A Bush Press Conference? Must Be Dreaming . . .

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Franklin
Delano Roosevelt was a master at manipulating the press, which in
turn served to deceive the American people about his abominable
New Deal and the truth behind the attack on Pearl Harbor. Beyond
his famous fireside chats, FDR held nearly one thousand press conferences
during his time in the White House.

None
of FDR's successors matched that mind-boggling total, but they employed
the press conference to varying degrees of success. After World
War II, the number of reporters anxious to hang on the president's
every word increased dramatically from the 100 or so that would
congregate around FDR's desk. Accordingly, Harry Truman was forced
to stand before reporters, resulting in the loss of intimacy that
marked the Roosevelt era.

Dwight
Eisenhower was reluctant to make mistakes and thus took to taping
his press conferences for later broadcast. The silver-tongued John
F. Kennedy wasn't concerned about such blunders and initiated the
live televised news conference. Presidents Johnson and Nixon had
plenty to hide and hence loathed answering questions from what they
saw as an adversarial Beltway press corps.

The
presidential press conference has become less and less frequent
since FDR's reign. Jimmy Carter conducted 59, while Ronald Reagan
presided over just 44, very few of them after the Iran-Contra scandal
broke. Bill Clinton was the darling of the national media and considered
the press conference an ideal forum to display his charms. But like
Reagan, Clinton did all he could to avoid reporters following the
advent of All Monica All the Time. That strategy backfired,
however, when members of the press would pepper him with questions
during photo ops.

Our
current president, George W. Bush, avoids formal press conferences
like Ellen DeGeneres avoids men, and it's no wonder why. Without
the guiding hand of the teleprompter to feed his speechwriters'
words into his mouth, he's as lost as Rush Limbaugh at a NOW convention.
And so, understandably perhaps, Bush stages a press conference about
as often as the Chicago Cubs win the World Series.

I
was thinking about this the other night (while also having a heated
debate with myself about the wisdom of using three metaphors in
a single paragraph) as somnolence overcame me. I remember the dream
in almost crystalline detail . . .

u201C.
. . And so I urge everyone within the sound of my drawl to contact
your representatives and senators and ask them to vote u201Cyesu201D on
this important bill.

u201COK,
I guess I can take a few questions, but let's make it quick. I have
a meeting with Rumsfeld and Cheney to decide what we're going to
do about that Saddam problem that my old man botched. Yes, over
here. Go ahead.u201D

Mona
Lackey, ABC News:
President Bush, can you tell us why
it was so vital to impose a 30% tariff on imported steel?

Bush:
Steel is a very important metal, if not one of top three metals
in the world today. And foreign steel is cheap, but not as good
as ours, because we use our steel to fight the war on terrorism.
Our brave men and women protecting our freedom way over there in
Afghanistan deserve the best, most expensive steel we can give them.

Follow-up:
What do you say to those crazy critics who outrageously claim that
you are bailing out one bloated, inefficient industry at the expense
of thousands of other industries and ultimately all consumers?

Bush:
Steel is a big deal in Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvanis have to
go to the polls in 2004 just like everybody else.

Kevin
Kluliss, Collectivist News Network:
Speaking of going
to the polls, in your 2000 campaign, you were not in favor of campaign
finance reform, yet you signed it into law. What changed your mind?

Bush:
Well, first I had to get elected, and that soft money really came
in handy. You wouldn't want to depend on Al Gore to win the war
on terror, would you? But now that my approval rating is over 80%
and it looks like I'll be around to lead the war on terrorism until
2008, the timing is right for this crucial legislation.

Flunky
McGuire, New York Post:
You have proposed a $48 billion
dollar increase in defense spending, the largest since the Reagan
administration.

Bush:
Ronald Reagan was a great president, and not just because he made
Dad Vice President. And that made it easy for him to beat Miguel
Dukakis and be the president. Of course, if Dad was never president,
I'd probably still be in Texas numbing my nostrils and drinking
Schnapps every night. But I digest. Reagan fought and defeated the
Evil Empire, and now I fight the Evil Empire of Terrorism. And I
will win, even if it takes forever. Or even longer.

