Secretary Rice & Her "Integrity"
Today on npr I heard this story about testimony given yesderday by Condolezza Rice before Congress. The story mentioned this exchange:
I have posted on the report to which Wexler refers here and the evidence it contains is damning. The report from the Center of Public Integrity confirms what everyone's Grandmother knows, namely that Bush and various of his minions - including Rice - assiduously peddled falsehoods in an effort to sell war with Iraq. Of course, it may be true that Rice did not knowingly "lie" when making false statements. There is, however, no doubt that Rice did in fact make statements that were false. And she did so not only repeatedly, but many, many, many times.
Florida Rep. Robert Wexler used Wednesday's hearing to bring up a report by the Center for Public Integrity that said Rice made 56 false statements to "pump up the case" for war.
"Congressman, I take my integrity very seriously," Rice responded. "And I did not at any time make a statement that I knew to be false or that I thought to be false in order to 'pump up' anything."
So, let's presume that Rice did not know that her repeated statements were false. And let's presume too that she did not think they were false. It is important, after all to be charitable! We are left with a difficult task. How do we account for the wide discrepancy between the fact that Rice repeatedly made false statements and her claim yesterday that she neither knew nor thought those statements were false?
A couple of possibilities come to mind. It could be that she was irresponsible in the sense that she made statements that were false even though she did not know they were false. But starting a war takes great certainty. It is, after all, perhaps the most momentous decision any politician can make and the good Secretary ought to have exercised due diligence in making certain that her statements (her reasons for advocating war) were correct. Lack of due diligence on a matter of such importance is, to put it mildly, irresponsible.
Another possibility is that Rice simply is an ideologue. Here what is at issue is whether she thought her statements were false. She may have been deluded by preconceptions and prior political commitments that prevented her from seeing the falsehood of what she was saying. This possibility, like the first, would leave the Secretary's integrity intact. But the price of salvaging the Secretary's inegrity is quite high. The first possibility would raise serious questions about her competence, while the second would raise equally serious questions about her trustworthiness. Neither possibility eliminates her culpability for the fiasco the administration created in Iraq. I'll leave it for you to decide whether Rice is incompetent or untrustworthy with the caveat, of course, that the two possibilities are not mutuallly exclusive.