September 27, 2005

Comical Scotty

If you really want a sign of the times, just take a look at today's Press Briefing by Scott McClellan. The White House press corps(e), no doubt stung by criticism of their pathetic role in the past four years, are looking for blood.

Here are the opening questions only (predictable, party-line answers removed):
Q Earlier today, the President said, and encouraged Americans to not use gasoline unnecessarily, to not take trips that were not absolutely necessary. Would the President curtail his own travel to the region, since he can be in touch by --

Q Is the situation with the gas supply really so bad that he needs to tell all Americans not to drive very much? I mean, that seems rather drastic.

Q If I can just follow up on what Kelly was asking. What the President did for the vast majority of the weekend was get briefings, many of them via videoconference, that he could have easily done here at the White House. Why is that not something -- why is that not the kind of -- just the kind of travel that could be curtailed?

Q And what's he doing tomorrow that makes it necessary travel?

Q Earlier today you said the President was thinking of suggesting trigger power for the military to take over in the most severe catastrophe. My question is, would he bypass our constitutional civilian rule over the military to get that kind of authority?

Q Wouldn't that be dangerous? After all, there is a precedent, isn't there?

Q But why bypass civilian control? You have instant communications, you can call the President.

Q Why? What --

Q I said, wouldn't we assume that the President would know immediately that there was something terribly catastrophic?

Q They couldn't even reach the President during Katrina.

Q Well, then, isn't that the lesson --

Q Scott, beyond the President's travel tomorrow, what is the President going to do to conserve his own gas use and energy use here by White House staff?

Q Will you consider fewer cars in the motorcade? We've asked you previously how much gas the motorcade uses and you guys won't tell us. So I'm curious, can you tell us how much gas the motorcade --

Q Will you tell us how much gas the motorcade uses?

Q Is the President paying any attention to this protest outside, that's happened over the last few days?

Q Is he worried that Americans have lost confidence in his ability to conduct the war?

Q Can I follow up?
The answer to the last question was - obviously - no.

The conference then moved back to the peace protestors:
Q Can I follow up on the demonstrations? Why were there arrests -- right now, of the demonstrators? And, also, has the President communicated with any of the demonstrators, especially those who support his cause?

MR. McCLELLAN: Connie, I don't know about what's going on out there right now. We've been focused a number of important immediate priorities. We've been at the Department of Energy, over there participating in briefings on Hurricane Rita and the response efforts. So those are questions you need to direct elsewhere.

Q Is he communicating with those -- especially those who support his cause? Has he said anything --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the American people recognize the importance of what we are working to accomplish in the broader Middle East. Iraq is a key part of establishing a foundation for lasting peace and security. What we're working to do is lay a foundation of peace for our children and grandchildren. And the President has made it very clear that his number one priority is the safety and security of the American people. And we are engaged in a global war. It is a war that is -- that continues. The President said after September 11th, that some would tend to forget. He will not. We are going to stay on the offensive until we win this war, and we're going to work to spread freedom and democracy to address the --

Q How many are you going to kill, in the meantime?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are saving lives. We have liberated some 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I'm sorry, go ahead...
To quote Vietnam commentator Daniel Hallin: "As you begin to get a breakdown of consensus, especially among political elites in Washington, then the media begin asking more questions."

Skipping to the chase:
High-profile Democrats and even some Republicans like to bemoan "mistakes" and bad planning and the absence of an "exit strategy." The prevailing version of Washington's debate over Iraq still amounts to disputes over how to proceed with the U.S. war effort in Iraq. Top officials and politicians in Washington won't change that. The journalists echoing them won't change that. The antiwar movement must.

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