Sunday, March 28, 2004

Jimmy on the Provost of Room Assignments
Condoleezza Rice, the sweetheart of the halls of the White House, listened to Clarke tell her how dangerous al-Qaida was. She answered that his office staff was too large. She said that Clarke's position should be downgraded. He would have meetings with deputies and nobody higher. And months went by and nothing was done about bin Laden.

Reading this in Clarke's book, and listening to him at the hearing in Washington on Wednesday, I was struck with the sameness in the story about her. Condoleezza Rice always is introduced as a former provost of Stanford University. You can't get anything to sound much better. Provost! She must be in charge of science you can't even imagine. Economics! Graphs and formulas. Ancient literature. Anything ancient. If it is impossible to understand, she knows it.

It turns that as provost she was in charge of assigning lecture halls. If they were for decent conservative visiting lecturers they were given good places. Some cheap liberal had to speak on the other side of the school, with one foot in the bay. I know a scientist who is on the staff out there and he brought out Paul Glimscher from NYU to lecture. Rice found him to be a dastardly New York liberal and they couldn't get a place for three days.

She is now in the White House squalling that Clarke is a liar. But she wont make a public appearance in front of the 9/11 committee. She says she preserves the confidentiality of the White House - while she goes on every television station. And there is no precedent stopping presidential advisers from testifying in front of a committee. Just in recent times, you had Zbigniew Brzezinski, Sandy Berger, John Podesta and Charles Ruff appear.

Bush promised the 9/ll committee complete cooperation and assistance in getting past the separation of powers. His celebrated assistant, Rice, refuses to come. She made one appearance behind closed doors. She now says she would make another, but keep the door closed. She likes a set pattern for her appearances, a television interview in which she speaks and smiles and the announcer says thank you. She is not made for a back and forth on a public stage with somebody like Richard Ben-Veniste of the 9/11 committee.

Ben-Veniste was pretty exciting as a prosecutor in the Watergate case. I don't think he was being entirely light hearted when on Wednesday, he asked only one question of a witness and then turned to another member and said, 'You can have all my time, if I can have yours with Condoleezza Rice.'

She sure heard that. And she acts as if she has something to hide. She has at least a couple of things that people want to talk to her about in public.

And watch how far away she stays from Ben-Veniste.
I think her former assignment was more in keeping with her estimable talents.


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