Early in yesterday's press conference, Bush talked about "fighting the enemies of liberty." Later in the same press conference, he responded to a reporter by labeling her question as "dangerous." The offending question was:
"If you conclude that a surge in troop levels in Iraq is needed, would you overrule your military commanders if they felt it was not a good idea?"
Bush must have realized how absurd he sounded. He tried to backtrack later, completely misrepresenting what he had previously said:
"And so, as I said to her - probably a little more harshly than she would have liked - you know, hypothetical questions, I'm not going to answer them today."
Of course, he didn't say he wasn't going to answer hypothetical questions. He said that the reporter had asked a dangerous question. And of course, in talking about the reporter's feelings, he misses the point (and insults both the reporter and the American people.) The problem with his outburst, is the chilling effect it has on our democracy - press conferences being as close as the American people get to communicating directly with their president.
Bush must have missed the part in civics class, about the role of freedom of the press in our democracy. But even setting that aside, you've got to wonder: Does this man know the meaning of the word "liberty?"
Perhaps he thinks it means doing away with habeas corpus, and reserving for himself the right to declare anyone he chooses an "enemy combatant," locking them up for life.
Perhaps he thinks it means ignoring the Geneva Conventions, and other domestic and international laws against torture.
And if freedom and liberty are so important, then why isn't he concerned about the lack of democracy in other countries - Saudi Arabia, for instance?
Then there's the content of the "offending" question: what about the notion that a president and his commanders in the field might disagree, is so dangerous? Perhaps someone needs to tell Bush that democracy is messy. People get to disagree with the president.
Thom Hartmann has been speaking eloquently about the decades long confusion in this country, between capitalism and democracy. The former is an economic system, the latter a political system. Dictatorships and capitalism can exists side by side - witness China.
When Bush says "liberty," he must be talking about his own special brand of capitalism, where he gets to put his thumb on the scales in favor of his corporate buddies. How else could he wag his finger at Congress about fiscal responsibility, but say nothing about the billions missing in Iraq, the alleged overcharging by Halliburton, or his inexplicable tax breaks during wartime? How else could he be enacting policies that alarm even conservative civil libertarians, and human rights activists? And how else could he so reflexively scold a reporter for being "dangerous?"
Yes, what he really meant by "liberty," was cleverly hidden in another part of the press conference:
"And I encourage you all to go shopping more."