The date has been set for the unprecedented testimony of National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice – April 8. It should be a good show and undoubtedly both sides of the aisle will walk out of the hearing saying their position has been vindicated. The right and the left will over look anything inconvenient to their cause.
What will be forgotten in the spin circus that is sure to follow is that the whole thing should have never happened in the first place. The White House caved in to pressure and made a bad deal with an organization that should be trusted keep it’s end of the bargain.
Rice had resisted testifying publicly in favor of meeting privately with the commission, citing legal concerns. But after mounting pressure, the White House this week agreed to let her appear before the panel after getting commission and congressional assurances that the move would not be seen as legal precedent that could force other presidential advisers before congressional panels.
The reason Rice had previously used to testify was a long standing, judicially supported, rule that presidential advisors who are not subject to Senate confirmation cannot be compelled to testify regarding the counsel they give the president. This separation of the executive branch from congressional authority was established to prevent the possibility of congressional investigations having a chilling effect on presidential advisors.
The Rice testimony deal will forever change the nature of the presidency. Does anyone honestly expect that congress will honor this agreement and not consider this as setting a precedent? When the congress begins hearings on the pre-war intelligence that completely duped Democratic contender John Kerry into voting for the war, how long does anyone think it will be before the left calls for rice to testify before the committee? How long will it be before those calls include a reference to her 9/11 testimony?
And the next time heat is on and lives are on the line, and the president calls to his advisors for help, how many will speak freely and how many will have the thought in the back of their mind “how will sound in the hearing?”
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