It’s hardly a surprise when a politican gives evasive answers at a press conference. It’s just that Bush is so terrible at it he has maybe eighteen pre-programmed sound bites ready to go, and if none of them are applicable to the question, he just starts sputtering like a computer on the original Star Trek, after Captain Kirk has just irrefutably pointed out the illogic of its basic programming.
One of the standard soundbites is, of course, that no one could have imagined 9/11 beforehand:
But there was 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.
And yet, mere seconds later:
I asked for the briefing. And the reason I did is because there had been a lot of threat intelligence from overseas. And part of it had to do with the Genoa G8 conference that I was going to attend.
Alert readers will recall that one of the major security concerns at the Genoa conference was the possibility of aerial incursions.
And then there was this illuminating exchange:
Q. Mr. President, Why are you and the vice president insisting on appearing together before the 9/11 commission? And Mr. President, who will you be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30?
A. We’ll find that out soon. That’s what Mr. Brahimi is doing. He’s figuring out the nature of the entity we’ll be handing sovereignty over. And secondly, because the the 9/11 commission wants to ask us questions. That’s why we’re meeting, and I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions.
Q. Mr. President, I was asking why you’re appearing together rather than separately, which was their request.
A. Because it’s a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9/11 commission is looking forward to asking us, and I’m looking forward to answering them.
In other words: that is a very good question, I commend you for asking such a good question, next question please.
And finally when sound bites fail.
Q. In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you’d made in your life and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You’ve looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say? And what lessons have you learned from it?
A. Hmmm. I wish you’d have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it. I’m sure historians will look back and say, Gosh, he could have done it better this way or that way. You know, I just I’m sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn’t yet.
If you think that reads badly, you should have seen him desperately flailing about, trying to think of something to say without, of course, admitting that he’s ever made a mistake.
I would have gone into Afghanistan the way we went into Afghanistan. Even though what I know today about the stockpiles of weapons, I still would have called upon the world to deal with Saddam Hussein. See, I happen to believe we’ll find out the truth on the weapons. That’s why we sent up the independent commission. I look forward to hearing the truth as exactly where they are. They could still be there. They could be hidden, like, the 50 tons of mustard gas in a turkey farm.
One of the things that Charlie Duelfer talked about was that he was surprised at the level of intimidation he found amongst people who should know about weapons and their fear of talking about them, because they don’t want to be killed. You know, there’s this kind of, there’s this terror still in the soul of some of the people in Iraq. They’re worried about getting killed. And therefore, they’re not going to talk. And it’ll all settle out. We’ll find out the truth about the weapons at some point in time.
However, the fact that he had the capacity to make them bothers me today just like it would have bothered me then. He’s a dangerous man. He’s a man who actually not only had weapons of mass destruction and the reason I can say that with certainty is because he used them. And I have no doubt in my mind that he would like to have inflicted harm or paid people to inflict harm or trained people to inflict harm on America because he hated us.
You know, I hope I don’t want to sound like I’ve made no mistakes. I’m confident I have. I just haven’t you just put me under the spot here and maybe I’m not quick, as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.
God forbid the President of the United States of America should be able to think on his feet.