The GWB Free Association Hour


Well, that was a bizzaro spectacle. It seemed like each question was followed by about 20 seconds of something that might be construed as a response in a vague, Rorschach test kind of way, then a couple minutes of some sort of random decoupage of old talking points on a variety of dubiously relevant topics. Should we have an MI5 style intelligence agency? We're committed to fighting AIDS in Africa! Sometimes I'm not sure whether Bush is taking his cues from Karl Rove or Salvador Dali. The only hint of the strategic influence of the former is that, in Bush's case, running down the clock by any means necessary makes a certain amount of sense.

NEXT: Advances in Public Education Science

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Yes, Bush wandered a bit. However, he also answered many of the questions and he did so in a non-oleaginous way. Of course, if you want oleaginous, you know who to vote for.

  2. "I don't think I'm quick enough to answer that question"

    Some people say they feel bad for GWB. I feel bad for the country.

  3. I agree that it was a strange, meandering speech... but when he was on point (about the war & future of the Middle East) he was really on.

    I think he'll get a bump among republicans from the speech. He showed that he was committed.

    More importantly, John Kerry has yet to articulate a plan for post-post-war Iraq and the War on Terror.

    If anything Bush is saying, "I started this war and now you've got to let me finish it."

    Kerry will have to work hard to convince swing voters that he can do a better job fixing Iraq, spreading peace in the middle and defeating Islamic-terrorist than Bush. It's not impossible... but it looks hard.

  4. You KNOW things are going badly when Bush actually forces himself to admit, however obliquely, that all is not currently going well over there. We never should have gone there but we're stuck now that we're there. Does anybody have any idea how to get out of this mess?

  5. The intro to this thread hit the nail on the head, yet Kerry's complete sentences are equally annoying to me.

    Tom Hanks for President! : When it comes to entertaining listening to thoughtul comments.

    But, as most of us here know, it's a fact-based philosophy that we desire, and is rare, even here.

  6. Jennifer,
    There we go again: having simultaneous postings.
    But to answer your thread-jacking question:
    All shall be revealed in good time.
    Dubya will see the light before the Republican convention and step aside.

  7. Ruthless-
    Betcha he doesn't. But back to the topic-Bush has said this is NOT going to be another Vietnam. Whew. I am SO glad to hear that, but even more glad my friends are above the draft age, just the same.

  8. I don't know what press conference you were watching, but I thought the answers were clear and to the point. Maybe you had the wrong channel on and were watching a John Kerry speech.

  9. When did Kerry say this wasn't Vietnam?

  10. Jennifer
    The answer is easy. More troops from our allies. Maybe France and Germany?

  11. "Mr. President, can you think of anything at all you might have done wrong since 9/11 and if so, how do you wish you might have handled it differently?"

    GWB: Ummm, blush, stammer, shuffle feet, sheepish smile, "I wish you had given me a written copy of that question beforehand so I could have had time to think about it more....Ummm, well, nothing comes right to mind, I mean, maybe something, but not that I can pinpoint right now...ummm, maybe, blush, I'm just not able to put it into words the right way....I'm not always such a good communicator...blush, aw come on guys, I'm just an Average Joe doing the best I can like all of you, please like me, please vote for me, even though I'm completely not answering your question..."


    "Mr. P, why are you not willing to testify to the 9/11 Commission separately from PuppetMaster Dick Cheney as they have requested??"

    "I know the commission has questions they want to ask, and I look forward to answering them...Next, please"

  12. I would gladly accept an even more inarticulate delivery from Bush last night if I could get in return, more honesty and pledges of a less interventionist foreign policy.

  13. I am embarrassed that Bush is a Republican and I am delighted that so many small government conservatives and libertarians despise him.

  14. Here's why Dubya will step aside before the Republican convention:
    The mess he's gotten us into is the Tar Baby.
    Even the Wall ST Journal seems to be getting sweaty palms.
    We're into a war of choice we are bound to lose. There's no reason why he should take the Republican Party down with him.

    Surely there's SOMEBODY among the Republicans with what I'm saying running thru their head.

  15. You KNOW things are going badly when Bush actually forces himself to admit, however obliquely, that all is not currently going well over there.