Zack
Hawk, War Street Journal:
The Pentagon has proposed the
use of nuclear weapons in seven countries. Can you explain to the
sheeple, er, the American people, why this is such a wonderful idea?

Bush:
Well, we're actually going to reduce the number of nuclear weapons
we use, which are just for deterrence.

Follow-up:
But the policy states that you might use nuclear weapons against
countries like Libya or Syria.

Bush:
We want to make it very clear to all nations that you will not threaten
the United States or use weapons of mass destruction against us
or our allies. Only we are allowed to threaten other nations with
nuclear annihilation. As the commander-of-chief, that's my right,
and it's the right thing to do.

Patsy
Mann, Washington Post:
Congress has asked Tom Ridge to
testify about Homeland Security. Why won't he do that?

Bush:
Because I told him not to. When he was governor of Michigan he could
do whatever he wanted. But now he's on my staff, so he doesn't blow
his nose without my permission. That's the prerogative of the executive
branch. As for communicating with Congress, I just had breakfast
with Tom Daschle, and let me tell you, that man can put away the
eggs!

John
Dupe, New York Times:
Mr. President, in your speeches
now you rarely talk about Osama bin Laden. Why is that?

Bush:
Who?

Pawn
Miller, CBS News:
Do you officially recognize the Zimbabwe
elections?

Bush:
We do not recognize the outcome of the election because we think
it's flawed. And we are talking with our friends to figure out how
to deal with this flawed election. If that doesn't work, I have
five very good friends on the Supreme Court that tend to support
me on issues like this.

Todie
Brown, FOXNEWS:
Recently you announced an ambitious plan
to make it easier for the government to crack down on those evil
corporations, but your SEC chief says he'll need a lot more money
than you proposed.

Bush:
Well, I'm not sure what I was thinking last year when I said
the government could get by with only a 4% budget increase. These
programs cost a lot of money. And it's even more expensive when
we mess up – I mean, when we meet new challenges that require
additional funding.

Fawn
Evans, NBCNews: Mr. President, I would be remiss if I didn't
provide you with an opportunity to defend Israel with all that's
going on in the Middle East right now. What can you tell us?

Bush:
When a country is attacked by terrorists, they have the right to
defend themselves. And that's what Israel is doing. And Israel is
our friend. They are a democracy and most of their people are not
Arabs, or even Muslims. Yes Sir Arafat needs to end the cycle of
violence. As long as Ariel Sharon is fighting terrorism, he will
remain My Sharon-a, as the Knick Knack once sang. That's a catchy
tune, isn't it? I can't get it out of my head: M-M-M-M-My Sharon-a.
M-M-M-M-My Sharon-a. Laura still plays that record on an old
turntable she brought up from Texas.

Eric
Yesmann, Los Angeles Times:
We've been hearing that your
administration is making plans for a regime change in Iraq. Why
is it so important to remove Saddam Hussein from power?

Bush:
We have gathered lots of evidence that Saddam is amassing weapons
of mass destruction. Now that's classified, so I'm not privied to
share that with you. But we're talking about a man who gives gas
to his own people. A man who would not hesitate to use destructive
weapons against innocent people. So if you don't want Saddam Hussein
to be your next president, then we need to act decisively.

Wanda
Witless, Chicago Tribune:
Last month, Secretary Rumsfeld
killed the planned Office of Strategic Influence, which would have
planted false news stories in the foreign press. What are your thoughts?

Bush:
That was much ado about something. It is not the policy of my administration
to lie, cheat or steal (he almost imperceptibly winks).

u201CListen,
I want to thank you very much. I've enjoyed this press conference.
I hope you have as well. Maybe I'll have another one after I'm reelected.u201D

April
15, 2002

Rick
Gee (send him mail) is
a freelance writer residing in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He also authors
a monthly column “On Liberty” for The
Valley News.

Rick
Gee Archives

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