But last night’s offer to the commission came with conditions: The meeting would be held in private, and not under oath.
As a result, the offer appears unlikely to stem increasing criticism of Rice.
As Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank write in The Washington Post, Rice has become a focal point of the controversy over Clarke’s allegations that the Bush administration did not do enough to respond the threat posed by al Qaeda.
“The refusal by President Bush’s top security aide to testify publicly before the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks elicited rebukes by commission members as they held public hearings without her this week. . . .
“At the same time, some of Rice’s rebuttals of Clarke’s broadside against Bush, which she delivered in a flurry of media interviews and statements rather than in testimony, contradicted other administration officials and her own previous statements.”
Pincus and Milbank go through those contradictions and discrepancies one by one.
Elisabeth Bumiller and Philip Shenon write in the New York Times: “As she prepares to leave her job at the end of the year, Ms. Rice, the president’s national security adviser, now finds herself at the center of a political storm, furiously defending both the White House and her own reputation.
“But her effort to blunt the criticism by spending the week on television and in news briefings may have had the opposite effect. . . .
“Ms. Rice has said repeatedly that if she had her way, she would testify, and late on Thursday she offered to be interviewed in private, as she was for four hours on Feb. 7. But President Bush, her close confidante, has been adamant, White House officials say, that any public appearance would violate longstanding precedent against incumbent national security advisers testifying before a legislative body.”