16 avril 2004

Do the 9/11 Commission members comment too much?

Incredible but true, that's what some critics are saying to The New York Times (free registration required).

Quotes from proponents of this new-found openness include:

Thomas H. Kean, the former New Jersey governor who is the commission's chairman, said he and his colleagues were so determined to be credible with Americans that they decided early on to conduct themselves in a very public manner.

"We made a conscious decision, and part of it was under strong pressure from the families, to make this commission as transparent and as visible as possible," Mr. Kean said.

For his part, Mr.
(Richard) Ben-Veniste said, "Our chairman has encouraged us to discuss the open work of the commission, because a large part of our function is to inform the public."

(Bob) Kerrey said the tough questioning and the television and print appearances had helped shake loose information from the White House that would not have otherwise been released.

Mr. Kean said even if he wanted to avoid the news media, it would be next to impossible in the age of the major 24-hour news networks. "People are going to be talking about us anyway," he said. "We would rather have the commission talking about us rather than talking heads."

The major quotes about or from critics include:

Democrats and Republicans alike have raised concerns about the degree to which commission members are discussing their deliberations on television and, even, in newspaper columns.

The accessibility of the commissioners to the news media, not to mention the openness of their views, is a departure from similar independent commissions of the past. Its members' openness troubles some officials here (Washington).

Former President Gerald R. Ford (says) "I think they could do a better job if they were less public-relations related."

Tucker Carlson, cited on "Crossfire" on Wednesday what he said were Mr. Ben-Veniste's appearances on at least six programs over the course of the last five days and said, "He's destroying the credibility of these proceedings."

Ivo H. Daalder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who was on President Bill Clinton's national security staff, said that since this is an election year, "the commission ought to be well aware that too much public exposure will feed suspicion by those who are already so inclined of the commission's political motivation."
Which do you prefer?

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