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updated 4/30/2004 11:08:54 AM ET 2004-04-30T15:08:54
COMMENTARY

Who is advising this administration about the 9/11 commission? The commissioners traveled to the Oval Office today and for more than three hours, President Bush and Vice President Cheney answered questions behind closed doors. But why did they insist on being together? No one at the administration has even attempted to explain it. I know what the President’s critics would say. That he needs the V.P. to be there to keep their stories straight or to help him, et cetera.

All right, but what is the administration’s position? In response to that question today, the president said,  “If we had something to hide, we wouldn’t have met with them in the first place.” What does that have to do with why they appeared together? The only explanation the president offered: “I think it was important for them to see our body language as well. How we work together.”

What could that possibly have to do with what information they had before 9/11 and what they did or didn’t do with it? This commission is analyzing what was known and done, not how the president and vice president appear when they’re in a room together. I’m certain the president could have done just as well by himself. Instead, I fear his advisers have created another unnecessary issue when it comes to the panel. They did the same thing with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. They initially said she couldn’t testify and then under pressure, relented. And as expected, she was impressive.

So if the president and vice president are both going to spend a precious three hours of their time answering questions, why not answer these important questions for three hours each separately? It takes up just as much of their time and yet allows them to answer far more questions. While this administration was initially wary of the panel, the President has said again today that it is an important commission that can “help make recommendations necessary to better protect our homeland.” He’s right. This commission is important. It’s too bad that based on some bad advice, the administration has seemed more fearful than appreciative of the commission’s work.

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