Sunday, April 04, 2004

Quid pro quo 

9/11 kin: W butting in
The full-court-press from Gonzales toward any criticism of Bush at the 9.11 Commission shows a lawyer doing everything he can to protect his client. Thus I am suspicious about the Gonzales letter on the Rice testimony -- it implied that her testimony and the Bush/Cheney testimony issue were only coincidentally being dealt with in the same letter. Maybe this wasn't a coincidence at all, but a quid pro quo.
Here is my argument:
With the 9.11 commission, for the first time in his presidency Bush would have to answer questions about what he actually did to protect Americans before, during and after 9.11. Some of those questions would come from democrats, specifically Bob Kerry.
For Bush, who postures as brave, resolute, etc, etc, some of the questions would undoubtedly expose his lack of focus before 9.11, his fear on that day, and his ineffectiveness in handling terrorism since. The endless minutes in the elementary school show a man who, when confronted with catastrophe, froze and did nothing. There is no explanation for this that doesn't involve basic character flaws of cowardice and indecisiveness.
Hence his initial insistence that he would only speak to the commission chairs, and only for an hour. But as the Rice controversy heated up, his own position was also becoming increasingly untenable. Maintaining this posture would pit him against the 9.11 families and all of New York and risk exposing his fear of testifying.
So the uproar about Rice became an opportunity to change the ground rules for his own testimony, without making this change into a central focus for news stories.
With Cheney accompanying him, the dangerous questions about why he did what he did on 9.11, and why his administration was unfocused on terrorism before and ineffective after, can be punted to Cheney. Cheney can talk for so long in replying that the commission members will have little opportunity for any follow-ups.
So the facade of cooperativeness can be maintained, but with less risk that any uncomfortable or damning revelations will be made.

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