Bush Remembers His Lines
Today's video conference between the President and "the troops" shows that the White House has learned a lot from its mistakes. Namely, if you have a question-and-answer session, make sure everyone knows both the questions and the answers before hand. By the set-up of the stage, the conference also suggested that the White House has learned a lot from CNN's "Situation Room." And make no mistake, it was a production, the awkwardness of the event captured by the way the President's podium cheated toward the press cameras with one quarter turn.
Rant continues after the jump.
Bush's actual speech didn't address the soldiers, either. He said he was thanking them, but most of what he had to say was meant for ears on this side of the world: "We're facing an enemy that is ruthless and cold-blooded, an enemy that actually has a philosophy, and the philosophy is so opposite of ours," he said. I am fairly confident our soldiers on the front lines know exactly how ruthless and coldblooded the enemy is.
They could, in fact, probably teach Bush a thing or two about that. And though he was the one asking questions, that isn't what Bush wanted to know. The pool reporter at the event overheard an administration official prepping the soldiers ("Who are we going to give that [question] to?"), and no one did much to hide the interview's lack of spontaneity as it actually took place. Bush dutifully asked questions slanted toward emphasizing progress ("[G]ive us a sense... of what life was like when you first got there, and what it's like today?") and then a captain would direct it to the appropriate soldier, whose rehearsed answers wobbled only when the President got in the way:
And is it possible to give us a sense, kind of a calibration of what life was like when you first got there, and what it's like today?Perhaps they didn't want another "body armor" moment, a spontaneous admission of reality onto the Bush stage set. Whatever the reason for clamping down so tightly on their message, we can't say that propaganda like this says much for "American-style democracy."
CAPTAIN KENNEDY: Mr. President, Master Sergeant Lombardo will answer this question.
SERGEANT LOMBARDO: Good morning, Mr. President. I'm Master Sergeant Corine Lombardo, with the Headquarters 42nd Infantry Division and Task Force Liberty, from Scotia, New York. First, I'd like to say that this is a pleasure to speak with you again. We had the honor of your visit in New York City on November 11th, in 2001, when you recognized our Rainbow Soldiers for their recovery and rescue efforts at Ground Zero.
THE PRESIDENT: Were you there?
SERGEANT LOMBARDO: We began our fight against terrorism in the wake of 9/11, and we're proud to continue it here in North-Central New York -- North-Central Iraq.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you something. Were you there when I came to New York?
SERGEANT LOMBARDO: Yes, I was, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: I thought you looked familiar.
SERGEANT LOMBARDO: Well, thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: I probably look familiar to you, too.
SERGEANT LOMBARDO: Yes, you do, Mr. President. I can tell you over the past 10 months we've seen a tremendous increase in the capabilities and the confidences of our Iraqi security force partners...
Two thumbs down.
President Addresses U.S. Troops in Iraq in Video Teleconference [WhiteHouse.gov]
WH Pool Report: Soldiers Knew Questions In Advance [Hotline on Call]