Tuesday’s Washington Post runs an editorial recommending that the White House allow Condi Rice to testify publicly before the 9/11 Commission.
But the members of the editorial board can only just barely bring themselves to say it. Their desire to give the president (and the underlying policy at issue here) every possible benefit of the doubt wars visibly with their recognition that Rice’s continued refusal is no longer tenable.
In that vein …
Richard A. Clarke’s book criticizing the administration, while stimulating an important public debate, brings this concern [keeping advice of presidential aides confidential] into sharp relief. If career national security officials write tell-all accounts while the presidents they serve not only remain in office but are facing reelection, decision-making is bound to suffer. Presidents are more likely to surround themselves with political loyalists, depriving themselves of diverse ideas and valuable experience. Staff members are more likely to censor themselves for fear of later exposure.
In other words, we’re only in this terrible mess of having to cross this woeful threshold because this showboater Clarke wrote <$Ad$>this book. Friggin’ backstabber!
Toward the issue of substance underlying all of this the editorial displays an odd indifference. And the authors are at pains to proclaim their belief that there are no questions Rice would have any difficulty answering or confronting — a classic case of premature exculpation.
Says the Post: “[W]e see no reason to credit Democratic insinuations that Ms. Rice has something to hide, given that she spent four hours answering the commission’s questions in closed session and has offered to answer more.”
As for the danger of presidents surrounding themselves “with political loyalists, depriving themselves of diverse ideas and valuable experience”, that horse has sort of already left the barn, hasn’t it? Or has no one been paying attention?
It’s been clear for some time that one of the key shortcomings of this administration is the presence of so many loyalists and ideologues who can usually be counted on to shout “Onward! Onward! Onward!” as the ship of state sails off the edge of the world.
More prosaically one might start with this Knight Ridder article from Sunday, the first sentence of which reads: “Accounts from insiders in the Bush White House describe a tightly controlled, top-down organization that pushes a predetermined agenda, shuns dissenting views and discourages open debate.”
What’s notable about this is that many of the premises of the Post editorial are belied by excellent reporting which has appeared in their own pages in recent days.
I confess that I don’t read newspaper editorials (as opposed to signed columns and opeds) that closely or frequently. But if this and other recent examples I’ve seen are any indictation, the disconnect between the Post’s editorials and the factual information being generated on their own news pages seems to be approaching Wall Street Journal-like proportions.