A large cast of high-ranking officials took the stand last week to testify in public for the 9/11 Commission. Yet, the one person that probably knows most about the attacks and how the flow of information was handled was noticeably absent: National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. She continues to refuse to appear in front of the commission publicly, yet she appears on virtually every TV show she can to attack allegations former White House terrorism advisor Richard Clarke has brought forth. If she can appear on TV shows that every American can see, there is no reason she cannot appear in a public hearing.
When asked Sunday during a CBS interview that aired on 60 Minutes, Rice agreed that her testimony could be of great value. “Nothing would be better in my point of view … I would really like to do that, but there is an important principle involved here,” she said. “Sitting National Security Advisors do not testify in front of Congress.”
Rice said even though Sept. 11 was “an unprecedented event” and the policy could easily be waived if President George W. Bush chose to do so, it is “a matter of policy” that prevents her from appearing in public, despite her having answered questions by the same bipartisan commission in non-public hearings.
Why, then, appear on TV shows such as 60 Minutes and answer questions similar to those the commission would ask?
It would be fair to assume many members of Congress own a TV and see the interviews she gives almost daily. Furthermore, the commission is independent from Congress; the rule should therefore not apply. But that would be mincing words.
Could it be that she is avoiding the commission because she would have to testify under oath? President Bill Clinton, after all, almost took a fall after it became certain he had lied under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Clarke, on the other hand, could not be more open. Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press he said he “would welcome (the secret testimonies in front of the commission) being declassified … but not just a little line here and there — let’s declassify all six hours of my testimony.”
By appearing to withhold access to information, the Bush administration is hurting its image. Rice should reconsider testifying under oath in public. Her testimony can only help the Bush re-election campaign. Assuming, of course, she has nothing to hide.