I normally watch the 'Today' show in the mornings; NBC broadcast Condolezza Rice's appearance before the 9/11 Commission live this morning instead. I was working on some other things so I didn't catch all of the hearing, but a few things stood out:
I had not heard Condoleeza Rice speak before. I thought she presented herself very well - professional, articulate, and intelligent - and gave the 9/11 Commission the best answers she could, considering that a lot of what she knows is privileged and/or classified.
Richard Ben Veniste's questioning of Condi irritated me a lot. He sure had an ax (partisan?) to grind. I thought maybe it was just me, then I read Jeff Jarvis' remarks "Richard Ben Veniste, on the other hand, is an ass, acting like a prosecutor getting his moment in the TV sun.". An even better quote in the comments: "Yes, Ben Veniste was trying to have his Law & Order moment."
Bob Kerrey felt the need to make a statement before beginning his questioning. Funny - I didn't know the 9/11 Commission hearings were being held to take statements from its members. The most any of the 9/11 Commission members should have said before their questioning was to thank Condi for appearing before them.
In Kerrey's statement, he says, "It's not a war on terrorism. It's a war on radical Islam. Terrorism is a tactic." In just a few sentences, Kerrey demonstrated amazing ignorance on live TV before the entire country.
The terrorists we are at war with are radical Islamists. We need to know all we can about the enemy to defeat them, and that is a significant piece of information. But we're not at war with them because they're radical Islamists - we're at war with them because they're terrorists.
Kerrey's statement could easily inflame (anger) or intimidate (alarm) Islamists in general, and it gives the true enemies (the terrorists) a reason to keep fighting and not give up trying to attack us: If our enemies believe our intentions are to destroy them for what they believe, rather than for what they do, why should they abandon their fight?
Donald Sensing was pretty disgusted with the whole affair; I certainly was disappointed by some committee members' behavior and I agree with him about the playing for the camera.
Is the 09/11 Commission just a witch hunt? The audience applause at some of the commission's questions and remarks (not to mention the questions and remarks themselves) certainly had me wondering.
Condi's appearance before the 09/11 Commission was voluntary. Some of the committee members seemed to forget that. I know I'd certainly be thinking twice before volunteering to appear before such a committee again.