I will admit that the presidential news conference today was easier to read than watch. I was able to catch snippets of the conference earlier today, but what I did see was not easy on the eyes. Is it me, or does George Bush don his signature smirk at the most inappropriate times? And will somebody ever have the temerity to tell him that pronouncing nuclear as 'nucular' doesn't make him sound cute and folksy, just stupid.
Fortunately, there is a full transcript of the news conference available from the International Herald Tribune, which I will link to below.
Just a few points about some of Bush's comments. From his speech:
If we do not defeat the terrorists or extremists in Iraq, they will gain access to vast oil reserves and use Iraq as a base to overthrow moderate governments across the broader Middle East.Bush could have stopped at the first part of that sentence, because he told the truth. The occupation of Iraq has always been about oil. How dare they seek access to their own resources!
The way to succeed in Iraq is to help Iraq's government grow in strength and assume more control over its country as quickly as possible.The definition of 'victory' in Iraq keeps changing. I thought we were in Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein? Or was it to set up a democracy? After 5 years of allegedly training Iraqis to stabilize their own government, we are seeing the violence spin out of control. What, exactly, are we supposed to win? What is victory? Keeping the oilfields secure?
I know the American people understand the stakes in Iraq. They want to win. They will support the war as long as they see a path to victory.
But we cannot allow our dissatisfaction to turn into disillusionment about our purpose in this war. We must look at every success -- we must not look at every success of the enemy as a mistake on our part, cause for an investigation or a reason to call for our troops to come homeInteresting that Bush is concerned about a possible investigation. If one doesn't investigate what went wrong, how can one possibly learn from one's mistakes? That comment actually explains much about why we have been so adrift with respect to our Iraqi policy.
We must not fall prey to the sophisticated propaganda by the enemy, who is trying to undermine our confidence and make us believe that our presence in Iraq is the cause of all its problems.Make no mistake, it is the Democrats that Mr. Bush is accusing of propaganda. Polls that show the majority of the Iraqis want us gone have obviously fallen on deaf ears. This man can't handle the truth.
We mourn every loss. And we must gird ourselves for the sacrifices that are yet to come. America's men and women in uniform are the finest in the world. I'm awed by their strength and their character.This is BushSpeak for we must 'stay the course.'
From the questioning:
QUESTION: Are we winning?So now, Osama bin Laden is not the mastermind?
BUSH: Absolutely we're winning.
Al Qaida's on the run. As a matter of fact, the mastermind, or the people who they think is the mastermind of the September the 11th attacks, is in our custody. We've now got a procedure for this person to go on trial, to be held for his account.
This answer again ignores the reality of the sectarian violence and ongoing civil war. Bush and his advisors may be the only people in the world who refuse to recognize that this sectarian warfare is the major ongoing problem in Iraq, not Al Qaida.
QUESTION: Are you considering sending more U.S. troops to Iraq?If General Casey said, "Mr. President, it's pronounced 'new-klee-uhr,' not 'new-cue-luhr,' would he listen? There's hope!
What would be the justification for it? And how reliable is this new timetable of 12 to 18 months?
BUSH: The -- I will send more troops to Iraq if General Casey says, "I need more troops in Iraq to achieve victory."
QUESTION: Does the United States want to maintain permanent bases in Iraq?This was not the first time in this news conference that Bush referred to Iraq's 'sovereign government,' but why should that matter to Bush? Sovereignty certainly did not factor in when we made the choice to invade.
And I would follow that by asking, are you willing to renounce a claim on permanent bases in Iraq?
BUSH: Any decisions about permanency in Iraq will be made by the Iraqi government.
And, frankly, it's not in much of a position to be thinking about what the world's going to look like five or 10 years from now. They are working to make sure that we succeed in the short term. And they need our help. And that's where our focus is.
But remember, when you're talking about bases and troops, we're dealing with a sovereign government.
QUESTION: Is the coming election a referendum on Iraq? Should it be?Once again, Bush is deceptive, misrepresenting the reasons why Democrats were not in favor of allowing warrantless surveillance. It's called civil liberties, and preventing you from spying on your political enemies. The only reason you benefit by repeating the lie is that Democrats have done a poor job of articulating the valid reason for opposing your invasive policies.
BUSH: I think the coming election is a referendum on these two things: which party has got the plan that will enable our economy to continue to grow and which party has a plan to protect the American people.
And Iraq is part of the security of the United States. If we succeed and when we succeed in Iraq, our country will be more secure. If we don't succeed in Iraq, the country is less secure.
The security of this country -- and, look, I understand here in Washington, some people say we're not at war. I know that. They're just wrong, in my opinion.
The enemy still wants to strike us. The enemy still wants to achieve safe haven from which to plot and plan. The enemy would like to have weapons of mass destruction in order to attack us.
These are lethal, cold-blooded killers. And we must do everything we can to protect the American people, including questioning detainees or listening to their phone calls from outside the country to inside the country.
In other words, as you know, there was some recent votes on that issue. And the Democrats voted against giving our professionals the tools necessary to protect the American people.
I will repeat, like I've said to you often: I do not question their patriotism; I question whether or not they understand how dangerous this world is.
And this is a big issue in the campaign. Security of the country is an issue, just like taxes are an issue.
If you raise taxes, it will hurt the economy. If you don't extend the tax cuts, if you don't make them -- in other words, if you let the tax cuts expire, it will be a tax increase on the American people.
Furthermore, could it be any clearer that this entire news conference was one big GOP campaign ad. The president hijacked the networks so he could simply give prominence to partisan campaign propaganda...there's that word again.
Unfortunately, for the GOP, putting Iraq front-and-center is probably not the best strategy for 'victory.'
Bush offered nothing new. Just the same old tired rhetoric.
The only thing left to determine is whether Diebold and friends will be able to subvert the will of the people on November 7th.
The full transcript of the press conference is available here.