While making it clear that it does not wish the inquiry to "set a precedent of appearances by Presidents before other commissions and create legal problems down the road" and steering away from any appearance of a legal proceeding, the Bush administration did not neglect to insist that the President's counsel, Alberto Gonzales, attend the session as well. This is turning into a slumber party rather than solely a fact-finding question session with the President of the United States.
Let's look at the conditions that turn this hearing into a useless joke, an insult to the American people, and a waste of time:
1) The 9/11 panel is not allowed to record the proceedings. It may take notes, but cannot keep a formal transcript. A Bush official will also be present to take notes. White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, told reporters that the session would not be officially transcribed because the White House considered it a 'private meeting' that would include highly classified information. How he could know this without having seen the questions in advance, we can only speculate.
2) Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney will not be under oath and the White House has been adamant that what they say will not be considered official testimony. The New York Times wrote that, "Legal scholars said the lack of an official transcript would give the White House some deniability and make it more difficult to use the president's words as evidence in a future suit against the government."
3) The 9/11 commission had originally requested that Bush and Cheney be interviewed separately and that they testify under oath. The commission dropped these specifications when the President insisted that he and Cheney be interviewed together and that he would be "talking", not "testifying."
4) The content of the interviews will be held confidential and not released to the American public or to the media.
Hard questions or soft? How long? Will the President and Vice President be frank and direct in their answers? Will they tell the truth?
We may never know.