Thank You Mr. President
President Bush’s press conference was an opportunity for him to address issues that are deeply troubling the country and to explain himself in light of dismal job approval ratings, record high opposition to his Iraq policies and major concerns about the integrity of the Justice Department. But the non-answers he gave to reporters’ questions on these topics may have breached even his own minimal standards for candor, responsiveness and coherence. The entire transcript is here; Crooks and Liars has this select video, and more examples are below.
In what may have been his most fear-mongering performance to date, the President mentioned al Qaeda about 20 times. But when reporters asked why his Administration had not caught Osama bin Laden, Bush evaded the question except to say that bin Laden had not been caught because he was hiding.
THE PRESIDENT: Why is he at large? Because we haven’t got him yet, Jim. That’s why. And he’s hiding, and we’re looking, and we will continue to look until we bring him to justice. . . .
That was followed by this non-responsive exchange:
Q Mr. President, moments ago you said that al Qaeda attacked us before we were in Iraq. Since then Iraq has become much less stable; al Qaeda has used it as a recruiting tool, apparently with some success. So what would you say to those who would argue that what we’ve done in Iraq has simply enhanced al Qaeda and made the situation worse?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, so, in other words, the option would have been just let Saddam Hussein stay there? Your question is, should we not have left Saddam Hussein in power? And the answer is, absolutely not. . . .
Well, no, that wasn’t the question at all, so he filibustered a few minutes to avoid having to say, “they were right.”
As Swopa told us yesterday, Bush also warned two reporters about al Qaeda: “They are a threat to your children, David” he told a stunned David Gregory, and then repeated that threat to another reporter.
He then repeated his mantra that we should leave all decisions to General Petraeus rather than the politicians in Washington. But what about ignoring warnings he received before invading Iraq?
Q Mr. President, a new Senate report this morning contends that your administration was warned before the war that by invading Iraq you would actually give Iran and al Qaeda a golden opportunity to expand their influence, . . . Why did you ignore those warnings, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Ed, going into Iraq we were warned about a lot of things, some of which happened, some of which didn’t happen. And, obviously, as I made a decision as consequential as that, I weighed the risks and rewards of any decision. I firmly believe the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power. I know the Iraqis are better off without Saddam Hussein in power. I think America is safer without Saddam Hussein in power.
And what about the damage his White House and Attorney General have done to the Justice Department?
Q Good morning, Mr. President. I’d like to ask you about the Justice Department. In the last couple months, we have heard disturbing evidence about senior officials of the Justice Department misleading Congress. We heard disturbing evidence yesterday that a senior official at the Justice Department improperly took, by her own admission, political considerations into effect in evaluating career employees of the Justice Department.
We’ve also had evidence from the former Deputy Attorney General of the White House strong-arming a sick man into trying to approve an illegal spying program. I’m curious, Mr. President, if you are concerned about the cumulative picture that’s being drawn about your Justice Department? And what assurances can you give the American people that the department is delivering impartial justice to the American people?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thank you, Michael. There is a — an internal investigation taking place at the Justice Department. And this will be an exhaustive investigation. And if there’s wrongdoing, it will be taken care of.
I thought it was interesting how you started your question, “over the months,” I think you said, “over the last months.” This investigation is taking a long time, kind of being drug out, I suspect for political question — for political reasons. In other words, as I mentioned the other day, it’s just grand political theater.
So there you have it: You should be afraid; very afraid. Al Qaeda is an existential threat to the United States and a direct threat to your children, but we haven’t caught bin Laden because he’s hiding. However, we’ve left the defense of the United States and your children up to a General in Iraq, and he’ll tell us how we’re doing in September. The warnings that invading Iraq would allow al Qaeda to metasticize into an even greater regional threat than it was while strengthening Iran probably weren’t considered, but never mind that; we’re better off without Saddam than with him, even though Saddam was not an existential threat to the United States or our children. And this Justice Department thing is so serious that it’s being investigated internally, so he can’t talk about it, but it’s really just the Democrats using it for political theater.
In the coming weeks, this nation must examine itself and what this man has done to our collective ability to think rationally and act with courage, wisdom and humanity. We need to struggle with why it is that a substantial majority of our Congress just voted — again — to give this dangerous, juvenile and deeply unpopular man another license to do whatever he wants, with whatever weapons he wants, to whomever he wants with no meaningful checks, while many of those we counted on to stop this madness looked into the camera and said this was a good thing. There are many theories, but I’m not convinced we’ve plumbed the depths of the institutional weakness, corruption and ideological sickness that have brought our country to this shameful moment.
Thank you, Mr. President.