Home > Main, Political Ranting > Bush Press Conference, 4/13/2004: Questions Part I

Bush Press Conference, 4/13/2004: Questions Part I

April 14th, 2004

Okay, Bush clearly was looking at and calling reporters from a list, right up until the end. However, the reporters he called on did not seem like the usual right-wing bevy, at least. And there were some tough questions.

One theme, found in many questions, was to see if Bush would take up the tone of Richard Clarke and apologize, take some responsibility for what happened, and admit to mistakes. Bush steadfastly refused to do so. He didn’t come right out and say “I’m not sorry for anything,” but he came close. When directly questioned on whether he’d made any mistakes, he said he was sure he’d made some, but none came to mind–“I’m sure that something will pop into my head,” he told correspondent John F. Robertson, in the pressure of the press conference.

bushpc1It was amazingly clear how Bush wandered into and out of his scripted, practiced lines–he would be speaking eloquently one moment, but then seem flustered, lost and fumbling for words the next. It made those scripted parts sound as artificial as they really were.

He started off with some softballs, clearly lined up–question about comparing Iraq with Vietnam (“I think the analogy is false”), and for more troops to be sent (he put all the onus and responsibility on the shoulders of General Abizaid; “if that’s what he wants, that’s what he gets … If he wants to keep troops there to help, I’m more than willing to say, yes, General Abizaid”).

Terry Moran of ABC then asked about how Bush reconciles what we know today with his claims that “U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators with sweets and flowers; that Iraqi oil revenue would pay for most of the reconstruction; and that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction.” Bush’s first response–“He was a threat because he had used weapons of mass destruction on his own people. He was a threat because he coddled terrorists. He was a threat because he funded suiciders. He was a threat to the region. He was a threat to the United States”–was essentially a boiled-down list, the dry sediment of the many, many accusations that Bush has made before, but limited to the few precipitated accusations that can still even distantly be called true, knowing what we know today. Of course, they’re full of deception–we gave him the chemical weapons to use on his own people and Reagan did nothing about it at the time, as Hussein was our friend; the terrorists he “coddled” were few, and it is unclear if any of them were a real threat to us; and I have never heard any report that Hussein actually paid his promised bounty to the families of suicide bombers in Palestine. Saddam was not much of a threat to anybody at the time, much less the U.S.

bushpc2Bush then went on about how Saddam refused to disarm–well, disarm what? This seems to be an extension or variation of Bush’s past claim that we wanted inspectors, but Saddam wouldn’t let them in–a Bush claim that was complete fiction. The best Bush could provide in the way of evidence was a guy named Charlie Duelfer, and how this guy found the Iraqis to have been deceptive in some vague way. Bush said that Duelfer “confirmed that Saddam had the ability to produce biological and chemical weapons.” A lie, of course–how did he confirm that? Even in front of a mass of reporters, Bush has the gall to make up fiction like that. We never confirmed that Hussein could do that, except in the broad sense that anyone with access to the Internet could whip up primitive chemical weapons like mustard gas in his garage.

The next question, from Elizabeth Bumiller of the New York Times, really put Bush into a tailspin. She asked, “do you feel any sense of personal responsibility for September 11th?”

Now, to understand how badly Bush fell apart at this time, you really have to see it for yourself. I’ll see if I can capture this part and put it up for view. Bush’s transcript goes like this:

Let me put that — quote to Woodward in context, because he had asked me if I was — something about killing bin Laden. That’s what the question was.

And I said, you know, compared to how I felt at the time, after the attack, I didn’t have that — and I also went on to say, my blood wasn’t boiling, I think is what the quote said.

I didn’t see — I mean, I didn’t have that great sense of outrage that I felt on September the 11th. I was, huh — on that day, I was angry and sad. Angry that — al-Qaida — I thought at the time al-Qaida, found out shortly thereafter it was al-Qaida — had unleashed this attack. Sad for those who lost their life.

Umm… Your question, do I feel — yes?

Bush then fell into an easier, though disengaged and choppy scripted mode, and wandered from topic to topic, of course never admitting to any responsibility, or to any error. But his overall response to this question was uncoordinated and flustered, to be generous. (Betcha they don’t play that back very often on TV.) He stuck in bits and pieces of stuff he’d obviously been primed to spit out at some point: the Patriot Act is an important change, we weren’t on a war footing, we were kind of stovepiped, there were gathering threats, we must do everything in our power to find these killers and bring them to justice before they hurt us again. Nothing in real response to the question, just hitting the highlights of his political agenda. The “war footing” idea he pounded home, 3 or 4 times in his speaking tonight, as an excuse as to why they didn’t successfully prevent 9/11.

His fumbling continued when David Gregory followed up on the previous questions, noting that Bush never admits a mistake. Bush hemmed and hawed, brought up “war footing” again, and, of course, did not admit to any mistakes. “But there was nobody in our government,” he pointed out, “that could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale.” Well, no one there must have ever read Tom Clancy. It also avoids the point that Edwin Chen of the L.A. Times brought up next, that the reports did talk about hijacking–so why didn’t Bush or others do anything about airplane security? Bush first dissembled that the air threat mentioned was referring to the Genoa G8 Conference (where there were anti-aircraft batteries and Bush slept on an aircraft carrier to avoid airplane terrorism). This is wrong, because it refers to FBI information about hijackings in the U.S.

He also tried to slough off blame to the CIA, saying that Tenet was his information source, blaming the FBI, saying that their report made it seem like they were doing their job–after which, a Fox News reporter lobbed the softball that the FBI misreported the number of field investigations, to which Bush glommed on: “of course I expect to get valid information. I can’t make good decisions unless I get valid information.” In the previous question, Bush also parroted Rice’s “move heaven and earth” quote, if only they had been told exactly when, where and how the attack was going to take place. I’ve commented on that red herring before.

Bush then again sidestepped a question from John Roberts of CBS about whether he’d apologize, expressing sympathy, but claiming the responsibility was Osama bin Laden’s, and not the least bit his own. My own take on this is that bin Laden is like a mad dog–he’ll hurt you, of course, but the dogcatcher is responsible for getting him off the streets before he bites your children. If the dogcatcher is asleep on the job, he can’t go whining about how the dog was responsible for everything.

To be continued…

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  1. April 14th, 2004 at 13:16 | #1

    any chance the video will be available on whitehouse.gov?

  2. April 20th, 2004 at 15:09 | #2

    Everything he said was scripted and coded to make the people in the focus groups nod. Ultimately, a useless propaganda piece that is damning for Bush because it isn’t even good.

    Well, no one there must have ever read Tom Clancy.

    They’re too busy reading Drudge =)

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