Condi Rice Week in the Capital

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Monday, April 5, 2004; 10:34 AM

It's Condi Rice Week in the nation's capital, where everyone is full of questions about national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's upcoming testimony on Thursday before the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

How is She Prepping?

Timothy J. Burger, Massimo Calabresi and Matthew Cooper write in Time that "Rice is prepping for her testimony by reviewing briefing books that she studied for a private session with the commission in February, and she will be peppered with mock questions from aides. Sources tell TIME that Rice plans a 20-minute opening statement to make the case for the Bush team. She's likely to stress the Administration's efforts to overthrow the Taliban before 9/11."

What Will She Be Asked?

Charles Lane writes in The Washington Post: "The chairman of the national commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks outlined his strategy yesterday for questioning national security adviser Condoleezza Rice when she appears Thursday for public testimony.

"Thomas H. Kean (R), the former governor of New Jersey, told NBC's 'Meet the Press' that the commission would probe Rice for any contradictions between her recollections of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policy-making process and those of former National Security Council counterterrorism aide Richard A. Clarke."

What are Her Biggest Challenges?

Douglas Jehl and David E. Sanger write in the New York Times: "Senior White House aides concede that Mr. Bush has a huge amount riding on how Ms. Rice does. 'She's the one who can make our most forceful case,' one close colleague of Ms. Rice said this weekend. 'They don't call her the Warrior Princess for nothing,' a reference to the moniker her staff gave her after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"But a review of the record, from testimony and interviews, suggests that Ms. Rice faces a daunting challenge because her own focus until Sept. 11 was usually fixed on matters other than terrorism, for reasons that had to do with her own background, her management style and the unusually close, personal nature of her relationship with Mr. Bush."

Jehl and Sanger say Rice's friends are warning her that it would be a mistake to reveal the depth of her anger toward Richard A. Clarke -- or to "offer no room for self-doubt that the issue was handled with the right urgency and the right approach."

Two big newspaper analyses printed over the weekend suggest Rice may have an uphill battle.

In The Washington Post, Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank write: "When Condoleezza Rice appears Thursday before the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Bush's national security adviser will have the administration's best opportunity to rebut her former aide's stinging critique of Bush's terrorism policy."

But her job will be made difficult by the fact that "the broad outline of Clarke's criticism has been corroborated by a number of other former officials, congressional and commission investigators, and by Bush's admission in the 2003 Bob Woodward book 'Bush at War' that he 'didn't feel that sense of urgency' about Osama bin Laden before the attacks occurred."

Over at the New York Times, David Johnston and Eric Schmitt find that: "A review of the Bush administration's deliberations and actions in the summer of 2001, based on interviews with current and former officials and an examination of the preliminary findings of the commission, shows that the White House's impulse to deal more forcefully with terrorist threats within the United States peaked July 5 and then leveled off until Sept. 11."

Why Go Public?

There was much speculation last week about the real motivation behind the White House's turnaround on letting Rice testify in public after weeks of resistance. (See Wednesday's column.)

Newsweek's Michael Isikoff adds one more possible reason: "The grainy photograph rolled off the fax machine at the White House counsel's office last Monday morning, along with a scribbled note that smacked of blackmail. If the White House didn't allow national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice to testify in public before the 9/11 commission, it read, 'This will be all over Washington in 24 hours.' The photo, from a Nov. 22, 1945, New York Times story, showed Adm. William D. Leahy, chief of staff to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, appearing before a special congressional panel investigating the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor."

What's Next for Rice?

Doyle McManus writes in the Los Angeles Times that "around water coolers and at dinner parties in Washington, much of the gossip isn't about life-and-death matters of national security policy; it's about who gets what foreign policy job a year from now."

If Rice does well this week, her stock goes up.

"The betting in Washington is that she may be nominated as the next secretary of State or Defense."

Any Questions?

Should members of the 9/11 commission find themselves at a loss, there are lots of people out there suggesting what questions they should ask Rice this week.

Most recently, the New York Times solicited questions for Rice from Peter Bergen and Scott Armstrong.

In Wednesday's column, I linked to several news articles that listed likely questions. If you've seen other lists of proposed or likely questions, particularly in the blogosphere, e-mail them to me at

Everything You Always Wanted to Know

Maki Becker of the New York Daily News has a list of 20 things you probably didn't know about Rice.

Could 9/11 Have Been Prevented?

