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February 08, 2004

NRO ON BUSH....Holy Hell. It's hardly surprising that I thought Bush's performance on Meet the Press was weak ("labored and he was addressing a class of sixth graders"), but the fine conservatives over at NRO are piling on in a fashion normally reserved for Jimmy Carter op-eds:

Michael Graham: President Bush looks like he's afraid of Tim Russert. He's stammering and unsteady. For the first time, I've felt a twinge of fear myself about the November election.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Not to pile on here, but I think lots of eyebrows legitimately raise re: the March 2005 commission deadline. I’m not sure he sufficiently answered that…

Kathryn Jean Lopez: A pundit-type just said to me: "If he loses this year, this will be the day he lost it."

Rod Dreher: I'm afraid I have to side with Michael on the Bush interview. I kept wincing as the president bobbled his answers....He had better get his act together....

John Derbyshire: Just got through watching the President on Meet the Press. I thought it was a pretty dismal performance. I'll be voting for GWB in November, but let's face it, the Great Communicator he ain't. The tongue-tied blather was coming thick and fast. At times, he looked like Al Sharpton on the Federal Reserve.

Russert: "Why didn't you establish the intelligence commission earlier?"
GWB: "Blather blather blather. No answer."

Russert: "Will you yourself testify before the commission?"
GWB: "Blather blather blather. No answer."

Rod Dreher: ....I can't believe that fiscal conservatives were relieved by the president's patently dishonest answer when Russert brought up the spending issue. Russert said to Bush that even conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh are criticizing his spending. The president countered by saying that in times of war, every government spends more money, for the sake of the troops. Which is true, but evades the point of the Right's critique of this administration's fiscal irresponsibility. Nobody in Bush's base is complaining about military spending. It's all the other spending that's got our knickers in a knot. Bush had nothing to say about that.

Lopez did meekly suggest at one point that Bush's performance wasn't a total disaster, and took comfort from the fact that no one watches television on Sunday morning anyway. That's about the best any of them have come up with so far.

I'm sure that by tomorrow they will have rubbed the sleep out of their eyes and decided upon mature reflection that it was actually a magnificent performance, but this is what they're saying now. For once, I find myself in full agreement with National Review....

Posted by Kevin Drum at February 8, 2004 10:12 AM | TrackBack


I only saw the last 10 minutes and it looked okay, and the transcript doesn't look bad, but nobody who has seen it seems to think it went well.
I don't know why he bothered to do this in the first place.

Posted by: Reg at February 8, 2004 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

We should be careful here or nobody at NRO will post anything honest again...

By the way, Bush's trembling performance gets repeat later today or tonight on both MSNBC and CNBC. Check listings...

Posted by: Gofer at February 8, 2004 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

The rerun's at 2:30am here on the local NBC affiliate in Wisconsin. Not sure if that's standardized (modulo time zone) or not.

Posted by: Anarch at February 8, 2004 10:28 AM | PERMALINK


Also know as the day they started to eat their young...

Posted by: me at February 8, 2004 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

I was pointing out to my husband just yesterday that recently, whether because the media are starting to pick their shots more or because he is actually shrinking, Bush has been looking more and more like an elderly child dressed up in a man's clothing. His neck and head appear to small for his collar size, and he seems shrunken rather than the larger than life cowboy they were marketing just a few weeks ago. Hope its a trend that others are seeing: he seems to be shrinking into the job rather than growing into it.

by the way, great campaign slogan fouro just posted over at Kos

something like
thanks, george, we'll take it from here...


Posted by: aimai at February 8, 2004 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Where have these boobs been for the last 4 years? Sounds like a perfectly typical Bush performance to me.

Maybe the White House will come up with one of those "doubles" that Saddam supposedly used, only this time to talk coherently in public.

Posted by: TK at February 8, 2004 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

It reminded me of watching the horses approach the gate at the Derby. Even once-a-year horseracing fans can tell which horses are ready to run and which aren't. And this wasn't the Kentucky Derby just Tim Russert fcol. GWB will have trouble placing in a two horse race.

Posted by: wren at February 8, 2004 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Somebody mentioned Bush looked like an "elderly child dressed up in a man's clothing," did anybody else notice his pants were way too short? He looked like a fool.

