Posted 11pm April 16
by Nell McGarity
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
As the leading officials from both the Clinton and Bush administrations testify before the 9/11 Commission, including last weeks testimony of Richard Clarke and Condoleezza Rice, the impact of their testimony will not be limited to just the findings of the Commission.
The public perception of the White House and the current administrations efforts to combat terrorism may be altered by the testimony given by officials such as Clarke, and the debate and controversy surrounding figures like Rice.
This could go on to affect the presidential race between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) as the public follows the hearings in the media.
“Public perceptions of George W. Bush will affect the race,” said Stephen J. Wayne, a professor at Georgetown University. “Did he respond adequately to the August security briefing? Had he already developed a mindset on Iraq, which obscured his vision and affected his judgment on domestic terrorism prior to 9/11. Did he make a mistake going to Iraq? Did he have an exit strategy? Can he admit mistakes? Is he a bull-headed cowboy?”
“The commission and the Rice-Clarke debate will affect public perceptions on these issues. Just remember, when an incumbent runs for reelection, the vote is a judgment on how well he did and will do in the future,” said Wayne.
“I do think it will affect the race if the commission’s report is fairly negative, as I expect it to be,” said George Washington University Professor Charles Cushman.
“Clarke has been the most compelling witness so far, and he made the case pretty strongly that Clinton did not do enough, and could not do much, since he had no political support to do so, and that Bush did next to nothing on terrorism until 9-11,” said Cushman.
He went on to say that Rice’s testimony did not disprove Clarke, but only tried to paint a more positive picture of the Bush White House.
“Regardless, the only guy running for reelection is President Bush, and since he has made “strong war president” his calling card, he is in trouble if the commission follows the Clarke story,” he said. “If that is the case, then it is a big minus for the president’s reelection, and it is doubly his fault — first, for ignoring the warnings and taking no direct action to push for a counter terror policy quickly, and second, for dragging his feet — on approving the commission, on providing it documents, and in allowing testimony from key White House officials, including himself. If he had moved more quickly, the whole thing would have been done long before the election.”