Philip Shenon writes in the New York Times: "The leaders of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks agreed Sunday that evidence gathered by their panel showed the attacks could probably have been prevented. . . .

"Also appearing on 'Meet the Press,' Karen P. Hughes, one of Mr. Bush's closest political advisers and an important strategist for his re-election campaign, rejected the suggestion that the attacks could have been prevented.

"'I just don't think, based on everything I know, and I was there, that there was anything that anyone in government could have done to have put together the pieces before the horror of that day,' Ms. Hughes said. 'If we could have in either administration, either in the eight years of the Clinton administration or the seven and a half months of the Bush administration, I'm convinced we would have done so.'"

Here's the transcript of Sunday's "Meet the Press."

White House Vetting

Randall Mikkelsen of Reuters focuses on Kean's disclosure that the White House will vet the commission's report "line by line" before it is publicly released.

Barbara Slavin writes in USA Today that "it raises the prospect of White House censorship and the possibility that the report's release could be delayed beyond the presidential election in November."

NBC's Rosiland Jordan reports on "new concerns about whether the White House will force the panel to remove sensitive but vital information."

The Clinton Papers

Dan Eggen writes in The Washington Post on Saturday: "The Bush administration agreed yesterday to let the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks review about 9,000 pages of documents from the Clinton archives, which the White House had earlier refused to release, despite the conclusion of federal researchers that they were relevant to the panel's work.

"The agreement, announced by White House spokesman Scott McClellan and confirmed by commission officials, was aimed at cutting short another high-profile battle between the administration and the Sept. 11 panel in the midst of the presidential election campaign."

Josh Meyer in the Los Angeles Times calls it the White House's "second high-profile turnabout of the week."

Moving Along to the Other Big Issue


Mike Allen writes in The Washington Post: "President Bush will announce plans today to double the number of workers who complete federal training each year from the current 200,000 to 400,000 -- but is putting no new money into the effort.

"A White House fact sheet said Bush's plan, to be announced in Charlotte, calls for saving $300 million through the reduction of 'unnecessary bureaucracy.'"

This comes on the heels of the strongest piece of good news for Bush since the economy began to grow again 28 months ago.

Amy Goldstein and Jonathan Weisman write in The Washington Post: "An ebullient President Bush sought political momentum Friday from the largest gain in U.S. employment in four years, saying the creation of 308,000 new jobs in March is proof that his tax cuts and other economic policies are succeeding."

(Though in a news analysis in the Los Angeles Times, Janet Hook reports on doubts that Bush's tax cuts are responsible for the good news.)

Speaking of Jobs -- But on Background

From the transcript of a conference call with "senior administration officials" describing Bush's new job training and education initiative:

"Q I'm just wondering if -- what possible reason there is why all this isn't on the record?

"SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, James, you know, the President is the one who is going to announce these policies tomorrow in his speech. He will be speaking on the record. In an effort to help the press understand the policies that he's talking of, we're giving it to you on a background basis.

"Q All right. After he finishes speaking, is there any reason why we couldn't convert this to an on the record --

"SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We'll talk to you tomorrow about it."

The Politics of Science

Rick Weiss writes in The Washington Post: "President Bush's chief science adviser fired back yesterday at a scientists' advocacy group that had accused the administration of distorting facts to support a conservative political agenda.

"In a statement released with a 17-page, point-by-point rebuttal, John H. Marburger III, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said the response aimed to 'correct errors, distortions and misunderstandings' in the Feb. 18 report of the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)."

Here's the UCS report and the rebuttal from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Three Stories You Won't Read Here

British and Canadian papers are trumpeting stories that the mainstream American press isn't touching -- at least not yet.

Tim Harper writes in the Toronto Star that Sibel Edmonds, "who was hired as a translator by the FBI nine days after the attacks, told the investigative panel she has seen and handled intelligence documents and cables that show Rice, the national security adviser, is wrong when she says there was no advance warning of air attacks on U.S. soil." (Also reported Friday by Andrew Buncombe of the Independent.)

David Rose of the Observer writes: "President George Bush first asked Tony Blair to support the removal of Saddam Hussein from power at a private White House dinner nine days after the terror attacks of 11 September, 2001."

Julian Coman of the Telegraph writes: "John Dean, Richard Nixon's legal counsel who was jailed for his part in the Watergate scandal, has accused the Bush administration of trumping even the Nixon regime in secrecy, deception and political cynicism."

