February 08, 2004
I DIDN'T SEE BUSH'S MEET THE PRESS APPEARANCE -- the Insta-Daughter and I were watching SpongeBob (the episode where he invents colored Crabby Patties) and making invisible ink from a recipe in a book of kitchen science experiments. (I'm pretty sure that white vinegar works better than the balsamic kind).
But Michael Graham was unhappy with Bush's performance: "For the first time, I've felt a twinge of fear myself about the November election."
I've been saying that Bush is vulnerable for quite a while. On the other hand, Jonathan at Wired Opinion liveblogged it and doesn't seem to think it was so bad, though he's not awarding any Emmies, either. Neither do some of the other commenters at The Corner. (Scroll up from the Graham link). I'm a poor judge of this sort of thing, so my opinion probably wouldn't add much anyway.
UPDATE: More from Captain Ed, who gives Bush a C-. And Outside The Beltway has more comments.
Meanwhile, whether or not Bush turned in a good performance during the actual broadcast, you can expect him to do badly in the post-broadcast media spin of his remarks. And that's already underway. Consider this Associated Press report:
Bush, who pledged after the Sept. 11 attacks to get suspected mastermind Osama bin Laden "dead or alive," said Sunday: "I have no idea whether we will capture or bring him to justice."
Now here's what Bush actually said:
Russert: Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican
President Bush: Yes.
Russert: said he is absolutely convinced we will capture Osama bin Laden before the election.
President Bush: Well, I appreciate his optimism. I have no idea whether we will capture or bring him to justice, may be the best way to put it. I know we are on the hunt, and Osama bin Laden is a cold blooded killer, and he represents the nature of the enemy that we face.
These are these are people that will kill on a moment's notice, and they will kill innocent women and children. And he's hiding, and we're trying to find him.
There's a I know there is a lot of focus on Iraq, and there should be, but we’ve got thousands of troops, agents, allies on the hunt, and we are doing a pretty good job of dismantling al Qaeda better than a pretty good job, a very good job. I keep saying in my speeches, two thirds of known al Qaeda leaders have been captured or killed, and that's the truth.
Bush is rather clearly reining in Grassley's optimism, not making a hapless admission of defeat as the AP treatment makes it sound. The same AP report goes on to spin David Kay's report this way:
Bush said former chief weapons inspector David Kay, who has said that U.S. intelligence was "almost all wrong" about Saddam's arms, said Saddam found the "capacity to produce weapons."
As Justin Katz comments, that's not what Kay said at all:
Kay is clearly saying that everybody was wrong about the extent of Iraq's existing WMD stockpiles, not that anybody in particular was wrong about everything. One could perhaps suggest that the AP just let a little bit of a grammatical error slip in — which would be unforgivable enough for an international news wire to do — except that reporter Deb Riechmann used "U.S. intelligence" to represent a group that included such varied parties as David Kay himself, the French, and the Germans (and perhaps even Saddam Hussein).
Call me cynical, but I think we'll see more of this sort of spinning as the election nears. As Katz observes:
This is precisely the reason that I find myself instinctively searching for original transcripts. Now, that would be a worthwhile service: a wire that provided the actual words that people use, in context.
Indeed it would.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Joseph Hrutka emails: "I slept through it, but my girlfriend, a Lieberman democrat, thought he did really well. She said he answered the hard questions really well." Interestingly, The Corner's readers seem to like Bush's performance better than The Corner's pundits do, too.
MORE: Andrew Sullivan, who's been fairly critical of Bush lately, thought he did well:
It's his best self-defense yet. And I liked his modest way of putting it. In the campaign he can make the case more forcefully, but I'm relieved that on this central question, the White House has belatedly realized it has to make the case again, and explain, and defend itself. It has nothing to be ashamed of, and a huge amount to be proud of, in the battle against terror.
And we have yet to hear an actual plan from its critics, from whom we instead get lame cultural criticism.
MORE: David Adesnik wasn't impressed with Bush's performance in general, but makes this observation:
The change in the President's body language was astonishing. It's the kind of thing that doesn't show up in transcripts, the kind of thing that made me glad I actually got up so damn early on a Sunday morning in order to watch the interview.
When Bush started talking about democracy promotion and the universal desire for freedom, his words began to flow in a way they hadn't before. And you couldn't help thinking that the words were coming straight from his heart. With Reagan, you could dismiss it as acting. But with Bush, it's hard not to believe he's sincere.
Now, that doesn't mean that Bush truly understands what kind of effort serious democracy promotion entails. It doesn't mean that he will notice when the US begins to compromise its principles in countries that don't make the headlines. But it gives me a certain confidence that he understands why the reconstruction of Iraq is vital to our long-run victory over the forces of terror. That is why Bush put himself on the line for the $87 billion reconstruction bill. That is why we still have 120,000 troops on the ground. While I can't shake my suspicions that Bush (or Cheney or Rumsfeld) is getting ready to cut and run, the fact is that the President has shown a surprising willingness to stay and fight for what innumerable critics have long dismissed as a lost cause.
Interesting. Perhaps this is what the people who liked his appearance are commenting on.