Good Friday Night
April 9, 2004

No Excuses

Condi Pleads the Fifth

While the conformist press is bending over so far it can kiss its own ass to give Condi credit for her "performance" -- and that is all it was -- I for one want to say that there are no excuses. When you are the National Security Advisor and your excuse is that you didn't know, that just doesn't cut it. If the major media wants to spin it like her appearance was a great triumph and resolved all the appropriate questions, then they deserve the mess we are now in.

There are no excuses for the state we are in -- none -- nothing. Let's not go into how bad things are just this minute. There isn't time for that. Condi spent her time avoiding answers and blaming other people. When you are in command, you don't blame your people. If something goes wrong it is your responsibility. If someone doesn't do his job, it is your job to get someone who can, or do it yourself. That is the responsibility of whoever commands. That's what Bush should have done overall, and that's what she as National Security Advisor should have done to protect the security of the American people.

Condi kept retreating into noble sounding rhetoric, but not getting to the point. Like her administration she lives in ideology, and is too rigid to adapt to the real world. She kept reciting her little theater piece about Bush -- in his manly manly way -- saying, "I'm tired of swatting flies, I want to do something bigger." She's trying to justify the administration's lack of vigilance by saying the president was doing greater things, had his eyes on a broader horizon -- he longs for greatness. It was great Karen Hughes-style romance fiction, but the Boy King's grand vision is no excuse for not tending to the basic business of maintaining security, even if it means the Grand One has to swat a few flies. As someone at the hearing said yesterday, "Why didn't we swat this fly?"

Could it be because the catastrophe just happened to fit so perfectly into their agenda of militarizing the country as suggested in the public papers of the Project for a New American Century? Let's see ... who did the crime benefit?

When confronted with the existence of the memo of August 6 that told in its title that bin Laden had plans to strike big in the US soon, Condi said, in effect, "But it didn't say when or where. There were no specifics. That was a big threat, what do you do with a big threat like that?"

Though I don't claim an expertise in national security matters, just common sense would tell me, if you have a big threat, you take big action. You put out a blanket alert, put all agencies on maximum alert, spread maximum awareness of the threat through the population, put the president on TV to address the people and call them to action and vigilance, use all the media to get the message across, to alert and prepare the people. Then, of course, if you were a real president and not just a low life crook, you would get to the source of the problem as quickly as possible. I'm not talking about just a police action, though that is necessary, but going beyond that and analyzing the source of the hostility and doing something about it, even if it's unpleasant for the oil companies and weapons contractors.

Some of the questioners were pretty tough, though the time limits gave her the mechanism to avoid their questions and void their points. In a real cross examination, she would not have that luxury. Some of the questioners mustered up a little sternness in their faces, but essentially softballed her and gave her a platform to perform on, like Oliver North did, and Hitler before at the trial he used to get famous. The really tough questions were never asked. As Randi Rhodes on Air America Radio said today, they should have let the families ask her questions. What was the story on the put options on United and American airlines? Why did Bush fly to Nebraska? Why was there no defense of the Pentagon 35 minutes after the second airline crashed into the towers. Isn't it her business to know the answers to those questions? There is no excuse for her not telling us, not doing her job. Going on three years after the catastrophe, she hasn't taken the time to find out the answers to those questions. It is not enough to say you don't know.

She answered the questions like a criminal, like she was trying to defend herself against being convicted of a crime, not like someone who is supposed to answer for the security of the country.

There are no excuses for what she made excuses for. She had the nerve to blame Richard Clarke for not coming up with a plan, when he worked for her. That is so lame I can't believe the American people aren't up in arms. It takes gall for a person who makes excuses like that to ask to be given that responsibility again.

April 9, 2004

Poor Condi

The National Security Advisor Cuts a Low Profile

Condoleezza Rice's session with the 9/11 commission is playing on CSPAN as I write this, and I'm taping it because I think it is of central importance to the events and to the present prolonged crisis that America has been undergoing since the rise of the Bush regime. It is good to have the document at hand, because there are so many layers of lies within practically every sentence, it takes much longer to understand it than it does to hear it.

