There's the wind-up and here's the pitch:
THE PRESIDENT: Helen. After that brilliant performance at the Grid Iron, I am -- (laughter.)
HELEN THOMAS: You're going to be sorry. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, let me take it back. (Laughter.)
HELEN THOMAS: I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?
THE PRESIDENT: I think your premise -- in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist -- is that -- I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect --
HELEN THOMAS: Everything --
THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please.
HELEN THOMAS: -- everything I've heard --
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, excuse me. No President wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true. My attitude about the defense of this country changed on September the 11th. We -- when we got attacked, I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people. Our foreign policy changed on that day, Helen. You know, we used to think we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy. But we realized on September the 11th, 2001, that killers could destroy innocent life. And I'm never going to forget it. And I'm never going to forget the vow I made to the American people that we will do everything in our power to protect our people.
Part of that meant to make sure that we didn't allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy. And that's why I went into Iraq -- hold on for a second --
HELEN THOMAS: They didn't do anything to you, or to our country.
THE PRESIDENT: Look -- excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where al Qaeda trained --
HELEN THOMAS: I'm talking about Iraq --
THE PRESIDENT: Helen, excuse me. That's where -- Afghanistan provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where they trained. That's where they plotted. That's where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans.
I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences --
HELEN THOMAS: -- go to war --
THE PRESIDENT: -- and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.
Brilliant politics for Bush. More terrible times for the country.
The clip of the day yesterday definitely was Helen Thomas’ grilling of the president as to his reasons for going to war with Iraq. It was probably the last question she will ever get to ask the president.
Another of Bush’s lies passed yesterday without follow-up and almost without comment at Bush’s press conference in Cleveland. So much deceit, so little time!
When asked about the measure to censure him for his illegal activities in his implementation of the terrorist surveillance program, Bush responded:
“I did notice that nobody from the Democratic Party has actually stood up and called for the getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program. You know, if that's what they believe, if people in the party believe that, then they ought to stand up and say it. They ought to stand up and say, the tools we're using to protect the American people shouldn't be used. They ought to take their message to the people and say, vote for me. I promise we're not going to have a terrorist surveillance program.”
Why did the reporter not correct the president in this completely inept attempt to dodge the question? Why is there not one “journalist” willing to remain standing until this liar gives him/her a straight answer? Yes he/she should remain standing until security drags him/her away. That would at least be a way (perhaps the only way) to salvage some dignity for what has become such a foul and ignoble profession.
Are all the matriculating students applying to the major schools of journalism required to first visit the University Department of Animal Husbandry for a proper and hygienic de-nutting? How do they accomplish the same results with female journalists?
Why are so many in the press corps all so deathly afraid of losing their jobs? Whatever happened to voluntary poverty? Why doesn’t even one cry out from the back of the room:
“Of course no one from the Democratic Party has actually stood up and called for the getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program, Mr. President, you dumb twit! That is a colossal, deliberate missing of the point. How about, for once, an honest answer to our questions?”
The Democrats, at least those who still have a small amount of courage left to stand on their own wobbly feet, are objecting to those aspects of the implementation that are in clear violation of the Bill of Rights. These Americans are not questioning the need for surveillance of terrorists, although considering the totally incompetent implementations the administration has effected, there might well be made a convincing argument for abandoning it. What Feingold, et al are attempting to bring to the Lilliputian attention span of an apathetic nation is the fact that the president is using the fear of terrorism as a non-veiled excuse to spy on anyone he wants to – innocent Americans, his political foes, dissidents, etc. Everyone knows there is a perfectly effective FISA warrant system in place for the valid and prompt surveillance already in place. The president and his supporters have never satisfactorily explained why he continues to deliberately circumvent these legal pathways.
Obviously I don’t really have to put such a fine point on this argument for most readers of this blog. I’m sure those of you who were watching the press conference in Cleveland were probably hooting and throwing available small objects at the TV when Bush was laying out this transparent, third grade, grammar school BS for the sycophantic press corps.
The point I am trying to make is, why does anyone allow themselves to be so sorely abused by such a fool and in such a manner? By anyone, I mean the attending members of the press, the commentators who follow up and the somnolent media consumers sitting, beer in one hand and remote in other on their lumpy, three payments left couches in living rooms across America.
I no longer watch live TV. When I moved into my present digs, I passed on the cable special instillation and decided not to watch anymore live programming. It has changed my life so profoundly for the better that I cannot even begin to explain it to anyone who has not undergone a similar transformation. Sounds a little like AA doesn’t it? Occasionally I miss the Daily Show and certain special moments like the last piece on Boston Legal - the summation speech by James Spader. (I watched the excerpt on the Internet) When I think of all the hay I would have to sift through to find the occasional needle of brilliance, it just doesn’t seem worth the effort. I might be willing to subscribe to a NetFlix service entitled “Monthly Excerpts of Excellence from American Network Television Programming.” I’ll bet it would be a very, very short DVD containing mostly well-produced commercials. When attempting to engage in small talk with my fellow Americans about what they are watching on the tube these days, I sometimes have an eerie flash back to my last reading of Plato’s cave allegory from the Republic.
Is this uncritical TV consumption on the part of the public the only reason these gaffs and very public lies pass with barely a notice and never a refutation across the collective American retina? Write and erase, scan back, write and erase again, scan back and never remember. The opacity and persistence of this fog of unconsciousness that has descended across this land is sometimes beyond my comprehension.
And just to prove that I can praise as well as curse, thank you Bob Boldt for commenting on a serious issue AND signing your name. I enjoyed reading your entry.
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