Skip to main content
The Web      Powered by
powered by Yahoo!

Policy and principle

From Wolf Blitzer

Story Tools

Condoleezza Rice

WASHINGTON -- Former President Bill Clinton's national security adviser Samuel Berger testified before Congress in 1997. On the agenda: allegations of illegal campaign fundraising practices in the 1996 presidential election.

Former President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brezezinski, also testified before Congress in 1980. On the agenda then: allegations the president's younger brother, Billy Carter, had tried to influence the U.S. government on behalf of Libya.

Those appearances before Congress by sitting national security advisers are being cited by the 9/11 commission members as precedents for national security adviser Condoleezza Rice appearing before the commission now.

She says she'd too love to do that but insists there's a huge difference.

"This commission is rightly not concentrating on what happened on the day of September 11. So this is not a matter of what happened on that day -- as extraordinary as it was. This is a matter of policy. And we have yet to find an example of a national security adviser -- sitting national security adviser -- who has been willing to testify on matters of policy," Rice said Sunday night on CBS's "60 Minutes".

Former deputy attorney general George Terwilliger, who served under President George H.W. Bush, agrees that's an important difference -- noting that both Berger and Brzezinski testified on alleged criminal wrongdoing.

"The most important thing was neither was about an ongoing policy matter, let alone the prosecution of an ongoing war against terrorism," Terwilliger says.

Former Clinton White House special counsel Lanny Davis sees it very differently.

"It's deja vu all over again. We made the same arguments in the Clinton administration and ultimately we surrendered. And Sandy Berger testified on the China matter and campaign finance. Sooner or later, transparency wins out over that principle. You might as well do it earlier rather than later," says Davis.

The White House insists critical Constitutional issues are at stake.

Terwilliger says, "This is an issue of principle. Separation of powers is of constitutional dimension."

But again Davis disagrees, saying, "Voluntarily appearing in front of a congressional committee in public does not violate separation of powers."

Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Father guilty of killing 9 of his children
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Security alert issued for 40 million credit cards

International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.