military options to attack Al Qaida and Taliban leadership, ground forces and other targets, taking the fight to the enemy where he lived.
Is that an accurate statement, in your view?
CLARKE: No, it’s not.
Personally, I don’t think there can be any serious doubt that Clarke’s version of events is much closer to the truth than Rice’s. I mean, it’s documented. So what is Rice going to do?
Well, she can go on like she has been, using executive privilege as an excuse to avoid testifying, while peddling spin to the media. Or she can reverse herself, and go ahead and testify. In that case, though, she’ll have to walk a very fine line. Democratic members of the commission, at least, will be in a position to make her time in the witness chair a living hell. She’ll be extremely hard-pressed to avoid saying things that are demonstrably false (and hence would be perjury) while still defending and burnishing Bush’s reputation.
And as we all know by now, protecting Bush’s reputation is Job One for Condoleeza Rice these days. It’s a much more important part of her job than thwarting terrorists, or helping the 9/11 commission get to the bottom of the events that led up to that day. If you want a national security advisor who’ll spend her time on those sorts of things, you’re going to have to elect a different president. Because George Bush isn’t about to get rid of Condoleeza Rice. Not while she’s doing such a good job.