Today's big story - just some comments...
Most people are far too old to remember the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his wooden dummy Charlie McCarthy.
The White House said today, Tuesday, that the 9-11 commission agreed to terms that would allow national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to give sworn public testimony on the September 11 attacks, and President Bush and Vice President Cheney to meet in private with the full panel.
Bush in a television statement to the country this afternoon said this would help give Americans "a complete picture" of events leading to the attacks on 11 September 2001. He took no questions. He just read his statement and walked out. Hey, what else is there to say, after all?
Yes, this offer has been made on condition that it will not set a precedent. Previously, of course, these guys had insisted that Rice could only meet the commission in private for "unsworn conversations" - she could, as they say, visit with the commission again, as she did before. But testimony under oath - and in public - would "contravene" the constitutional separation of powers.
Now they've changed their minds. And this might be okay.
The always frightened-looking White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters the commission had agreed to state in writing that neither appearance would set a precedent under the constitutional separation of executive and legislative powers. Fine, Scott, we get it.
But it's a curious deal. And in a deal you give some and you get some.
Rice will now testify in public, under oath. BUT this will not set a precedent, and she cannot be called back, AND the commission also agreed they would not call any other "private advisors" to the president at all from here on out. You give a little - you get a little.
But what's this about the president and the vice president testifying? What's that about?
As you recall, previously each had agreed only to individual "visits" with the two co-chairs of the ten member panel, not the full ten-member panel, and only for one hour each, and not under oath, and with no written record of the what was said - no note-taking or any of that stuff.
Now that's changed. It will still be a private meeting. But the time limit is gone. And they'll answer questions from the full ten-member panel. And oddly enough, someone will actually take notes for the record.
The administration's attorney sent a letter explaining...
Now that is odd. I guess the administration got tired of ten days of being hammered in the press for seeming so uncooperative, as if they all had something to hide. Well, this is a counter to that. And it seems a good thing for both sides.
But why is this is this a joint session? Why can't the president and the vice-president meet with the Commission members separately? Is there some other constitutional issue regarding the president and vice-president needing to appear jointly? What could that be?
Well, if this is the only way to get the full testimony in front of the full commission, then this will have to do. And to be fair, no one seems too upset by the idea. It's not a big deal.
But this joint appearance business could be the real political misstep here.
This requirement for a joint appearance - Cheney sitting beside Bush - might lead some to conclude the Bush is afraid to face these ten questioners without Dick Cheney by his side to tell him what he was thinking back then, and to tell him what he did back then, and to remind him of why he did whatever it was that he did back then -- so Bush can coherently answer the questions posed to him. You could get that idea. And that looks bad.
But then again, most people are far too old to remember the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his wooden dummy Charlie McCarthy. Some of us do.
The problem is that this just makes Bush look as if he cannot think for himself or explain himself in a tight spot. Many think that's true, but what is the alternative?
I guess, after Bush's less-than-impressive hour with Tim Russert on Meet the Press a few weeks ago, Bush's handlers figured out it's better to have a clever wooden puppet out front than a smirking frat-boy all on his own, who doesn't quite understand the questions. So it's a trade-off. And he cannot bring his daddy to bail him out. Uncle Dick will do.
But there will be testimony. There has been a reversal here, with quite odd caveats of course.
What is going on?
Even Aaron Brown on the often-bland CNN has this to say.
When this sort of thing hits the mainstream Bush needs to do some damage control.