It’s official. Bush National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice is set to testify before the 9/11 Commission. And while I commend the White House for finally committing her to testify, if only to negate partisan attacks from the other side, the delay wasn’t so much an act of stonewalling, as Democrats contend, but rather an attempt to ensure that the potential for Congress’ power over the executive branch does not expand under such an action.
Furthermore, the fact that Rice has already testified in front of the commission for four hours calls into question the real motiviation behind those who contend they wish to get to the bottom of 9/11.
But with no regard for her prior testimony, some wish to bring the discussion to the public. I have no problem with that, but the commission will not be learning anything new. And neither will we. Rice will not change her account of what happened, and neither will Richard Clarke.
Instead of stonewalling, the White House has been working out with the commission the details of how such testimony would work in the future and what kind of ill precedent this sort of power over the executive branch might bring. Simply put, the power of Congress to call before it anyone in high levels of government seriously challenges the separation of powers doctrine laid out in the Constitution.
In Bush’s own words: “Th[e] principle of the separation of powers is protected by the Constitution, is recognized by the courts and has been defended by Presidents of both political parties.”
The two heads of the 9/11 Commission agreed: “We do not believe Dr. Rice’s testimony, before an independent commission, should be seen as setting any precedent, and it should not be cited as setting precedent for future requests for a National Security Advisor or any other White House official to testify before a legislative body.”
So we’ll listen to Dr. Rice’s testimony, Democrats will charge Bush with not doing enough to protect this nation prior to 9/11, and it’ll all blow over in a few weeks.