    Personally, I'll know things are going badly in Iraq when the left-wingers I know seem happy and cheerful again. I mean, they've been so patient -- it's been years since there was a military disaster they could feel good about. 🙂

  16. Let me get this straight. $1B dollars, an estimated 13,000 people dead, tons of wasted political goodwill from other nations, and all we got to show for it is a can of mustard gas at a turkey farm? I wouldn't trust this guy watch my cat for the weekend.

  17. If you are so delicate as to crumple as soon as you learn people don't like you, you have no damned business being President of the United States. Can Americans only expect competency from leaders who never get their widdle feelings hurt?

  18. It's not about being "delicate" or "crumpling." It's about being sensitive to the minefield from a POLITICAL perspective. I'm not talking about Bush's personal emotional state.

  19. Aaron: A can of mustard gas at a turkey farm... in LIBYA

  20. "He's been put into a situation..."

    Thanks for the laugh, Sam. I forgot we get our Presidents the same way we select people for jury duty.

    Ripping on press idiocy is fine by me, but the idiotic questions actually let Bush off the hook!

    Aren't you sorry for 9/11?

    What was your biggest mistake?

    If your decisions cause you to lose the election, what will you think?

    These are all softball questions, perfect opportunities for Bush to blather on as he did. All he can do is make himself look like a regular guy with those questions because they have no right or wrong answers, the only way they can be answered is with philosophical musings which he did.

    Only a couple of mildly relevant questions were asked. "...Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction but, as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said, we know where they are. How do you explain to Americans how you got that so wrong?"

    He didn't really answer this one until a few questions later. But he did say "A country that hides something is a country that is afraid of getting caught". This is a perfect summary of his attitude toward invidiuals as well, especially in the attempts at shutting down opposition press in Iraq and with the "if you're innocent you have nothing to hide" approach at home. The Bush Administration didn't invent that attitude, but they are making it worse.

    "the FBI tells him that number was wrong, that he doesn?t even know how it got into your PDB. And two of the commissioners strongly suggested the number was exaggerated. Have you learned anything else about that report since that time? And do you now believe you were falsely comforted by the FBI?"

    The answer: As the ultimate decision maker for this country, I expect information that comes to my desk to be real and valid... But of course I expect to get valid information. I can?t make good decisions unless I get valid information.

    What a fool! Has this guy ever actually run a real business where people lie on a regular basis to protect their jobs? To blindly accept everything as fact is not only stupid, it doesn't even jive with his attitude toward weapons inspections. This was an opportunity to show that he has critical thinking skills and will not blindly accept everything that comes across his desk. Instead he passed the buck onto the 9/11 commission. It did sum up his attitude as to why they can't find WMD's when they knew where they were. It's not his fault... and no one in his adminstration is going to take any heat for it.

    "why are you and the vice president insisting on appearing together before the 9/11 commission? And, Mr. President, who will we be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30th?"

    The only question regrding FACT in the whole damn thing. No need to wax poetic about feeling anyone's pain, no need to bumble through another theory of God and freedom, no need to defend pals in the cabinet, no need to even remember the show prep; just two simple questions with simple answers - and he didn't even do a fancy dodge, he just flat out didn't answer.

  21. The first sign that all was not well was Bush's choice of a necktie with the fine pattern. All I could see was a hugely distracting, brightly colored, shimmering moire pattern hanging below his chin.

    This is a rookie mistake for anyone going on TV, not something you'd expect from GW and his media team in the fourth (and final?) year of his presidency.

  22. The guy is pitiful. I'm embarrassed that this fumbling, semi-literate corporate puppet is the leader of the free world. Anyone viewing that performance from outside the US must be aghast.

  23. Great, fashion criticism of the President from one of the 3 Stooges. You'd think if they had a queer eye guy in that group it would have been Moe.

  24. madpad wrote:

    The answers he gave were evasive and designed to obfuscate and eat up the clock.

    That's exactly the impression I got. It seems to me that even when Bush deigns to hold a press conference, he's not really going to answer any questions.

  25. Do we know one more single fucking thing about who, when, what or why after hearing that moronic ramble? What a waste of time.

