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Jason Holliston
Wednesday, April 14, 2004  
Straight Answers

I'll confess I didn't watch all of the President's press conference last night, but I did watch a nice portion of the question-and-answer session. After watching it, I was talking to my girlfriend, and she said she wished that he would just answer the questions, and not circle around them so much. I've always thought that President Bush was uncharacteristically straight forward with answers, as compared to most high-level politicians. Not as much as Rummy, of course, but then again, who is?

I thought about it for a minute, and gave my opinion as to why she might have felt that way. In a lot of respects, these press conferences is like a cat-and-mouse game between the President and the press. This isn't limited to just Republicans -- I remember President Clinton getting some of the same types of questions. Essentially, questions that cannot be answered in a straight forward manner without giving great ammo to your political enemies. An example:

Question: Mr. President, I'd like to follow up on a couple of these questions that have been asked. One of the biggest criticisms of you is that whether it's WMD in Iraq, postwar planning in Iraq, or even the question of whether this administration did enough to ward off 9/11, you never admit a mistake. Is that a fair criticism? And do you believe there were any errors in judgment that you made related to any of those topics I brought up?

So, how do you answer this question, if you're the president, without giving John Kerry and your numerous enemies a huge gun to shoot you with? Do you say, "I've made mistakes in my time in office, yes."? Do you deny you ever make mistakes? Neither -- you move around the question, and do not answer it directly. Some may say that this is a fault of this particular administration, but it's standard operating procedure for all administrations to not fall into these kinds of traps. The important thing to remember, with these types of questions, is the member of the press that asked the question knew very well they wouldn't get an answer -- the question was a test, and nothing more. Here's the answer given to the question above:

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think, as I mentioned, it's -- the country wasn't on war footing, and yet we're at war. And that's just a reality, Dave. I mean, that's -- that was the situation that existed prior to 9/11, because the truth of the matter is, most in the country never felt that we'd be vulnerable to an attack such as the one that Osama bin Laden unleashed on us. We knew he had designs on us, we knew he hated us. But there was a -- nobody in our government, at least, and I don't think the prior government, could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale.

The people know where I stand. I mean, in terms of Iraq, I was very clear about what I believed. And, of course, I want to know why we haven't found a weapon yet. But I still know Saddam Hussein was a threat, and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. I don't think anybody can -- maybe people can argue that. I know the Iraqi people don't believe that, that they're better off with Saddam Hussein -- would be better off with Saddam Hussein in power. I also know that there's an historic opportunity here to change the world. And it's very important for the loved ones of our troops to understand that the mission is an important, vital mission for the security of America and for the ability to change the world for the better.

Mistakes? What mistakes?

Also, Little Green Footballs takes a different tack with the analysis of these questions asked last night. He claims bias on the presses part. Personally, I see this as a continuation of the same game going on for decades, but I don't have time to go back to earlier administration's transcripts and do the research. Perhaps there's something there.

For the record, I think that President Bush did a great job last night, with the speech, and with the questions, given their general trash quality. He's improved amazingly since his run for office in 2000.

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