Condoleezza started by reading a very mechanical opening speech. She sounded more or less like a PTA president or a high school debate student. The media in general are spinning it as though she did well, typically blunting the significance of the events. In my view, while she is trying hard to defend the competence and integrity of the administration, she comes off as pathetic.

Since she is on record as saying that no one ever imagined that a terrorist could use planes as bombs, she is in the awkward position of having to defend herself against questions about whether that statement was a cover up. If she was not covering something up with that tragically erroneous statement, then she must have been terribly uninformed for someone charged with the responsibility of being the national security advisor to the president. Which is worse?

In the hardcore Machiavellian world of power politics, people usually opt for leaders who are not always truthful rather than for people who are sincere, but naive and ineffective. So which is Rice? Could the National Security Advisor of the world's greatest military power really have been so innocent on September 11 that she believed no one could have imagined someone using a plane as a weapon? Is that possible? One would hope it is not.

Then if you take the assumption that she is not that clueless, but was actually engaged in a pattern of deception, then the question is, what is she hiding? What could be so bad that it would be better to appear an incompetent fool than to reveal that in fact the idea of using planes as weapons was very well known for half a century at least?

Much as I believe in the overall dishonesty and bad faith of the administration, Condi's performance today almost convinces me that she's telling the truth, that she really is as much of a lightweight that she was totally unaware of such a possiblity. It makes one wonder why Bush appointed her to her position.

It wasn't apparently for her expertise in the field of national security, apparently. But then, Bush may not know enough about what national security involves to know the difference. He probably hired her because she was an oil industry colleague, because she would fulfill some of the distribution requirements for making his cabinet look inclusive. It looks like he hired her because she presented a good image. Unfortunately, not sufficient when it comes to protecting America against attack.

The contrast between Rice and Clarke is amazing. Clarke, a professional with many years experience, a hardboiled, focused, apolitical security expert. The Republican defenders of the Bush on the commission showed their hostility toward him, but showed even more frustration because he was utterly unflappable.

In the first place Clarke had nothing to defend. He started his testimony by taking responsibility for failing. There was nowhere to push him. Second, his case is very strong because, apparently it's true and holds together. So it's virtually impossible to trip him up. And third, they are questioning him in an area that he is 100 times smarter and better informed than any of them. He was impenetrable.

Condoleezza, on the other hand, does not have the luxury of just telling the truth. She is responsible to defend the administration. That means maintaining a holding pattern and not giving ground on any front, not even making an admission that the administration made any mistakes or has anything to apologize for.

As much as the Bush group loves the benefits and the trappings of power, they are utterly uninterested in taking responsibility. The buck never stops with Bush, or anyone else in the administration. If something goes wrong, it is the fault of someone else. The war in Iraq was not the fault of the commander in chief, it was caused by a bunch of inept intelligence operatives who drove the country to war with no justification.

And of course, typically, Rice and the Republicans in general, used the excuse of the limitations on police power in democratic societies. Democratic societies, she said almost scornfully, are historically slow when it comes to dealing with crises. And a law like the Patriot Act, which in effect nullifies the Bill of Rights, is a step in the right direction, in her mind.

I know others see through a different lens, but when I hear her testimony, she just sounds lame. She has no stature. Her story has no coherence. She's just frantically defending herself, saying, "Yes we were really doing a lot." But there is nothing in the record that backs that up. She's just making excuses.

She's good at filibustering. She responds to a question by diverting it, then going off on a tangent that takes the allotted time of the questioner but does not address the question at all.

She has a million reasons why they did nothing.

Some items of interest:

  • Condi and Lying. CNN
  • Condi and Kerrey in transcript. Seattle Pi
  • Gary Hart: she brushed me off five days before attacks "I've never seen the atmosphere that exists in Washington," the commission's chairman, Thomas Kean, said. "Right now it's the nastiest I've ever seen it." Sydney Morning Herald
  • Clinton's credibility bounces back. Globe & Mail

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