We’ve seen a number of disastrous appearances by administration figures and a couple outstanding ones from State Department whistleblowers. Here’s some tips for those who follow:
1. Don’t lie. As I pointed out earlier today, Eric Holder both in writing to a court and in testimony to the House created some real questions about his role in the James Rosen subpoena. Other conservatives spotted a more egregious statement (if in fact he signed off on the affidavit): “In regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, this is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy.” Yikes.
2. Don’t shout, “What difference does it make?” Really, it’s never a good response to any congressional inquest.
3. Tears can be effective, especially if you are a burly man whose courage and dedication are not in question. (I don’t suggest that the State Department witnesses were faking it — and don’t try your hand at acting. But if you tear or choke up, it’s going to make the cable TV news.)
4. If you have told Congress X and you subsequently learn X is not true, tell lawmakers as soon as humanly possible. Otherwise you will be accused of telling a “lie by omission.”
5. If you are the boss and your defense is that you were clueless about what was going on in your agency or department, you may be sneered at, excoriated and excluded from higher office. People may also wonder what you were doing all day.
6. Don’t parse words (“Targeting is a loaded word,” Steven Miller pleaded.) You look like a wise-aleck and a liar.
7. If you take the 5th Amendment, don’t give a substantive speech first. Chances are you blew it. Witnesses can’t decide to speechify and then refuse to answer questions.
8. Get a good lawyer. (See #7.)
9. Apologies are essential. If you headed an organization that went astray, you are responsible and you should be repentant. If you personally didn’t follow up or communicate with your superiors, allowed inaccurate information to remain on the record or were otherwise oblivious, you need to apologize. You did not do your job.
10. Don’t lie. It is worth repeating. Really, if you don’t know, you don’t know. And if you say something, you are expected to be testifying to what you know. (Don’t come back later to say, “I really didn’t remember.’)