"If we had something to hide, we would not have met with them in the first place," President Bush said after talking to the 9/11 commission behind closed doors today with Dick Cheney by his side.
For people who have nothing to hide, they sure made it as difficult as possible for the commission to have a record of their several hours of questioning for fact-checking and report-writing purposes. The session, at the request of the White House, was not recorded and no stenographer was present. (Clinton and Gore's sessions with the panel were recorded and will be transcribed.) The only commission staffer allowed in the room was Philip Zelikow, who used to work for the Bush administration.
The president did not mention, but we will remind everyone, that the White House historically has made the commission's work more difficult. Indeed, if it was up to the White House, the panel would not even exist. The White House opposed the creation of the 9/11 commission in the first place, and tried to cut its funding after it was created. It has been slow to produce documents from the Bush and Clinton White Houses. Bush tried in vain to speak only to the two co-commissioners, not the entire commission, and for only one hour. Condoleezza Rice initially refused to appear in public and under oath before the panel, and did so only after the White House struck a deal that the panel could not call any other White House officials to do the same. These are the people who have "nothing to hide."
One of the Republican commissioners isn't helping Bush with his public relations problems surrounding White House stonewalling of the 9/11 commission's work. Commissioner Jim Thompson gave an interview to the AP, making Bush and Cheney's appearance sound more like happy hour than a historic session with the men and women investigating the worst crime in U.S. history.
"There was some laughter from time to time. The president is a bit of a tease," Thompson said. "There were no tense moments. I thought the president gave a five-star performance. I wish the American people could have seen it."
A bit of a tease? So that's why he's been so coy with the commission. Please.