When Condoleezza Rice raised her right hand to begin a much-anticipated TV show on April 8 -- broadcast live for three hours on ABC, CBS and NBC -- the absurdities were already in full swing.
Absurdity No. 1: Where was the "news" here? The September 11 Commission was learning almost nothing new, since Rice had already testified for four hours in private. All that was left was a political spectacle. The liberal media-Democrat complex wanted to give the impression that the Bush Administration had done something criminally wrong.
That might seem hypersensitive, but wasn't it that very hypersensitivity to impressions that caused the networks to dismiss reflexively any idea of live coverage of Clinton-scandal hearings, including the Senate impeachment trial in 1999, which they dropped like a hot potato within 90 minutes? The TV elite did not want to give the impression that Clinton had -- gasp! -- done anything wrong at any point. Back then, the network stars suggested those hearings were primarily designed to "embarrass the president." Where was that sensitivity for the current president?
Absurdity No. 2: The idea that the September 11 Commission was utterly nonpartisan. That's utter bunk. For months, the Bush team was trashed for opposing an "independent" commission looking into these matters in a sensitive political season. But can anyone now look at the Democratic badgering, interrupting and dismissing of Rice and see a nonpartisan picture?
We were told that the commission's chairmen, Republican Tom Kean and Democrat Lee Hamilton, were so scrupulous about a nonpartisan image that they preferred to do every interview as a team. While Kean and Hamilton have acquitted themselves quite well in their nonpartisanship, this obviously did not extend to the Friday morning TV shows on ABC, CBS and NBC.
They all featured commission member (and former Democratic presidential candidate) Bob Kerrey fulminating about all the Bush Administration's laxity before September 11. If the partisan pounding on Rice in the live coverage (complete with Kerrey's off-point anti-Iraq war speech, followed by audience applause) wasn't enough to convince the public that the hearings were a partisan effort, then Kerrey's trilogy of trash talk should have done the job.
Absurdity No. 3: The idea that the activists who forced the creation of this politicized "independent" commission were just a group of nonpartisan widows with no political axes to grind. How dishonest.