"You think I'm nuts?"

Politics Watching President George W Bush stuttering through the press conference earlier I was somehow minded that although I don't really like him or his party or his policies, that at least Prime Minister Tony Blair has a statesman-like quality and knows how to conduct himself in front of the media. After the prepared statement, Bush found himself being harranged and unable to deflect the charge that he'd lied to three pressmen who'd visited the White House before the election about the replacement of Donald Rumsfeld. It's not that he lied, it's that he was unable to cover it up with any skill.

His argument seemed to be that he couldn't have lied to the men of the press about Rumsfeld staying on because he hadn't yet had a final conversation with his replacement. But why would he be even talking to replacements if Rumsfeld was staying on? When asked this question fairly directly, he squirmed slightly them spoke fairly condescendingly to the people he really should be convincing as though they were stupid because they didn't understand his logic. No, Mr. President we don't understand your logic.

I think it must have been the longest time that BBC News 24 have stayed with a US Presidential press conference so it was a change to see unexpurgated coverage of Bush inserting his foot in his mouth without interjections from Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Setting aside what he was saying, he struck me as a very rude man, never looking anyone in the eye and often interrupting their questions mid-flow which seemed to be a deflection tactic. When answering, his statements seemed to either ignore the question (which is a classic trick of all politicians) or reiterate the same point in different ways.

He often denied saying something moments after he said them. In this transcript, he states: "Look, this was a close election. If you look at race by race, it was close. The cumulative effect, however, was not too close. It was a
." (my emphasis)

Seconds later, the following exchange occured with Jim Ruttenberg:
"Q Thank you, Mr. President. You just described the election results as a "thumping."
THE PRESIDENT: I said the cumulative -- make sure -- who do you write for?
Q The New York Times, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes, that's right. (Laughter.) Let's make sure we get it -- the facts. I said that the elections were close; the cumulative effect --
Q Is a thumping.
THE PRESIDENT: -- thumping. (Laughter.)
Q But the results --
THE PRESIDENT: A polite way of saying -- anyway, go ahead. (Laughter.)
Actually, that should be (Nervous Laughter.) which is pretty much what it was all the way through. Bush basically attributes something he said to Ruttenberg summing up the essence of what he said. Did he forget he said it? Was he that nervous? Or was he actively attempting to covering up what he said?

As Wonkette suggests, these weren't great questions, Bush wasn't getting brickbats, Paxman or Humphreys aren't going to lose any sleep, and yet here was The President largely unable to navigate his way through most of them with any great clarity. At some points his answer boiled down to 'Um -- don't know -- you've looked at this in greater detail than I have...' Which just doesn't seem right to me.

And neither does answering the tail end of an answer with a question which everyone is bound to have an answer for:

"You think I'm nuts?"*

Sure I'm partisan. I'm an, ooh, liberal and a Democrat supporter if it's possible for someone in another country to take a political position in another. In the UK, I'm currently without party since our Liberal Democrats have dropped into a directionless meltdown and noth Labour and particularly the Conservatives are ideologically confused. At this rate I'll be voting Green which might seem like a wasted vote but which at least leaves me with a clean conscience.

But what I'm, well ok, criticising here is that the apparent leader of the free world is unable to spend an hour with the press, after six years of being in office, and show a performance within a crisis which does not appear to have markedly improved within that time. I'd have the same criticism of any President who gave that showing because in the end doesn't he not only embarass himself but also the workers who've supported his party? It's part of the office, I thought, showing leadership. When Bush could have been proving his critics wrong, he simply confirmed everything. Who briefs him? Does anyone brief him?

* As an aside I was watching a grand documentary the other week in which a Democrat was fight an entrenched Republican candidate. In many of his speeches he would quote the great words of former Presidents. I look at "You think I'm nuts?" and wonder if this Bush has actually said anything that's quotable that isn't a joke?


  1. Anonymous4:28 pm

    Thank you for watching this so I don't have to. I literally cannot watch him, I have a physical response (and not a good one). It reminds me of how my dad used to react to Thatcher in the 80s.

    See it makes you think that he is either an idiot or, yes, nuts, but surely he can't be, can he? Unless he's a figurehead and the brains are behind the scenes. In which case, why did "they" pick such an idiotic figurehead? It boggles the mind, it really does.

    And I can never see or hear about him without thinking of The West Wing, Bartlet, and how a president should be. Imagine Toby's response to that press conference. Hee.

    As for not having a party in this country - I totally agree. I was just talking about this yesterday. How can Green be the only option?

    Ooh, a little bit of politics (makes me think I should've called Mrs T "Thatch"). Makes a change from Strictly Come Dancing!

  2. I didn't know The Daily Show aired in the U.K. That's interesting.

    You really nailed down what I hate so much about Bush's press conferences--he always seems to be on the defensive against the press, even when they are asking the most basic questions. I can't believe we elected this man to the office of President twice. Not me, of course, I always vote Democratic. At least we now have a Democrat-majority Congress to keep him in check.

  3. Keris: Well for some reason I was should I/shouldn't I about posting this but then I thought, yes, bit of politics. He was there again today -- I actually watched him on the Big Screen in Liverpool City Centre (which was a bit of a Big Brother moment) on the BBC News 24 stream. Again he didn't strike me as someone completely certain of what was actually going on. I do think he's a bit of a figurehead, and that he was selected so that he didn't have his own opinion on anything. I think Dick Cheney is probably pulling his strings.

    Annette: It's on More 4 overhere. Global Edition on a Monday then we get the show the day after it airs in the US the night after. Last night they ran the whole of the indecision special which also included the Colbert Report bit through which I think I only laughed once - there seemed to be many in-jokes and references which flew over my head. I do love The Daily Show though -- with that and The West Wing I probably know more about US politics than the UK.

    I seriously can't see Bush being able to make *any* policy now. Although he has the veto on anything the Democrats might want to cook up, they're going to be keeping him busy with all of the conduct enquiries and whatnot. Unlike the UK, the two sides are diametrically opposed which doesn't strike me as the most conducive position to be in if you want to have any kind of bi-partisan discussions.

  4. Anonymous9:15 pm

    I would like to thank Mother Jones (www.motherjones.com) for sending me the soundbite of "You think I'm nuts?"