Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Last Press Conference Of A "Misunderestimated" President

Highlights from President Bush's last press conference (in italics), followed by my observations (video h/t Talking Points Memo):

"Sometimes you misunderestimated me."

Only because you never stopped saying "noo-cular." And there were a few issues that you mishandled, to put it mildly. I'll elaborate below.

"I inherited a recession and I'm ending on a recession."

Is that an achievement? Actually, you inherited a surplus from the Clinton administration. The National Bureau of Economic Research tracks the recession starting in March 2001 (h/t Liberaland).

"One thing about the presidency is that you can only make decisions, you know, on the information at hand. You don't get to have information after you've made the decision. That's not the way it works."

Of course, you can also slant your "information" around the action you've already decided to take. Remember the Downing Street Memo? "Seven months before the invasion of Iraq, the head of British foreign intelligence reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair that President Bush wanted to topple Saddam Hussein by military action and warned that Washington intelligence was 'being fixed around the policy,' according to notes of a July 23, 2002, meeting with Mr. Blair at No. 10 Downing Street."

"Abu Ghraib obviously was a huge disappointment."

You appointed an attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, who called provisions of the Geneva Conventions "quaint" and "obsolete."  Your vice president admits to approving torture. How disappointed could you have been? Abu Ghraib was the result of policies that flowed from the top?

"Not having weapons of mass destruction was a significant disappointment."

Really? According to the Senate Intelligence Committee, "The report shows that there was no intelligence to support the two most frightening claims Mr. Bush and his vice president used to sell the war: that Iraq was actively developing nuclear weapons and had longstanding ties to terrorist groups. It seems clear that the president and his team knew that that was not true, or should have known it — if they had not ignored dissenting views and telegraphed what answers they were looking for."

"I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged. It may be damaged amongst some of the elite."

I Googled "restoring America's standing in the world" and came up with 292,000 entries. Apparently there are a lot of elitists concerned with this issue.

"Parts of Europe have said that we shouldn't have gone to war in Iraq without a mandate. But those are a few countries."

Just a few countries? The non-partisan Pew Research Center surveyed 38,000 people in 44 nations in 2002 and followed up with 16,000 people in 20 nations. Their findings, according to Andrew Kohut, Pew Center director: ''The war has widened the rift between Americans and Western Europeans, further inflamed the Muslim world, softened support for the war on terrorism, and significantly weakened global public support for the pillars of the post-World War II era -- the U.N. and the North Atlantic alliance."

"You remember what it was like right after September the 11th around here? I do. When people were hauled up in front of Congress: 'how come you didn't know this, that or the other?"

What do you expect when you see a memo from the CIA, "Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside The United States" and your national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, dismisses it as "historical information based on old reporting -- there was no new threat information"?

"And then we started putting policy in place, legal policy in place to connect the dots. And all of a sudden people were saying, 'How come you're connecting the dots?' "

And if your policies were illegal, such as using phone companies to cooperate in the National Security Agency wiretapping program, you made sure that Congress made them legal after the fact.

I've "thought long and hard about Katrina - you know could I have done something differently, like land Air Force One either in New Orleans or Baton Rouge?"

No, the question isn't whether you showed up in New Orleans. The question is over the way you placed cronies in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) instead of qualified personnel and over your administration's, shall we say, unhurried response to the disaster.

There's no way to spin it. On issue after issue, this is a failed president whose administration has been an absolute disaster. On that, there's no "misunderestimation."

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