The President just held a press conference repeating what most people already knew, that Condoleeza Rice will testify publicly before the commission. The term "press conference" may be a bit broad since the President didn't take any questions.
At first, it seemed that the administration could get a boost from this. The line has always been that Presidents advisors can't testify before congress. The reasons have been several including constitutional issues and (perhaps more defendable) that the President has to be able to rely on the confidence of those conversations. Either one of these reasons are reasonable explanations.
Now the President comes out and says he is giving his permission for Rice to testify. At first glance it might look like this could be a win for the President, that he is going against convention in order to get the truth out. But there are a few problems.
A.) The claim that Rice cannot testify is questionable, b.) she has already testified privately, c.) she has been on every news show you can get on talking about the topics covered in the 9/11 hearings.
The more accurate way to look at the turnaround would be that it was politically untenable anymore. Even fellow Republicans were calling the administrations position a political blunder.
Their primary claims rested upon what they referred to as a "principal". Yet now its obvious that the only principle involved was political principle, as in if it looks like you are going to get caught, give in but make it look like you were pushed.
The fact is, the public was figuring out their argument was ludicrous. Their argument was that Rice couldn't speak in front of a congressional committee, but she could go in front of every person on the planet who had access to a television.
Their position is not one of principle, but one of convenience.
57 minutes ago