Wednesday, April 14, 2004

From The Bush Press Conference

I watched the President's press conference and it was fine. He got lost in his own words and thoughts a few too many times, but he did fine and came across pretty well for me. Passionate and focused.

I would suggest to reporters that if someone asks a question and the President is firm in not answering it, you shouldn't waste our time by asking the same damn question. Bush got the "Will you say sorry?" question, what, five times? Quit! Ask something else. Heaven knows there are plenty of other things to know.

One thing really struck me, though. When a reporter asked this question:
Thank you, Mr. President. In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You've looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have you learned from it?
Bush was cleared knocked back on his heels by the question. He hemmed and hawed for quite a while before he finally essayed a weak answer:
I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it. (Laughter.) [snip]
Clearly, that one hit him between the eyes. It was his chance to inspire without having to apologise

What I wish he'd said was something like this:

"Let me put it like this. Back then, I could give that kind of joking answer and it was fine. But today no-one would dream of joking like that. That's because the world was changed that day, September 11th.

When I came into office, you could ask, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" We really didn't know how bad it could be. The really scary things were just nightmare scenarios in the back of a report in Appendix B. The thought that such horror could happen to us, here, at home, was out on the edges of our worldview.

Until four airplanes slammed into America and three thousand people died in a single morning. Now, we don't ask, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" We know. And we can imagine much, much worse. We can believe it will happen. We know it might happen. Having stared into the abyss, we can now imagine even bigger abysses, much darker places, far larger evils.

That's my regret. That I didn't know just how bad it could be. Couldn't conceive of how big it could be. I inherited a complacent mindset and it didn't occur to us to step outside of it. We truly couldn't imagine just how bad it could be. If we had believed that the worst could happen, really could happen right here, I don't know what might have gone differently. But I'd like to see. I'd like to know. The families of three thousand Americans would like to know.

That's my regret."

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