Some highlights from Bush's press conference this evening--only the twelfth in his presidency. (We encourage you to find the video of the press conference. It's far less impressive since the ums, uhs, stammering, and long uncomfortable pauses have been generously edited out of the transcript.)
BUSH: Good evening. Before I take your questions, let me speak with the American people about the situation in Iraq. This has been tough weeks in that country.
This has been tough times for English grammar. Oh well. Not the greatest start. Let's go to some of the questions he was asked. No doubt he answered them in a direct and comprehensible manner.
QUESTION: One of the biggest criticisms of you is that whether it's WMD in Iraq, postwar planning in Iraq, or even the question of whether this administration did enough to ward off 9-11, you never admit a mistake. Is that a fair criticism, and do you believe that there were any errors in judgment that you made related to any of those topics I brought up?
BUSH: Well, I think, as I mentioned, you know, the country wasn't on war footing, and yet we're at war.
And that's just a reality, Dave. I mean, that was the situation that existed prior to 9-11, because the truth of the matter is most in the country never felt that we'd be vulnerable to an attack such as the one that Osama bin Laden unleashed on us.
We knew he had designs on us. We knew he hated us. But there was nobody in our government, at least, and I don't think the prior government that could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale.
The people know where I stand, I mean, in terms of Iraq. I was very clear about what I believed. And, of course, I want to know why we haven't found a weapon yet. But I still know Saddam Hussein was a threat. And the world is better off without Saddam Hussein.
I don't think anybody can -- maybe people can argue that. I know the Iraqi people don't believe that, that they're better off with Saddam Hussein -- would be better off with Saddam Hussein in power.
I also know that there's an historic opportunity here to change the world. And it's very important for the loved ones of our troops to understand that the mission is an important, vital mission for the security of America and for the ability to change the world for the better.
So that's a no then?
QUESTION: Two weeks ago, a former counterterrorism official at the NSC, Richard Clarke, offered an unequivocal apology to the American people for failing them prior to 9-11. Do you believe the American people deserve a similar apology from you, and would you prepared to give them one?
BUSH: Look, I can understand why people in my administration are anguished over the fact that people lost their life. I feel the same way. I mean, I'm sick when I think about the death that took place on that day. And as I mentioned, I've met with a lot of family members, and I do the best to console them about the loss of their loved one.
As I mentioned, I oftentimes think about what I could have done differently. I can assure the American people that had we had any inkling that this was going to happen, we would have done everything in our power to stop the attack.
Here's what I feel about that: The person responsible for the attacks was Osama bin Laden. That's who's responsible for killing Americans. And that's why we will stay on the offense until we bring people to justice.
So no apology apparently. But at least he's willing to tell us that he feels sick. Perhaps it's a case of bullshit fever, also known by its scientific name, not-answering-the-fucking-question disease.
alright alright. it's natural to feel sick about that stuff. but he should also answer the god damn question. but here's the best reply to a question by far:
QUESTION: Mr. President, why are you and the vice president insisting on appearing together before the 9-11 commission? And, Mr. President, who will we be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30th?
BUSH: We'll find that out soon. That's what Mr. Brahimi is doing. He's figuring out the nature of the entity we'll be handing sovereignty over.
And, secondly, because the 9-11 commission wants to ask us questions, that's why we're meeting. And I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) I was asking why you're appearing together, rather than separately, which was their request.
BUSH: [looking extremely uncomfortable] Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9-11 commission is looking forward to asking us. And I'm looking forward to answering them.
We're sure the 9-11 commission is also looking forward to continuing to wonder why Bush and Vice-Nanny Cheney are appearing together and not separately as they requested and is also looking forward to wondering if it's because Bush says things like this:
It was also an indication, as you mentioned, that bin Laden might want to hijack an airplane but, as you said, not to fly into a building, but perhaps to release a person in jail. In other words, he would serve it as a blackmail.
When you're on the 9-11 commission, you don't look forward to wasting time asking things like, "Serve it as a blackmail? What in Jeebus' name are you saying?"
The final question, asked by an NPR reporter, seemed particularly relevant:
QUESTION: Following on both Judy and John's questions, and it comes out of what you just said in some ways, with public support for your policies in Iraq falling off the way they have, quite significantly over the past couple of months, I guess I'd like to know if you feel, in any way, that you have failed as a communicator on this topic.
BUSH: Gosh, I don't know. I mean ...
QUESTION: Well, you deliver a lot of speeches, and a lot of them contain similar phrases and may vary very little from one to the next. And they often include a pretty upbeat assessment of how things are going, with the exception of tonight. It's pretty somber.
BUSH: A pretty somber assessment today, Don, yes.
QUESTION: But I guess I just wonder if you feel that you have failed in any way. You don't have many of these press conferences where you engage in this kind of exchange. Have you failed in any way to really make the case to the American public?
BUSH: You know, that's, I guess, if you put it into a political context, that's the kind of thing the voters will decide next November. That's what elections are about.
"Gosh, I don't know." Here's one more disturbing quote:
Some of the debate really centers around the fact that people don't believe Iraq can be free; that if you're Muslim, or perhaps brown-skinned, you can't be self-governing or free. I'd strongly disagree with that.
What the hell?! George W. Bush, champion of the brown man. It's not clear what "debate" he's talking about, though its most likely that intraparty clique-war between moderate Repulicans and the still pissed off ghost of Strom Thurmond.
Not exactly known for his commitment to the environment, you might think Bush isn't into recycling. Let's take a look at Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9-11 Commission from last Thursday and compare it to some things Bush said this evening.
RICE: ... And so, as you might imagine, I've asked myself a thousand times what more we could have done.
I know that, had we thought that there was an attack coming in Washington or New York, we would have moved heaven and earth to try and stop it.
BUSH: ...I stepped back and I've asked myself a lot, is there anything we could have done to stop the attacks? Of course I've asked that question, as have many people in my government...
And the answer is that had I had any inkling whatsoever that the people were going to fly airplanes into buildings, we would have moved heaven and earth to save the country...
Honk if you love talking points.
RICE: The terrorists were at war with us, but we were not yet at war with them...We weren't on war footing. We weren't behaving in that way.
BUSH: And the other thing I look back on and realize is that we weren't on a war footing. The country was not on a war footing, and yet the enemy was at war with us. And it didn't take me long to put us on a war footing.
He didn't quite get the talking point right. The idea is to have parallel phrase construction, right? "They were are war with us but we were not at war with them..." Close enough, I guess.
Maybe Bushie and Condi have a telepathic link. That's cool.
Bush ended his press conference by declaring that the "credibility of the United States is incredibly important for keeping world peace and freedom." Right you are, Mr. President. It would be nice if the United States had a credible spokesperson.
-- Michael and Heather