Next We'll Hear Testimony from Charlie McCarthy…


As I type, the president is testifying before the 9/11 commission, though (at the White House's insistence) in tandem with Dick Cheney. Even so, no recording or transcript beyond the handwritten notes taken by commission members, will be available. The official reason is that much of the proceedings deal with classified information. Fine. But then why not a redacted transcript? A recording of the portions that don't deal with classified material? I guess that'd require some sort of default presumption that transparency is a good thing.

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  1. ‘Remember the “mission accomplished” banner, pointing out a Navy mission that had, after all, been accomplished? Remember those famous, factually correct, 16 words in the SOTU? Remember that weeklong debate we all just had about the distinction between ribbons and medals?’

    OK children, time for a lesson. How are the above statements like the following: “Osama bin Laden has never killed an American?”

    Give up? They’re all factually true. And they’re all dishonest.

  2. I think the President is being downright gracious by appearing before the commission at all, and, considering the sort of gag rule they ageed to, it looks like the commission thinks so too.

    Surely the President made his non-transcript testimony a precondition for appearing, so if the commission agreed to give him a free ride, then the onus is on the commission, not the president.

  3. joe,

    Remember Lionel Hutz: “Mr. Simpson, you’re the best kind of correct–technically correct.”

  4. So, er, where were the complaints when Clinton’s testimony (with lawyer and Berger present) was ruled to be confidential?

  5. Bad comparison but nice try… If Bush said those statements under oath and was prosecuted for perjury he’d get off. No such luck for a murder trial of bin Laden.

  6. No jury in the world, aside from a jury consisting of the likes of Carville, Begala, Kerry and McAuliffe would convict Bush of perjury for saying those statements under oath. No such luck for Osama.

  7. I’m not making a legal point, Senator Humphrey. I’m making an ethical point.

    Don’t shake Cheney’s hand after the meeting.

  8. Professor Joe,

    Congrats! You have proved my point even as it seems to have flown right over your head. My point was not “are those statements honest/dishonest”. Rather, it was “why should the President add new, factually correct statements to the public record, given the penchant for his detractors to label those statements dishonest?” Whether or not they are, in fact, honest or dishonest is irrelevant. The key question is, are they _debatable_?

    If so, they will soak up the news cycle for the foreseeable future. Given Kerry’s current run of hoof-in-mouth disease, why would Bush want to turn the media cannons back on himself?

    IOW, just cuz’ he’s dishonest doesn’t mean he’s suicidal…

  9. Bush knows the press is against him; so as a pol, he is trying to limit the damage to himself. That may be a discussion point – but to make it sound like a big deal, while Clinton gets a pass for doing the same thing, won’t win the argument.

    I wonder if they will remind Comm. Gorlick about her “memo”

    – – – –

    for the “what media bias” crowd:

    Rumsfeld: “There are two ways, I suppose, one could inform readers of the Geneva Convention stipulation against using places of worship to conduct military attacks. One might be to headline saying that Terrorists Attack Coalition Forces From Mosques.

    Another might be to say: Mosques Targeted in Fallujah. That was the Los Angeles Times headline this morning.”

  10. Ah. Well, as long as the administration’s obsession with extreme secrecy is motivated by a concern for political advantage, I guess that’s OK then.

  11. julian,

    I didn’t say it is “OK”. I said it is common sense for them to behave as they do. You complain about “their behavior”, but you are not criticizing the media bias that will let them (or me) rationalize (if not justify) such behavior.

    When we have the 4th estate worth its name, it is different. When the reporters are openly doing the job for your opponent, you would be dumb to feed them. If you subscribe to the notion Bush is dumb, he should have gone along with that idea (may be Uncle Dick told him not to).

  12. R. C. Dean makes an excellent point. What would have happened if Bush had issued an executive order requiring the Supreme court to release records of its deliberation on the gerrymandering case, or if they insisted the deliberation on this combatant detention take place in public?
    I have always felt that Nixon should have told the supremes to whistle when they ordered him to release the tapes.
    Congress is so bored doing their legislating job that they want to take over executive functions. Judges want to be superlegislators and superexecutives.
    Enough of this squabbling. All of you get back to your own rooms and do your oown chores.

  13. Julian-

    It’s only OK because this is a Republican administration, so we want to see them gain a political advantage. If it were a Democrat administration the only acceptable stance would of course be to oppose extreme secrecy. It’s all part of being a principled libertarian.

  14. thoreau,

    you don’t do sarcasm well, man:-)

    I thought you said you were a liberal wuss – now you are claiming to be a principled libertarian?!

    (if that was directed at me, I am not a Republican or a Libertarian)

  15. It wasn’t in response to anybody in particular.

  16. Oh, as to whether I’m a liberal wuss or principled libertarian, I’ll just quote a famous person who thumbs his nose at authority, relishes free speech, and makes a lot of money:

    Well I am whatever you say I am
    If I wasn’t then why would I say I am?

