Salon’s War Room [yeah, yeah; subscription or ad-viewing required] reports this evening on a story set to appear in the November Vanity Fair, suggesting that Bush and Cheney may have so carefully orchestrated their appearance before the 9/11 Commission in order to prevent discrepancies in their stories about Cheney’s actions after the attack on the World Trade Center. At issue is whether Cheney in fact cleared his orders to have fighter jets shoot down civilian aircraft with the president before issuing them:
…one commissioner told the magazine (also anonymously) that the panel’s members simply did not buy Cheney’s account. “We tried to work out language that allows the reader to get that,” he said, “without saying the vice president did not tell the truth.”
Indeed, as the article further details, the bipartisan panel was forced to perform some linguistic acrobatics on the issue, after the White House applied intense pressure:
“A series of staff statements issued by the commission, as well as the final report, were first sent to the White House for review. The draft of staff statement No. 17, dealing with the shootdown, brought an angry letter from [White House counsel Alberto] Gonzales, objecting to the wording. Cheney also telephoned both [9/11 Commission leaders Thomas] Kean and [Lee] Hamilton, complaining vociferously about the language.
“Philip Zelikow, the commission’s executive director, confirmed that changes were made, and approved by the commissioners, in both the staff statement and the final report after the White House letter was received and Cheney made his phone calls. But Zelikow said ‘our fundamental judgment’ had not changed. ‘Which is the President and Vice President have offered an account. Their account could be true but we can’t find corroborating documentary evidence to prove conclusively that it is true.'”
I’m curious to see how much play this story gets over the coming days.
Though part of me wonders if I’m taking comfort in it because it reaffirms my general sense of the world: that, for instance, the entirely too-reasonable-sounding guy I just finished watching on television is, in fact, the public face of evil in our time.
(The private face, in case you were wondering. Interestingly, it’s basically an uglier version of exactly the same thing.)