Condoleezza Rice is going to testify tomorrow. Many people (myself included) will be interested in what she has to say and have not already made up their minds about her and her testimony. But many others have made up their minds — notably, the partisan talking heads who populate shows like “Hardball.” They already have their talking points in their heads, I’d bet. Moreover, they have better reason than usual to write their scripts in advance: My guess is that there will be few, if any, surprises tomorrow. The short format (ten questioners dividing up 2 hours and 30 minutes) doesn’t allow for any person to pursue one line of questioning at length, and Rice is too well-prepared and too poised to say something really stupid.
I’m sufficiently confident about this that I think I can write up the scripts. Here are the buzzwords I expect from both sides. Play bingo at home (or, if you want, make it into a drinking game: one drink for each iteration of one of these words).
Of her demeanor, Rice supporters will say she was: “poised,” “confident,” “authoritative,” and/or “polished.”
Of her demeanor, Rice detractors will say she was: “defensive,” “visibly annoyed,” and/or “brusque” ; bonus (if they feel strongly) “petulant” and/or “schoolmarmish”
On the quality of her arguments, Rice supporters will say: “persuasive,” “convincing,” “firm,” and/or “powerful”; bonus (if they feel strongly) “overpowering”
On the quality of her arguments, Rice detractors will say: “unpersuasive,” “weak,” “vacillating,” and/or “shaky,”; bonus (if they feel strongly) “incoherent”
Overall, Rice supporters will describe her performance as: “a home run,” “putting doubts to rest,” “answering all the questions,” “showing Clarke to be a liar,” and/or “letting us get on to the people’s business”; bonus (if they are really partisan) “refuting the demagogues on the other side”
Overall, Rice detractors will describe her performance as: “raising more questions than it answers,” “a missed opportunity to inform the American people,” “vindicating Richard Clarke,” and/or “raising troubling questions about this Administration”; bonus (if they are really partisan) “you’re the demagogue” (followed by: “am not!”; “are too!”; “am not!”; etc.)
I’ll be interested to see whether any of the talking heads crosses ideological lines tomorrow. My guess is that they won’t, and that their scripts will lean heavily on the words above.