Wednesday, June 14, 2006

LATER—Bush news conference

Apparently, death affects the president’s way of thinking.

The main theme of Bush’s speech from the rose garden was Iraqi reconstruction. He mentioned a free and democratic Iraq and the strength of the Iraqi prime minister’s character. He mentioned the security crackdown in Baghdad. He mentioned ways in which infrastructure is being secured. He talked about hope. Most of all he talked about rebuilding by sending American experts to Iraq to show them how to do things. Most of Bush’s cabinet secretaries will be traveling to Iraq to teach their counterparts how to run a government. That is a bold message. The implication is that in spite of the extraordinary security measures the president’s team undertook to get him in and out of Iraq, Iraq is at least safe enough to send the Secretary of Agriculture there. Well, he’s expendable anyway, I suppose.

But at one point he made a slight Gaff. I heard the president of the United States say the interests of the Iraqi people are more important than the interest of Americans: “It is in our interests that we succeed. More importantly it is in the interest of the Iraqi people.” Really!

A question on GITMO the president said “eventually these people will have trials and they will have counsel.” I’m sure that’s news to everyone there.

He of course has a tendency to ramble, and occasionally when he rambles he says things that would get any of his cabinet secretaries fired. But his aw shucks manner gets him out of it.

He says “I suggested a royalty trust for the Iraqi people,” like the one in Alaska, as though it’s his idea. It was suggested in a piece in the New York Times in the first weeks after the invasion. But he can have the credit if he wants, because it’s a good idea.

He came back to the theme “I’m convinced this government will succeed,” a number of times.

He side-stepped a question on Karl Rove’s ethics.

He appeared uncomfortable with the phrase “the tide has turned.”

When first asked about the midterm elections and his poor approval ratings, the president was at his most comfortable. He said he believed they (Republicans) would hold the house and senate. He attacked the democrats. He raised the specter of taxes. Most interestingly, he said he was proud of his record and the republicans would run on his record. If the Democrats don’t play that sound bite a million times during the campaign they are idiots.

But as the news conference went on the president became testier, more combative. The third of fourth time he got asked about poll numbers he began to sound angry. His last word was, “It’s worth it, it’s necessary, and we will succeed,” but it was said with the anger and frustration of somebody who is tired of hearing how many people disagree with him—apparently about 80%.

He also joked with and complimented reporters by name. He joked about his age. He ribbed a substitute. He looked relaxed, if a bit tired. But he still didn’t look presidential. He looked like a high school principal addressing an assembly somewhere in the central valley: homey, sincere, unpolished, serious, in no way presidential. But that’s probably because I still believe in a statesman as president instead of a cheerleader.

But I’m out of touch.


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