  26. I don't know what everybody is so upset about. What we saw tonight was just the inevitable result of spin machine, soundbite politics. We finally have what we want - a media that asks shitty, cynical, and basically off-point Daily Show questions ("Mr. President, isn't Iraq just like VietNam, and aren't you personally responsible for 9/11") and a President who both feels our pain, and who answers questions in a series of random clauses, any one of which makes a pretty good soundbite that will fit on the broadcast networks' 10 seconds of national political coverage each night.

    Camille Paglia (and others) argue that our increasing orientation toward MTV-style presentation (pastiche, rapidly flashing imagery) has destroyed our attention span, and our ability to read and pay attention. I think you could draw a conclusion like that from watching last night's press conference, or for that matter, any other WH press conference of the last 10 years. The questions often are unrelated to the topic being discussed, and the answers are unrelated to the questions asked, sticking instead to the kabuki script talking points.

  27. "More importantly, John Kerry has yet to articulate a plan for post-post-war Iraq and the War on Terror."

    Actually, I heard he was for it before he was against it.

  28. I'm with Gadfly. I only heard 5-10 minutes of the speech, but I was struck by how inarticulate our president is. I mean, I've heard him fumble with words before, but last night was just ridiculous. The only time he could build up a head of steam and speak almost as well as the average teenager was when he'd talk about "principles", which means he'd say "Sadaam was a bad man" or "I believe in freedom". I'm sure he does believe in freedom, it's just that he isn't smart enough to understand what he should do about it. Ok, to be fair, he also was able to build up a head of steam when he parroted other pre-prepared snippets.

    Ever seen Star Wars Episode II?, don't you think our president is kind of like a less articulate version of Jar Jar Binks?

  29. It's bothers me that the president can't think up an answer to a question like, "What was your greatest mistake?" But not too much.

    What bothers me a lot is that, 2 and a half years after 3000 Americans were killed on his watch, and a year after launching a war to find WMDs, he doesn't seem to have given the matter any thought prior to that moment in the press conference.

    What a guy.

  30. Joe,

    Could it be that becuase he believes God put him in office, that admitting he made a mistake would be tantamount to admitting God made a mistake?

  31. No, because being inspired by God, or being part of His plan, does not mean gaining super powers. George Bush would be just as thoughtless and arrogant if he were an atheist.

  32. Hey Douglas Fletcher, great "Three Stooges" insult. Did you write that one yourself?

    Bush's bad (for TV) necktie was the very first thing I noticed, before he even opened his mouth. It reflects a lack of attention to detail. As for substance, I think Gadfly has really expressed my sentiments. How can anyone actually like this inarticulate, secretive, warmongering bumbler?

    When asked what his biggest mistake has been, Bush laments that he didn't get the question in writing ahead of time! If you were in a job interview and someone asked what your biggest weakness was. Would you answer that way?

  33. The recommended answer is, "I'm a workaholic."

    I don't think that would fly for Bush.

  34. Good points from Stephen Fetchet.

    I'm certainly no big fan of Bush's policy -- or either of the two big parties today -- but I also recognize that we live in a media culture of style-over-substance.

    It's quite possible that the relentless drumbeat of mockery about Bush's public-speaking skills has made him so self-conscious about it that he is scared to move one way or the other when he's on a stage. He's been put into a situation where he can't concentrate so much on WHAT he wants to say, as HOW he should be saying it. He knows that any one sentence can be held up, turned into a "Bushism," mocked, used as evidence of his "stupidity," etc.

    Such self-consciousness would be a pretty natural instinct at this point for anyone who's endured such a battering. In a media era that reveres polish over all else, getting beat up for your clumsiness could turn into a situation where the clumsiness just feeds on itself and becomes a monster.

    Because the culture singled out his oratory skill as some grave flaw, inflating it to hyperbolic levels, he was perhaps left unable to naturally grow as a public speaker. In fact, it may have only made him worse, as it would most any other human being in the same situation.

  35. The speech was well-written and delivered by a guy who obviously believed what he was saying.

    The answering of questions was handled embarrassingly by a rank amateur.

  36. "More importantly, John Kerry has yet to articulate a plan for post-post-war Iraq and the War on Terror."

