President Bush’s interview with Politico’s Mike Allen goes a long way in confirming some of the positive character traits – steadfastness, faithful, determined – that I wrote about yesterday. It also highlights some of negatives as well. On balance it wasn’t a bad attempt at making Bush’s public image more palatable, something Republican candidates clearly need given that they’ve suffered some unfortunate defeats in recent months, most recently in Mississippi.
Q: Mr. President, we know you’re a man of intense faith. And I wonder, what was a moment in this room over the past eight years when you needed that most?
Bush: Michael, I’d say daily. I mean, part of the faith walk is to understand your weaknesses and is to constantly try to embetter yourself and get closer to the Lord. And that’s a daily occurrence. Obviously there’s been some tough moments in here. When you know that somebody lost their loved one as a result of a decision that I made, that’s a tough moment. If you’re a faithful person you try to empathize with the suffering that that person is going through. On the other hand, there is a knowledge that the good Lord can comfort during these moments of grief. And that’s what I ask for in my prayer.
Q: Mr. President, thank you very much for having us into the Roosevelt Room for the first online interview. In the spirit of the Internet, I wonder if we could ask a question from one of our users, Steve Bailey, of New York, who says: With oil at $126 a barrel, pushing up the price of everything — even food — what can your administration do to help people right now?
Bush: I appreciate Steven’s concerns. With the price of gasoline going up, it’s like a tax. I wish I could give Steven a quick answer. In other words, it took us a while to get to where we are — very dependent on oil, and in a world in which demand is greater than oil. So my answer to Steven is that the best thing we can do is to increase supply, and to drill for oil and gas in environmentally friendly ways at home, and build more refineries. Steven probably doesn’t know this, but we haven’t built a new refinery since 1976, and if we’re truly interested in relieving the pressure on our consumers, then we ought to have a very active domestic policy now.
Q: Mr. President, for the record, is global warming real?
Bush: Yes, it is real, sure is. But the solutions — having said that, the solutions have got to be measured and realistic — you can’t have a solution to global warming unless China and India are part of any international pact. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t accept what’s called the Kyoto Protocol, and therefore was labeled as anti-environment. I’m a realistic guy. If the major emitters of greenhouse gases are not a part of a solution, then those who are part of a solution are acting in a way that’s simply not going to — it will affect their own economies, but it won’t affect the overall global warming issue
Q: Mr. President, turning to the biggest issue of all, Iraq. I wonder if you — various people and various candidates talk about pulling out next year. If we were to pull out of Iraq next year, what’s the worst that could happen, what’s the doomsday scenario?
Bush: Doomsday scenario of course is that extremists throughout the Middle East would be emboldened, which would eventually lead to another attack on the United States.
The biggest issue we face is — it’s bigger than Iraq — it’s this ideological struggle against cold-blooded killers who will kill people to achieve their political objectives. Iraq just happens to be a part of this global war. Iraq is the place where al-Qaida and other extremists have made their stand — and they will be defeated. They’ll be defeated through military action, but they’ll also be defeated as this young democracy takes hold. They can’t stand to live in a free society, that’s why they try to fight free societies.
Keith Olbermann – Bush Derangement Symptom victim extraordinaire – went ballistic over this comment, saying:
The President has resorted anew to the sleaziest fear-mongering and mass manipulation of an administration — of a public life — dedicated to realizing the lowest of our expectations.
And he has now applied these poisons to the 2008 presidential election, on behalf of the party at whose center he and Mr. McCain lurk.
Mr. Bush has predicted that the election of a Democratic president could, “eventually lead to another attack on the United States.”
This ludicrous, infuriating, holier-than-thou and most importantly bone-headedly wrong statement came yesterday during an interview with Politico-dot-com and on-line users of Yahoo.
The biggest issue we face is — it’s bigger than Iraq — it’s this ideological struggle against cold-blooded killers who will kill people to achieve their political objectives.”
Mr. Bush, at long last, has it not dawned on you that the America you have now created, includes ‘cold-blooded killers who will kill people to achieve their political objectives’?’
They are those in, or formerly in, your employ, who may yet be charged some day with war crimes.
Through your haze of self-congratulation and self-pity, do you still have no earthly clue that this nation has laid waste to Iraq to achieve your political objectives?
Is it wrong? Perhaps. But withdrawing from Iraq now would certainly be the most wrong of all possible options for the next president, whether Republican or Democratic, to pursue, Olbermann’s rantings notwithstanding.
Fact is, Keith is right when he says that the U.S. laid waste to Iraq. We bought the tar baby, whether by hook or crook, and it’s our responsibility to leave Iraq a functional nation and a necessity to make it something other than a haven for Islamic terrorists.
This is lost on Olbermann, of course, as is the fact that his fantasy about Bush administration officials facing a war crimes tribunal is even less likely than me playing point guard for the Houston Rockets next year.
One area where President Bush did not give a concise, sensible answer was, unfortunately, the most important of all – Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.
Q: Mr. President, I’m going to surprise you — there’s a question from a user, Bruce Becker, and he asks: Do you feel that you were misled on Iraq?
Bush: I feel like — I felt like there were weapons of mass destruction. You know, "mislead" is a strong word, it almost connotes some kind of intentional — I don’t think so, I think there was a — not only our intelligence community, but intelligence communities all across the world shared the same assessment. And so I was disappointed to see how flawed our intelligence was.
Q: And so you feel that you didn’t have all the information you should have or the right spin on that information?
Bush: No, no, I was told by people that they had weapons of mass destruction — as were members of Congress, who voted for the resolution to get rid of Saddam Hussein. And of course, the political heat gets on and they start to run and try to hide from their votes. But intelligence communities all across the world felt the same thing. This was kind of a common assessment.
So "mislead" means, do I think somebody lied to me? No, I don’t. I think it was just, you know, they analyzed the situation and came up with the wrong conclusion.
I don’t buy this particular statement. There was substantial doubt about whether Saddam Hussein had WMDs and represented a credible threat to use them. Yes, there was some evidence that’s been made public and perhaps some that we’re still unaware of. But to me it seems as though President Bush took office with the preconceived idea that we were going to go after Iraq if the opportunity presented itself. That vendetta may well have been the deciding factor in favor of invading Iraq.
Was there justification for such retribution? I have no idea. One suspects that there must have been something more to the story than the public knows.
Regardless, President Bush’s legacy is inextricably tied to the war in Iraq and no quantity of warm-and-fuzzy interviews will change that. Notably, President Bush did confirm his low opinion of the media, saying that he doesn’t care what they write about him, as I suspected.