Non-Partisan Commissions

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey, a member of the 9/11 Commission, has an interesting piece in today’s WSJ [james@otb].

Today’s appearance of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will test the commission’s resilience to the partisan pressures which threaten to collapse the goodwill needed to achieve consensus. Among the most dangerous forces is the tendency in politics to become personal and question motives instead of confronting the substance of the argument made by any individual. If we yield to this tendency, all hope for an honest and constructive report is lost. We will most certainly fail.

I heard about an hour’s worth of the questionning on the way to work this morning and thought they missed the mark on this. Both Chairman Tom Kean and Vice-Chairman Lee Hamilton were quite professional, but it degenerated into a partisan spectacle afterwards. Richard Ben-Veniste was rude and grandstanding during his entire session, playing to the audience. The idea that this charade is going to actually produce useful information is absurd.

The transcript of Rice’s opening statement is available from CNN.

Reuters has a summary.

NYT [RSS] has one as well.

Update: The AP account gives some idea of the tone:

Rice’s appearance first turned contentious when Ben-Veniste pressed her on what was known about the terrorist threat in advance of the Sept. 11 attacks.

They interrupted one another repeatedly, the interrogator and the witness.

“I would like to finish my point,” she said when he began speaking while she was.

“I didn’t know there was a point,” he replied.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. jen says:

    Bob Kerrey was equally rude, imho. After reading that op-ed, I expected more from him. I should have known better.

  2. Tom says:

    Why Jen, how can you expect more from the democrats anymore. They play the media so well. And this was textbook Clinton…

    1. Write prominently that all proceedings must be civil.
    2. Create an environment that is decidely uncivil.
    3. Complain to the media afterwards that you tried to keep things civil, and can not understand how it got so bad.
    4. Step back and let the media and opinion writers blame the Republicans for the incivility…

    As I said, Textbook.

    The only people who will know the truth are those that watched the hearings. And those that would discuss it can be called wingnuts…

  3. Jay Solo says:

    Our impression of Kerrey when watching and seeing his and Condi’s expressions, etc. – something those who only see the transcript will miss – is that he was being devil’s advocate intentionally and to make a point about partisanship in all of this, and that the two of them were enjoying sparring with a respected opponent. It was an entirely different tone from that of smarmy lawyer dude who was self-aggrandizing to enhance his own reputation and, well, for the sake of being partisan.

  4. Joe Baby says:

    Nope, no point, except the one under Ben-Veniste’s cap.