It may be too much to wish for, but hopefully the appearance of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice before the 9/11 Commission Thursday will mark the end of the blame game in the hearings process.
Former White House terrorism adviser Richard Clarke got things off to a bad start with a book and testimony that defied his nonpartisan credentials, minimizing the mistakes of the Clinton administration and magnifying those of the Bush team in stopping Al Qaeda.
The White House got off course by vigorously attacking Mr. Clarke's character and motives. They painted Washington's foremost terrorism expert, a Republican who tracked this issue for the past three administrations, as out of the loop, disgruntled, an opportunist, and a Kerry man.
The media, which love nothing more than political fireworks, kept the fuse lit by asking repeatedly when Condi would testify. The administration was within its rights of executive privilege to hold her back. But now that she will be talking under oath, maybe she can clear up the issue of whether the administration had its foreign-policy priorities right, based on the terrorism intelligence at hand.
Assigning blame for 9/11 is a useless exercise. Even Clarke, when asked whether his ideas would have prevented the attack, said no. In their testimony, Clinton and Bush officials agreed that the political climate at home and abroad would not have supported an all-out assault on the terrorists prior to September 2001.
In truth, Al Qaeda is to blame. The job of the commission, and of the Washington political and media elite, should be to get back to the work of drawing lessons from the past to prepare for potential future attacks.