Well, so much for strategy. I listened to the president's press briefing on this. Am I mistaken that the presumption was that he'd take questions? This was a seriously bad move. Why send the president out to simply read a statement (and a reversal of policy, at that)? Hell, if you're going to capitulate to the chattering classes, at least do it with some style. Instead of looking magnanimous, Bush still looks defensive.
The administration, and the campaign for that matter, seems not to have grasped the relatively simple concept that the media is an insatiable carnivorous bitch goddess. Karl Rove just sent Bush, rather than some underling, out to snub them. The press theme for the past week or so was "Why won't Condi testify?" The administration seems to think that yesterday's strategic retreat makes this week's theme "She will testify!" Wrong. The new theme is "Dramatic reversal + nonsubstantive explanation = playing politics."
More: Spence Ackerman think just the opposite, that cutting a deal to have Rice testify publically helps to insulate the president himself. Perhaps, if you believe that a) Bush has something to hide, other than minor contradictions in testimony, and b) that the commission was gunning for Bush, something that has not been obvious. (On the contrary, they have made nary a peep about Bush's 1-hour, in-private, just-the-chairmen interview restrictions.) I think the Condi Rice debacle, combined with the cheap 180 the administration did yesterday, has been a worse hit than Clarke's unsupported, rather self-serving testimony.