President Bush has never been fond of
unscripted public appearances. He has always lacked the
presentation skills and has never had the thorough grasp of facts
needed to square off against seasoned political commentators.
Therefore, it is not surprising that Bush has held fewer solo press
conferences than almost any president in recent history.
Nonetheless, as a self-described “war president,” Bush
has a responsibility to ensure government transparency, address
questions about his leadership and keep the American people abreast
of the truth.

Mira Levitan

Regrettably, the administration has put a heavy shield over the
president. Even his infrequent press conferences are not truly
open. Administration staffers tightly control which reporters are
present, in an effort to pre-emptively silence any hostile
questions. In some cases, when Bush receives an unfriendly
question, he simply passes it over. It came as a great surprise
when Bush agreed to face off against Tim Russert on NBC’s
“Meet the Press.” Finally, many said, Bush would be
forced to take on and confront the accusations against his
administration.

Unfortunately, Bush’s performance was less than
spectacular. During the interview, which aired on Feb. 8, Bush
failed to directly address any substantive questions, and many of
his responses were filled with the same rhetoric and grandstanding
which marked his State of the Union address.

The greatest example of Bush’s unwillingness to address
important questions came when he was asked about revelations
concerning pre-war intelligence. Recently, George Tenet, director
of the Central Intelligence Agency, admitted that the pre-war
intelligence report submitted to the administration was filled with
qualifiers; at no time did it unequivocally state that Saddam
Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Nonetheless, leading
administration officials repeatedly asserted there were no doubts
— Saddam had the weapons. When questioned about these
dichotomous announcements, Bush simply replied by saying, “I
think, if I might remind you that in my language I called it a
grave and gathering threat.” This response, clearly scripted
to use word ploys in an effort to divert blame, was a disservice to
the American people. In an effort to cover his political
liabilities, Bush failed to adequately address charges that he took
the nation to war on insufficient evidence.

When questioned about the economy and growing budget deficits,
Bush simply recited the same propaganda the nation has come to
expect. When asked why multiple tax cuts have failed to create the
1.8 million new jobs he promised, Bush simply responded by saying,
“There is good momentum when it comes to the creation of new
jobs.” This is despite the fact that unemployment is still
higher than it was in 2001 when the second tax cut was passed. In
the end, the public is left with few answers, and with the same
economic smoke and mirrors it has come to expect from Bush on the
economy.

Overall, Bush’s appearance on “Meet the Press”
failed to address the key uncertainties facing his leadership.
Instead of providing rational and substantiated support for his
economic plans and preemptive war in Iraq, Bush presented the
country with the same propaganda that has marked his speeches for
the last three years.

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