9/11 Session Likely to Lack 'Drama'; Commission Member Downplays Private Talks with Bush, Cheney

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The closed-door Oval Office meeting today between September 11 commission members, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney will lack any real "drama" and likely cover little new ground, Democratic commission member Bob Kerrey said yesterday.

"It will be not unlike the meeting we had with President Clinton. It's very informal and won't have, I don't think, any of the drama that a lot of people expect," said the former senator from Nebraska, who was among the most combative in questioning National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice during her appearance before the panel earlier this month.

"I think it will be a pretty straightforward conversation with them telling us what went on in 2001," Mr. Kerrey said.

But a top Republican official with close ties to the White House said the partisan nature of the commission - with Democratic members such as former Clinton Justice Department official Jamie S. Gorelick, former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste and former Indiana Rep. Timothy J. Roemer attacking the Bush administration - will not change after today's interviews.

"The commission itself has devolved into a circus, and as long as they are in existence, the circus will continue. I wouldn't be shocked at all if four members walk out and say they're disappointed that the president didn't answer questions and they want to have another session with him," the official said.

Bush spokesman Scott McClellan was more optimistic. "This isn't something where it's a game of 'gotcha,' " he said yesterday.

This morning's testimony, which begins at 9:30 and is expected to last up to three hours, will bring to an end the high-profile aspect of the work assigned to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The 10-member panel will hold sessions in New York next month and a final set of meetings in Washington in June before issuing a report in July. …