The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, April 15, 2004  

“Maybe I’m Not as Quick on My Feet as I Should Be”

There’s a solid, smart editorial, “Happily Ever After,” in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer about President George W. Bush’s Tuesday night press conference.

A few excerpts:

Eleven weeks from now, the U.S.-led coalition intends to turn at least symbolic control of Iraq over to somebody or something there. But despite repeated questions from reporters, Bush could not say who or what that will be. The best he could muster was vaguely calling for United Nations special adviser Lakhdar Brahimi, who yesterday made a first round of recommendations, to find a solution.

Let’s hope Brahimi is successful, because the President could not or would not outline a specific plan for bringing stability and elections to Iraq.

That could mean one of three things, none of them good: 1) The June 30 date is just a political convenience aimed at presidential politics. 2) The administration is clinging to fanciful notions of dictating the makeup of the new Iraqi government no matter what’s happening on the ground. 3) This administration is stunned by recent events and has no new plan in response. […]

And another:

Bush, again, was loath to admit any miscalculation about post-invasion challenges or any other mistakes he has made in office.

When one reporter asked him what his biggest mistake was since the Sept. 11 attacks and what he had learned from it, he twitched more than a Texas tumbleweed. “I wish you’d have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it,” he first said.

He finally replied: “I hope -- I don’t want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I’m confident I have. I just haven’t -- you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I’m not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.”

Quick on his feet? This shouldn’t have been the first time Bush thought about that question. Does he never reflect on what his team has done and how it could do better by learning from its mistakes? The same lack of reflection and accountability is visible in the administration’s reactions to the work of the 9/11 panel. [...]

And finally:

Press conferences aren’t supposed to be only an opportunity to bolster political support. Americans have a right to expect their president to demonstrate a mastery of the most urgent matters of the day.

The President can utter the phrase “stay the course” all he wants. It surely sounds resolute. But he is obliged to figure out and publicly explain exactly what that course is and what it requires of Americans.

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