Rice showed grace under pressure

Condoleeza Rice Testifies Before The 9/11 Commission
.S. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice is sworn in before testifing at the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States, on Capitol Hill April 8, 2004 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Washington is buzzing over Dr. Rice‘s testimony before the 9/11 Commission, while political pundits and talking heads do their best to spin this story to suit their side.  But as somebody who was inside the committee room this morning, and who has been part of thousands of congressional committee hearings before, I can assure you that today was more about political theater than exposing the truth. 

As with Oliver North, Whitewater, impeachment hearings, and Chinagate, these televised hearings sometimes can bring out posers on the committee daises and the witness stands.

In the end, American are always left with just a few lasting images from such hearings, like Ollie North standing erect in his Marine uniform taking the oath, or Howard Baker during Watergate asking the president what he knew and when he knew it, or Joseph Welch‘s, “At long last, sir, have you no shame?” challenge to Joe McCarthy. 

But there wasn‘t a defining moment like that today.  Dems and Bush haters hoping to blame a president who faced this issue for eight months instead of Bill Clinton‘s eight years, are going to have to manufacture another scandal. 

In watching family members in the audience wearing pictures of their fallen loved ones, I‘ve got to tell you, I was disgusted by the partisan clapping and booing that both sides engaged in.  Some people still see this war on terror as nothing more than a political game. 

But in the end, Condi Rice showed grace under pressure and got the best of the commission members, who took today‘s historic opportunity to grandstand for their side, instead of searching for answers in America‘s ongoing quest to make sure a tragedy like September 11 never happens again.