    When he does, he will no doubt BS about it more cleverly. Kerry is a much more natural liar than Bush. Witness his straight faced talk of controlling federal spending after perennially putting up among the worst big spending voting records in the senate:

  37. Sam, national politics is a contact sport. Your comment only highlights to me how irresponsible it was of Rove, Hughes, and the GOP to put a guy who can't handle that on the presidential ticket, and arrange the electoral campaign in such a way as to sneak him into office without people noticing that he can't even keep his wits in a press scrum. Tightly controlled, scripted, question free "availabilities," etc.

    The President of the United States gets too flustered and self conscious to perform well when he gets difficult questions from the press. It's a good thing the president doesn't get tough questions, or disrespectful treatment, from anyone else he might have to deal with.

  38. "The President of the United States gets too flustered and self conscious to perform well when he gets difficult questions from the press."

    That's not my contention. The president gets flustered and self-conscious not because of difficult questions, but because of the drumbeat of mockery. It's quite possible that if not for the reigning meme that he's an "idiot" -- and proves it when he's at a podium -- he'd be turning in much more streamlined showings at this point. And that meme exists because of a culture in which presentation is valued over substance.

    If we're now judging leaders on their ability to fake their way through public appearances -- essentially, how snaky they can be -- then yeah, like somebody said in another thread... God save the country.

  39. More troops from our allies. Maybe France and Germany?

    lol -- good one.

    while at first i thought he was stonewalling about why he needs a chaperone to testify before committee, i later realized he WAS answering the question -- albeit indirectly.

    no getting around it: dubya is fairly daft. of course, we knew it in 2000 as well. back then, i argued that it didn't matter because the machine is run by people behind the scenes anyway. had i known that meant a neocon coup d'etat, however, i might not have granted him that defense at the time.

  40. Look, going into Iraq to fight terrorism is stupid. Winston Chuchill would be hard pressed to defend it. When you add a bumbling speaker to a stupid act, though, you get some real negative synergy.

  41. Some of my favorite quotes from Bush's press conference:

    "Nobody likes to see dead people on their television screens,"

    "I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it."

    "Freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world."

    "He was a threat because he funded suiciders."

  42. Sam, I had no idea he was so...delicate.

    It's a good thing Clinton was never mocked. Or Reagan. Oh, wait.

  43. Dubya will see the light before the Republican convention and step aside.

    Joking, right? What was most amazing about the bleed in Bush's response was that his most-meandering reply came to a softball question-more or less, have you made any mistakes in office?

  44. I notice that historically, Bush was an idiot back in Texas, long before he had the whole nation making fun of him. I like Salon's take on the conference: "Bush came off like a high-school kid unprepared for a pop quiz." The only problem is that a POP quiz is unexpected; Bush, by contrast, had plenty of time to prepare.

    Bear in mind, if ALL we did was insult him for saying 'nucular' instead of 'nuclear' that would be one thing, but we are also criticizing WHAT he says, not just HOW he says it. Didn't that blundering boob have the foresight to figure he would likely have to give a few answers about Iraq? About WMD? And what the fuck kind of answer is "Nobody wants to see dead bodies on TV?" If dead bodies are so offensive, then stop CREATING so damned many.

  45. He mus' be dumb, as'n he don't talk sufferstaked like all'ya Reason slickers.

  46. Aren't you sorry for 9/11?

    What was your biggest mistake?

    If your decisions cause you to lose the election, what will you think?

    All lacking was his underwear choice and what kind of tree. That was the dumbest bunch of questions I have ever heard in a press conference. I only regret that Rumsfield was not there to skewer the idiots. It does credit to Bush that he did not immediately send all the "reporters" to boot camp.

  47. Tom,

    I respect your opinion but stringing together in varying order phrases like "stay the course", "we weren't on a war footing" and "the world is better off without Saddam Hussein" to every question - even and especially when those answers are innapropriate to the question - is hardly "clear and to the point."

    It might be wise, good politics, effective parrying of reporters and their silly, pesky questions and overall the best policy for him to follow. The answers might also be succinct and consistent statements reflecting Bush's sentiments

    But they are NOT "clear and to the point" answers to the questions he was actually given.

    The answers he gave were evasive and designed to obfuscate and eat up the clock. I expect most of the population to fall for it. But not people who think for themselves and see past the B.S. that is Washington D.C. politics.

  48. "John Kerry has yet to articulate a plan for post-post-war Iraq and the War on Terror."

    He could hardly do worse than Bush, mister "every week is a four day week".

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.