By Jackson Thoreau
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Two days before the Saddam story was released just in time to make the Sunday morning talk shows and dominate this week's news coverage, George W. Bush did something unusual for him - he took six "impromptu" questions from the press after a short announcement of his nomination for the new HUD secretary.
In his first three years, Bush's handlers have let him take media questions on his own fewer times than any president in modern history. At the same point in their terms, Bush Sr., Clinton, LBJ, Carter, and Ford had faced the press more than 40 times. Reagan and Nixon had staged solo news conferences more than 20 times. Bush Jr. has done so nine times.
And for those conferences, Bush Jr. was provided with a list of possible questions by aides, given a few hours to rehearse his answers, and taken into an official, dress rehearsal, with staff members pretending to be reporters and firing questions at him. It 's as if the president of the United States has nothing better to do than spend numerous hours rehearsing lines like some two-bit actor. Well, this one doesn 't have anything better to do Bush is known to work out and play video games while on the job in the middle of the day.
How sad. How pitiful.
Take a look at the official White House transcript of Bush's answers to questions on Dec. 12, 2003, about Halliburton's no-bid Iraqi contract, Baker's conflict-of-interest position, the dollar, and other topics at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/12/20031212-1.html . You can see for yourself why Bush's handlers hate to let him answer questions on his own.
The first question was whether Bush was concerned that the Halliburton contract, which the pork-laden Pentagon - the agency that has never seen a $200 hammer it cannot buy - is "investigating," gave fuel to his critics that the contract was inappropriate. Bush ignored Cheney's obvious conflict in this matter and sounded like he didn't have any personal interest in the situation. He said he appreciated the Pentagon "looking out after the taxpayers' money. They felt like there was an overcharge issue."
That's a lie right off the bat. The Pentagon didn't feel there was an "overcharge issue. " This was only brought forth because many other people - not the Pentagon, which awarded the contract in the first place - raised hell about it.
And what should be done about this no-bid contract, according to Bush? "If there's an overcharge, like we think there is, we expect that money to be repaid," he said.
Let me get this straight. A unit of the company the vice president made millions off of before he helped steal the White House in 2000 gets a no-bid contract worth millions from this administration and American taxpayers are charged more than $3 for every gallon of gas imported to Iraq, about double most other contractors' charges. And we just make Halliburton pay a few more bucks, then let them go on with their merry ways? We don't put contracts up for competitive bids so the taxpayers can get the best deals?
Before another reporter named April could follow up with another Halliburton question, Bush tried to divert attention and keep the mood light by asking her if this was her "first Christmas season as a mom." The effect is that reporters laugh and find it hard to be tough on Bush, who acts like a nice, fun guy on the surface but underneath is petty and, to quote him, a major-league a**hole. Bush is also good about remembering reporters' names and calling them by that to make them feel special. He even did that to me when I just met him at my first conference with him in Texas on the 2000 campaign trail. The effect is also that reporters don't really pay attention to the fact that Bush doesn't really answer their questions.
April asked a good question about Bush's response to critics who say he should distance himself from Halliburton and Cheney. He again didn't answer the question and simply repeated that "if anybody is overcharging the government, we expect them to repay that money." April did not get to ask a follow-up question, asking Bush to answer her first question.
Another reporter named Wendell then started out by saying, "In light of the New York Times editorial today, tell me why....." Then Bush stopped him and said to more laughter, "I don't read those editorials."
That's another lie. Bush might not read every Times editorial, but someone on his staff does and he is briefed about them. Bush rarely reads anything in detail. He usually lazily relies on staff briefings, which is why his knowledge on issues is so shallow. But sometimes he actually reads the Times' editorials. To say he doesn't ever read the editorials is misleading.
Bush even contradicted himself and admitted he sometimes reads the Times' editorials a few minutes later by saying, "I didn't mean to 'dis' the New York Times editorial page, but I just didn't - I'm not reading it a lot these days."
SO.....is Bush not reading those editorials at all, or is he not reading them "a lot?" No reporter caught the lie to question Bush about it. But to be fair, I doubt I would have had I been there - I'm better at catching things when I go back and read the fine print.