Compassionate Conservative Image Waning

Dana Milbank and Richard Morin write in The Washington Post: "As he approaches the November election, President Bush has shed a good part of the 'compassionate conservative' image he cultivated during the 2000 election, a Washington Post poll has found."

Languishing Initiatives

Charles Babington writes in The Washington Post: "Some of President Bush's splashiest proposals are languishing in Congress even though his party controls both chambers. The main reason is not Democratic obstruction but a lack of vigorous follow-through by the administration once the initial hoopla died down, according to some Republican and Democratic lawmakers."

Among those proposals: A constitutional ban on gay marriage, a major rewrite of immigration laws and a plan to send astronauts to the moon and Mars.

"The administration's low-energy approach to these issues contrasts sharply with its promotion of unquestioned priorities such as tax cuts and educational accountability, for which the president and his staff relentlessly marshaled public and congressional support to overcome opposition," Babington writes.

White House Letter Watch

In her weekly White House Letter in the New York Times, Elisabeth Bumiller calls Rice, Hughes, Bush's mother and his wife the "four Valkyries" in his life, and asserts that they "have some similar characteristics. All four, including the seemingly shy former librarian who is in fact his assertive wife, seem to reinforce who he is, rather than 'softening' him. All four also know that Mr. Bush considers himself the boss and that he snaps a sharp towel."

Get the Message?

Go to the White House Web site this morning and you get what we call in the business "un-user-initiated audio."

That means suddenly George W. Bush's voice is blaring out of your computer.

He says: "Our economy is growing; interest rates are low; inflation is low. Home ownership rates are the highest in history. More people are owning their home. There is a minority home ownership gap in America, but now more minorities own a home than ever before, which is incredibly positive. When people own something, they have a vital stake in the future of this country. Manufacturing activity is up. The unemployment rate today is lower than the average rate in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. We've overcome a lot. (Applause.)"

It's a clip from his remarks in Wisconsin last week.

This Week's Calendar

Pete Yost writes for the Associated Press: "President Bush is using North Carolina, a state where a new economy is replacing the old, to propose a more aggressive effort to retrain workers left behind.

"A visit by Bush to Charlotte on Monday also marks his last planned personal appearance in his record-shattering fund-raising drive that brought in more than $182.7 million in 11 months."

Scott Lindlaw of the Associated Press reports on the rest of the week: "Tuesday, Bush travels to Arkansas, a tightly contested electoral state, to focus on another element of his agenda to prepare the workforce. He will emphasize rigorous math and science programs in high schools and community colleges, an administration official said.

"Bush was spending Monday night through Sunday night at his Crawford, Texas, ranch. He has no public events scheduled through most of the week, and meets with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on April 12."

This afternoon, Bush makes a pitch stop at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, to visit the Cardinals and visiting Milwaukee Brewers in their locker rooms, then throw out the first ball.

Vice President Cheney will do likewise in Cincinnati, where the Reds are playing the Chicago Cubs.

Cheney then heads to New Orleans, for a reception for senatorial candidate David Vitter.

Flip-Flop Watch

Time's Nancy Gibbs compares Bush and Kerry flip-flops.

Charles Lane writes in The Washington Post about Bush and patients' rights.

The liberal Center for American Progress puts forth its very partisan list of flip-flops.

Yawning Boy

And finally, the end (we think) of the Yawning Boy Saga.

Tyler Crotty, the 13-year-old video sensation who yawned and fidgeted so spectacularly during a Bush speech (see Friday's column for all the background) was on Letterman Friday night.

Here, from the Late Show Web site, is video from Friday night, which includes the original segment that made Tyler famous.

Washington Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes describes Tyler's appearance, which included the reading of a letter from Bush.

"Dear Tyler, I wanted to thank you for attending my rally in Orlando. The hall was hot and my speech was long, so I understand why a fellow your age might nod off. I really appreciate your support of my candidacy. . . . Give your dad my best, George W. Bush."

Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel reports: "Dad, the press-savvy politician, fielded interview requests throughout the day Friday. Mom beamed when she received a cap signed by Letterman. Tyler had CBS production assistants fetching him hot chocolate when the sodas in the green room weren't quite what his palate yearned for. And Letterman footed the bill for the family's last-minute flights to New York and a hotel so fancy it had flat-screen TVs in the elevators."

Mom added: "I'm just thankful he didn't pick his nose."

© 2004