The Washington Post's White House Briefing, posted as Condi Rice sat alone answering questions before the 9/11 commission this morning, asks "Where's the president?" (The correct answer, by the way, is "at the ranch," where he also could be found in the critical weeks before 9/11 as he focused on stem cells.)
But the Post's Dan Froomkin was really getting at the growing questions -- and ridicule from comedians and so forth -- directed at the president for only agreeing to appear before the 9/11 panel in private and with Dick Cheney at his side.
"Here's CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider on Tuesday: 'The question that's emerging out of all this is simple: Why does the president of the United States have to appear jointly with the vice president of the United States? I mean, can you imagine Clinton and Gore testifying before such a commission or the first George Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle? Why do they have to appear together? It's raising some damaging questions about whether or not George Bush knows enough to testify on his own or whether he's dependent on Vice President Cheney.'"
"Presidential confidante Karen Hughes defended the joint appearance on Sunday on NBC's 'Meet the Press': 'I'm not sure what the rationale specifically was, but I think the White House believes that it is an effective use of their time,' she said. 'Many times, President Bush and Vice President Cheney were in the room together during much of the events, much of the briefings, much of the lead-up that the commission is looking at. And so I think it's appropriate that they appear together and discuss how they saw the events leading up to September 11.'"
"When a reporter asked Bush himself on Monday why he chose to appear with Cheney, he ducked the question, simply saying 'it will be a great opportunity from them to ask both of us our opinions on the subject.' House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the joint appearance 'embarrassing' last week."