And how many presidents have used the term "dis," especially with an African-American official next to him? Bush was trying to act hip, but it came across staged and even demeaning.
Anyways, Wendell's question dealt with why former Secretary of State Baker's ties with the Carlisle Group and Baker Botts, which have also won Iraqi contracts, don't pose a conflict of interest with Baker's new job of restructuring Iraq's debt. Bush again didn't answer the question, saying that Baker - the front man for the election heist in Florida in 2000 - was "a man of high integrity" and other bull.
The final question concerned the slide in the dollar against the euro and whether Bush planned to intervene to try to stop the dollar's decline. Bush's answer showed that he knows absolutely nothing about economics, despite having an MBA from Harvard. His answer lent more suspicion that Bush cheated on tests and term papers in Harvard by getting his frat buddies to give him answers beforehand and write papers.
I mean, read Bush's answer to the question: "My answer to that question about the dollar is that this government is for a strong dollar, and that the dollar's value ought to be set by the market and by the conditions inherent in our respective economies. And our economy is very strong and is getting stronger. But the policy, the stated policy -- and not only the stated policy, but the strong belief of this administration is that we have a strong dollar."
Say what?? The question is not: Do you believe we have a strong dollar? The question is: What the hell are you going to do about the dollar's decline?
And Bush's answer is obvious: Nothing because I don't know what the hell to do. He doesn't even know what a declining dollar actually means.
And it's another lie that the economy is getting stronger - see a previous column I wrote on the economy and these phony economic growth numbers we're suddenly seeing during this election year [my previous columns are archived at http://www.geocities.com/jacksonthor].
Anyways, after such a dismal performance before the press last Friday, Bush's handlers, Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, & Co. knew they had to divert attention fast.
Bush's polling numbers have mostly declined since last spring so it was time to.....trot out their friend, Saddam. Saddam was suddenly "found" just in time for the Sunday morning talk shows so the focus would not be on Halliburton and the declining dollar and other topics the Bushites don't want American voters to know.
Many people I've talked to, including those who don't read the kind of Web sites I write for, have told me they thought the administration knew where Saddam was months ago, that they were just waiting for the right time to make an example of him. The Bushites can't fool all the people, but they probably can fool enough of them to steal another election. U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., even told a Seattle radio station that the U.S. military could have found Hussein "a long time ago if they wanted."
British reporter Greg Palast had a good column at http://www.opednews.com/palast_1203_baker.htm , poking fun at Baker's and other American officials' previous relationship with Hussein. He wrote that Saddam "asserted that Baker and the prior Bush regime, 'owe me my back pay. After all I did for these guys you'd think they'd have the decency to pay up. ' "
Palast got more serious, listing many jobs Hussein did for the Baker-Bush administrations, including the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which was approved by Baker himself through an ambassador. The ties date as far back as 1979, when Hussein seized power in Iraq with U.S. approval and switched the country's Cold War allegiance from the Soviets to the U.S. The next year, Hussein invaded Iran, with U.S. support, training, and military hardware. Saddam even hosted Rumsfeld in Baghdad in 1983, when more arms trade was ironed out.
Then in 1984, the U.S. Commerce Department issued a license for exporting aflatoxin to Iraq to be used in biological weapons, Palast wrote. Four years later, Hussein gassed Kurds with those weapons. That incident has long been repeated by conservatives to justify the American invasion of Iraq earlier this year, when other excuses like weapons of mass destruction and ties to bin Laden fell apart.
Such Bushite-Hussein ties are a big reason why I remain suspicious of this week's staged "capture" of Saddam. Some deal has been made with Hussein. He'll be "convicted" and secretly shipped off to some island or obscure place to live out the rest of his life in luxury.
This week's mainstream media coverage of the "capture" is just more election propaganda, the kind Hitler used to overtake Germany and much of Europe in the 1930s.
The Bushites want an American empire, just like Hitler almost had. They're making plans to invade Iran, Syria, and other countries after stealing the 2004 election.