    Any guesses on whom I’m quoting?

  17. thoreau,

    Sam, I am 🙂

    no, seriously, I had to google it and was surprised (I am not much into music)

  18. Popeye? Or would that be:

    Well I yam whatever you say I yam
    If I wasn’t then why would I say I yam?

  19. Here’s another hint:

    Every time I write a rhyme
    Some people think it’s a crime
    For me to tell ’em what’s on my mind,
    I guess I’m a CRIMINAL,
    I don’t gotta say a word
    I just flip ’em the bird
    Keep going, don’t take shit from no one.

    Anyway, on the question of whether I’m a principled libertarian or a liberal wuss I stand by the lines I originally quoted:

    I am whatever you say I am
    If I wasn’t then why would I say I am?

  20. Actually anon, you’ve proved my point. There is no legitimate reason for the administration to keep the testimony secret. It’s being done because they know their record is indefensible and such a release would hurt them.

    “why should the President add new, factually correct statements to the public record, given the penchant for his detractors to label those statements dishonest?” He would do such a thing if he put the public’s interest, and the public’s right to know the workings of their government, above his own political standing.

  21. “I am whatever you say I am
    If I wasn’t then why would I say I am?”

    Radio won’t even play my jam! 🙂

  22. Hey, somebody figured it out! 🙂

  23. George W Bush spoke to the 9/11 commission without an official transcript, and he was not under oath. If any commission members say anything about his testimony, he can deny it, even if true.

    Not being under oath, he is not restricted to speaking the truth. If Al Capone had testified under the same circumstances, he would have walked. But then, Al Capone was responsible for fewer deaths than George W Bush.

  24. Regardless of Bush and Cheney’s roles before, during, and after 9/11, the lack of even some transparency within the White House does make things look a bit….fishy. But then again, when hasn’t the White House looked a bit fishy?

  25. I just wanted to see how long it took for someone else to get it.

  26. Julian,

    ROTFL! I dig your humor, man. A writer from a website that (at least in the H&R section) seems to glory in wilfully misinterpreting the least utterance of either candidate, asking whether transparency is a good thing. Remember the “mission accomplished” banner, pointing out a Navy mission that had, after all, been accomplished? Remember those famous, factually correct, 16 words in the SOTU? Remember that weeklong debate we all just had about the distinction between ribbons and medals?

    Maybe one could argue that President Bush ought to have a greater love for transparency, but candidate Bush would be a fool to release even redacted transcripts. He could lose 1-3 weeks of news cycle control, plus create juicy misinterpretable quotables for Dem ads coming this summer/fall. A press willing to devote a week’s debate to ribbons vs. medals is looking for an excuse to pile on to _someone_!

  27. And, yes, of course the above was an unfair, snarky hit against Reason. I just felt like finding a little humor where perhaps none existed. Longtime Reason subscriber, love the magazine and the website!

  28. Julian,

    In a day or two, much of what Bush/Cheney said would be “leaked” to the press; so, don’t despair:-)

  29. Maybe your criticism’s of Hit and Run are valid anon, but fear of misinterpretation by some yahoos out on the fringe of political discourse hardly seems like a reason to keep the hearings so secretive. That it might interfere with his reelection efforts is obviously also a weak justification; Sure politician’s are only out to serve themselves, but in this case, there isn’t even any pretense of serving the public interest.
    Except for the classified stuff, why not let it out?

  30. Ah, for the days when separation of powers and checks and balances meant something.

    Imagine the uproar if the White House were to start demanding that members of Congress testify under oath about their backroom deliberations and discussions of policy matters. The precise mirror image, though, is regarded as sacrosanct.

  31. I’m getting really sick of this word ‘redacted.’

  32. The Onion had a headline last week which read: “Cheney Wows 9/11 Commission by Drinking Water While Bush Testifies.”

  33. I’ve noticed a trend. A caricature of Bush will emerge, for example: he’s a empty puppet and Cheney is really running the show. Then eventually the Bush adminstration will act in some way to live up to this caricature. It’s like they grow (or shrink) into it.

    Another example. Very very early in the Iraq war one of the first things they did was hand out no-bid contracts to Halliburton and the like. Nevermind dealing with the looting and chaos and all that – this was the biggest priority. So the most hackneyed “no war for oil” peacenik looked vindicated.

    Thus, unlike a year or two ago, I no longer write off those who assume the worst about these guys.

  34. “Except for the classified stuff, why not let it out?”

    SinC: Because that would make the number of way-too-public appearances from GWBush before the American people FOUR…a THIRTY THREE PERCENT INCREASE on the current total of THREE in 40 months.


  35. In the latest issue of the Onion Condoleeza Rice makes it clear that stopping 9/11 would have required the gov’t to pay a LOT more overtime!

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