It gave me no pleasure to watch President Bush squirm under the weight of reporters' questions last night, but it ticked me off to no end that Bush refused to acknowledge that his approach to Iraq and, separately, to the War on Terror leaves no room for improvement.
Speaking of squirming, that's how the President came off last night - at least in my view. Yet, mainstream news coverage of the press conference paints a much different picture, one of a composed and unwavering chief executive. I have yet to see a mainstream news piece that points out the President's obvious difficulty in thinking on his feet last night.
Okay, so the President had an off night. No biggie. But what really makes me upset is Bush's flagrant attempts to distance himself from bureaucratic foul-ups that happened on his watch. The President affirmed his expectation that he should get accurate information concerning FBI investigations from his briefings, but failed to take responsibility when that information turned out to be faulty. But if briefing information is consistently inaccurate, whose responsibility is it to fix the system and hold those responsible accountable? That responsibility belongs to the President.
The same kind of responsibility-shirking shows up in the President's comments about the evaluation of terror threats. Repeatedly, Bush asserted that his response to the 8/6 PDB was appropriate, given that the nation wasn't "on a war footing." The bigger question for me was "Should we have been on a war footing at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks?"
Considering the first World Trade Center bombing, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, Clinton's actions in Afghanistan and the 1998 embassy bombings, I think we should have been in a heightened state of alert, if not "on war footing." The Bush administration knew Al-Qaeda was dangerous, knew for quite some time that Al-Qaeda was determined to attack targets on U.S. soil and had Osama Bin Laden on the FBI's Most Wanted List for a long time. That PDB should have set off alarms all over the place.
Even if Bush was unapologetic about his reasons for going into Iraq and his approach to the War on Terror, his inflexibility with regard to the June 30th deadline for relinquishing control over Iraq to a new Iraqi government is a huge cause for concern. We don't yet know what this new government will look like. Yet Bush is determined to meet that deadline even if circumstances beyond our control indicate that a review of this timetable is in everybody's best interests. I think it's an ego thing. Bush doesn't want to admit that June 30th, a scant two and a half months away, might be an unrealistic deadline, even as our troops fight off insurgencies. Classic hubris.