Anyhow, I also watched and blogged this; just click on my name.

Altho I'm glad to see even folks at the NRO didn't think the performance was too good, I really wish it had been worse. That is, that Russert would have been able/willing to ask some tough follow-ups. Bush's answers were horrible, and he just needed to be called on them.

Posted by: TolucaJim/Visible Hand at February 8, 2004 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Bush's body language also spoke volumes. He looked nervous and defensive, as in, at some level he knew what he was saying what utter crap, and was anxious about whether Russert was going to call him on it.

In contrast, Reagan was totally convinced of the truth of the utter crap he was speaking, and as a result his body language was also confident and strong.

Perceived anxiety feeds the "Bush lied" meme.

Posted by: Greg Abbott at February 8, 2004 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

It wasn't a disaster at all. For that to be the case, this performance would have had to make Bush supporters question their own vote. The chattering classes seem to have a problem figuring out what will make the average non-pundit do that. Bush wasn't fantastic by any stretch of the imagination, but he voluntarily offered himself up to the toughest interviewer on television (allegedly) and didn't make any major flubs. If anything, his approval ratings might go up 3 or 4 points for a week or two before dipping back down. I wish these guys would at least give the interview a couple hours of thought before prematurely declaring Bush's demise.

Posted by: Skip Perry at February 8, 2004 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

God, I miss having a President who could speak in full sentences.

What on earth did we do to deserve this?

Posted by: Bailey at February 8, 2004 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, one more was shameful that Bush wasn't asked about gay marriage. John Kerry will appear on a future Meet the Press and be absolutely drilled on the issue, giving Russert a good head start in defending last year's Media Whore of the Year award.

Posted by: Skip Perry at February 8, 2004 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Why did he do it? Because he had to. If he doesn't go out and try to get his message to the people, he's definitely going to lose the election because the Democrats are going to get their message to the people. He can't ignore the Democrats. He certainly can win the election with a decent campaign.

Rove knows that. Rove is obviously going to continue the strategy of sending him to venues like this to minimize the possiblity that he'll perform poorly. The problem is that if he still performs poorly (and I didn't see it myself, so I can't comment), he's just going to have to try something else--which increases the odds that he does something stupid.

Posted by: M. at February 8, 2004 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe NRO is "punking" us? ;^)

Posted by: Hesiod at February 8, 2004 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

A poll at Kos seems to agree with the general content of the NRO comments: not terrible, not great, maybe a little thin and wobbly.

What I find more interesting are the TONE of the comments. NRO's seem to be more uniformly angry (unsurprisingly, I guess), while on the left blogs they seem to be divided between the usual hate-him-hate-him remarks and a lot of be-careful-don't-count-him-out.

Pragmatic leftists? The Kerry vote?

Posted by: bleh at February 8, 2004 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

True M., he does need to get his message out. But if even the folks at NRO--pretty staunch and unwavering Bush backers--thought the performance was dismal, that's good.

I don't think it was nearly as bad as they seem to, but that's mostly because I had been hoping it would be worse/saw so many opportunities where Russert could easily have made it worse with some decent follow-ups.

Posted by: TolucaJim/VisibleHand at February 8, 2004 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

The interview was good in that it illustrates to Bush's core supporters that he's not really the tough guy they keep imagining him to be and that the heroic image really doesn't fit.

Those of us who "hate" Bush already know he can't think on his feet, but I really think his supporters have swallowed the flightsuit strong leader nonsense.

Kerry should clean up on this guy in the debates. Course somebody better tell Kerry not to sigh.

Posted by: Pat M at February 8, 2004 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

What on earth did we do to deserve this?

Every time you masturbate, God selects a Republican.

(inspired by this classic)

Posted by: NTodd at February 8, 2004 10:58 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: David Perlman at February 8, 2004 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

He was his usual language impaired self, but that doesn't change the minds of a lot of Repubs. The right is, generally, anti-intellectual, but, as Greg Abbott just pointed out above, Reagean appealed to the anti-intellectual right but at least he could speak well. Bush had a sort of deer-in-the-headlights look, plus he did look a little like a little boy dressed up for church thinking about when he could get out of there and go blow up some frogs.
In contrast I watch General Clark's interview on Late Edition and he looked confident, he spoke in complete sentences and generally blew Bush out of the water. Why can't he get any traction?