Read the Bush administration's "National Security Strategy of the United States of America " at http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.html . The chapter on global terrorism at http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss3.html is particularly full of football cliches such as "our best defense is a good offense. " The document basically says the U.S. has the right to invade any country it pleases simply by saying they engage in terrorism or MIGHT do so.
Thankfully, there are still a few prominent U.S. officials like Sen. Robert Byrd [D-West Virginia] who continue to speak out against this disastrous, selfish, and unAmerican policy. At the 138th anniversary celebration of The Nation Magazine on Dec. 14 in New York City, Byrd said, "The capture of Saddam Hussein will not be the keystone for peace in that volatile region. This day's news does not lessen the danger that the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strike poses to international peace and stability.... Not only is the doctrine of pre-emption a radical departure from the traditional doctrine of self-defense, but it is also a destabilizing influence on world affairs. The Bush doctrine of pre-emption is a dangerous precedent. The Bush doctrine of pre-emption is a reckless policy. The rising tide of anti-Americanism across the globe is directly attributable to the fear and distrust engendered by this Bush doctrine of pre-emption."
Byrd called the war in Iraq "nothing less than a manufactured war. It was a war served up to a deliberately misled and deluded American public to suit the neoconservative political agenda of the Bush White House."
And Byrd also criticized his colleagues. "Most disheartening to me, Congress allowed the Constitution to become a casualty of the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strikes," he said. "Congress allowed its constitutional authority to declare war to fall victim to this irresponsible strategy. Just a little more than a year ago, in October 2002, the Senate obsequiously handed to the president the constitutional authority to declare war. It failed to debate; it failed to question; it failed to live up to the standards established by the framers. Like a whipped dog, the Senate put its tail between its legs and slunk away into the shadows, slunk away from its responsibility."
You can go to http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20031229&s=byrd to read Byrd's speech in its entirety. To those who say we have a right to invade other countries and impose our brand of democracy on them, consider this: What if Canada suddenly built up militarily, invaded the U.S., and somehow overtook our government, driving the Bushites from power [remember "Canadian Bacon, " Michael Moore's 1994 movie on the neocons lying about a potential Canadian invasion to keep the military budget high?]. While I would be happy about Bush being driven from office, I wouldn't be happy about having some other country force its government down my throat. And if some of my relatives or friends had died because of this invasion, I'd no doubt fight tooth and nail against the Canadian puppet government, even if it provided free medical care to all.
Getting back to Hussein, his "capture" has not stopped the violence in Iraq. More troops continue to be killed or injured. We have killed many civilians there, ensuring that their family members join the other side.
They fight back in ways we don't understand, ways we call terrorism.
But that's how the Irish have resisted the British taking over part of their homeland since the early 19th century. Even the American patriots employed tactics that the British considered unfair and even terrorism during the Revolutionary War of the 18th century. Those tactics included waving white flags at British troops, then shooting them when they put their guns down. You do what you have to do when you're the underdog. We're never going to "win" this war until we understand that, just like we will never "win" the war on drugs until we understand how addicted to drugs - from caffeine to alcohol to prescribed drugs to illegal ones - many Americans are and how agencies like the CIA have participated in the drug war.
In other words, we will never begin to win these wars until we realize what big hypocrites we are and start making some real changes.
We will sure never win these wars going down the abyss that the Bushites are leading us down. I'm not saying I admire Hussein, as many on the right are lying that I do. I don't admire any dictator and that includes Bush, who didn't really win in 2000 and does whatever he wants like a dictator.
I'm just calling it like I see it, which is what a true patriot should do in a real republic. I don't trust anything Bush says or does, especially in an election year. I don't buy it that Hussein just now happened to be "captured."
I await the "capture" of Osama bin Laden, which will probably occur a month or so before the 2004 election. Jackson Thoreau is an American writer and co-author of We Will Not Get Over It: Restoring a Legitimate White House. The updated, 120,000-w ord electronic book can be downloaded on his Internet site at http://www.geocities.com/jacksonthor/ebook.html . Citizens for Legitimate Government has the earlier version at http://www.legitgov.org/we_will_not_get_over_it.html . He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com . This article is copyright Jackson Thoreau and published by opednews.com but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog or web media so long as this credit paragraph is attached.