April 15, 2004
The reporters at the President's news conference really let the country down.
No one followed up on Bush's amazing statement that the August 6 briefing was nothing new.
No one asked why he stayed on vacation in Crawford after receiving such alarming news.
No one followed up on his assertion that neither he nor anyone in his Administration could have known that terrorists would have used hijacked planes as weapons, when in fact, such warnings had surfaced in the intelligence agencies. And at the Genoa G-8 summit, which Bush himself brought up, there was anti-aircraft equipment installed to prevent just such an attack!
No one asked about whether Bush still had confidence that Condoleezza Rice can handle her job, or that George Tenet can handle his, or that John Ashcroft can handle his, even after the evidence mounts that all have failed the country.
No one asked about Richard Clarke's central charges: that Bush was obsessed with Iraq just hours after 9/ll, and second, that the war on Iraq is making the United States less safe, not more so, because it acts as a recruitment poster for Al Qaeda.
Oh, there were a few good questions, like the one about Bush needing to take Cheney with him to the 9/11 commission. And that reporter, to his credit, didn't allow Bush to fob off a non-answer.
And the question about whether Bush took the nation into war on "a series of false premises" was a good one.
But no one followed up on Bush's admission that even if he had known Saddam didn't have WMD stockpiles, he still would have pushed the Iraq War!
And no one had the courage to challenge the President on his intimidation tactic in response to the first question, which was about the Vietnam comparison.
Bush said, "That analogy sends the wrong message to our troops, and sends the wrong message to the enemy."
Instead of pointing out how chilling Bush's statement was, the reporters focused on the personal.
Five times, they asked him variations of the question: Was he going to apologize, or take responsibility, for any mistakes he might have made?
Once would have been enough.
This should not have been a personal morality play. It should have been about the fundamental policies of the U.S. government, which right now are jeopardizing the lives of U.S. troops, and, in a profound way, the lives of Americans everywhere.
Bush has given only three prime-time news conferences in his Presidency, and reporters lost one of their few opportunities to hold him accountable.