Watch out! A shoe just dropped!
The Times just posted a story for tomorrow's paper about Condi Rice's efforts at damage control on the Richard Clarke matter.
Here are the first three grafs ...
The White House may have sent a phalanx of top officials to Capitol Hill this week to be grilled by the Sept. 11 panel, but the one official who did not appear publicly has turned out to be the official the panel wanted most: Condoleezza Rice.
As she prepares to leave her job at the end of the year, Ms. Rice, the president's national security adviser, now finds herself at the center of a political storm, furiously defending both the White House and her own reputation.
But her effort to blunt the criticism by spending the week on television and in news media briefings may have had the opposite effect. She has infuriated some members of the panel, who wonder why she has time for CNN but not for them. On Thursday they questioned again whether she should be subpoenaed to testify if she does not appear in public to answer questions about the Bush administration's handling of Al Qaeda before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Wait. Let's back up<$Ad$> a second.
As she prepares to leave her job?
Am I like totally out of the loop on what's happening in this town? Or have we not heard before that Condi Rice has decided to resign as National Security Advisor at the end of President Bush's first term?
Are the authors of this piece just trying to signal the possibility that the president could lose the election and thus her tenure as National Security Advisor would end? If that's it, the phrasing certainly leaves some room for confusion.
I guess it's possible that this is a reference to Rice's hopes to succeed Colin Powell since Powell, according to many press reports, has signalled he won't stay for a second Bush term.
But to the best of my knowledge this is the first time we've heard this about Rice -- certainly in so declarative and unambiguous a fashion.
Even with Powell, the statements are usually couched in some fuzzifying language since he's issued a few non-denial denials when asked if it's true that he's leaving. This, on the other hand, seems crystal clear.
It seems odd to me that we'd have such a prominent placement of a clause so clearly signalling Rice's departure, especially at a moment when she's more embattled
than she's been since she came into office.Late Update
: Laura Rozen notes
that on January 7th in the Times
, Bumiller said Rice "insists  will be her last year of service in the White House."