Posted by: Babba at February 8, 2004 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

thanks aimai...

I went lookin for it and found this over at digby's:

Like I said, fixable, because this current group of "CEOs" play exactly to the dark side of the CEO coin average americans are all too familiar with: Controlling, secretive, self-interested, self-satisfied and infallible. The stool just needs the right kick.

For what it's worth. fouro | Email | 10.11.03 - 2:30 pm
Busted clock, twice a day syndrome. Missed Russert for kids swim, but I like how things look. I also like what my conservy neighbors are telling me. But I'm still gonna vote. Lots, it if can get away with it. Posted by: fouro at February 8, 2004 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Russert: Are you prepared to lose?

President Bush: No, I'm not going to lose.

Did this exchange make anyone else twitch? I had a flashback to Florida, and it was a bad trip.

Posted by: Tom E. No at February 8, 2004 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

My analysis.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at February 8, 2004 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Always out of the mainstream, I am. I watched the whole, and thought W. (and mind you, I despise the man) did a very credible job on the international side -- including his criminal war in Iraq -- and fell down a bit on the domestic. On the whole, though, a solid B+ (better than he did at Yale).

Posted by: Invigilator at February 8, 2004 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

To those at the NRO--how was this diferent from any other Bush performance? Really, from what I saw he gave his typical C- performance, but it was hardly out of character and I have seen him do much worse.

Posted by: Rob at February 8, 2004 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

"Russert: Are you prepared to lose?

President Bush: No, I'm not going to lose."

Remember King George the First saying his son had won Florida when the networks first mistakenly gave it to Gore?

Look for THREE October Surprises: One involving OBL, another involving WMD, and one not of BushCo's doing (but perhaps playing into his hands.)

Sounds like "conspiracy theory" stuff, I know. But just because you are paranoid doesn't mean people aren't out to get you, either.

Posted by: PMS at February 8, 2004 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

I think the nRO crew is disturbed because he was not smirking while asserting: "Mongo not like bad men. Mongo crush bad men and gnaw on bad men intestines."

And he forgot his flight jacket and shoulder mounted rocket launcher. And Russert wasn't humping on his leg as most pundits are wont to do in recent times.

They'll be reassured when Rove nukes Syria this afternoon.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden at February 8, 2004 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

>I kept wincing as the president bobbled his >answers....He had better get his act together....

I'm with TK, who have these people been watching? That's as smooth as it gets with jr. What these 'pundits' don't seem to understand is that their followers don't know he is lying, stumbling. They haven't a clue, every answer was what they expected the way they expected it.

This may be the first volley in the 'lower the Bush bar" stratergery, they need to get that bar down, after all he's just the president, we shouldn't expect much.

Russert showed he was a whore, nothing on Plame. Bush has traitors running around in the White House and he doesn't care. Bush's fellow traitorous conservatives out a CIA operative for personal political cover and Russert doesn't say a peep. What a GE owned and operated coward whore.

As far as how Bush "appears:, read this the other day, I think it nails him good.

He acts and talks like a kid giving a book report on a book he never read. At best he asked some kid on the playground what it was about.

Posted by: Tom at February 8, 2004 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Russert: Are you prepared to lose?
President Bush: No, I'm not going to lose.
Russert: If you did, what would you do?
President Bush: Well, I don't plan on losing.

It made me think: this guy doesn't prepare for any eventualities, does he?

Posted by: moderncuddler at February 8, 2004 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

I remember something about a King George III writing something in his diary:

July 4, 1776; "Nothing of consequence happened today."

Posted by: fouro at February 8, 2004 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

It wasn't a disaster at all. For that to be the case, this performance would have had to make Bush supporters question their own vote. The chattering classes seem to have a problem figuring out what will make the average non-pundit do that.

Ah, there it is. There's no supposing these pod-people are any less full of cheese when they bash rightward as when they do so leftward. Lacking any agenda-less press, I doubt there can be a true taking of the pulse of the critical undecided and dithering.

Posted by: Jerry Vinegar at February 8, 2004 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

>Look for THREE October Surprises:

There will be couple things for him to crow about.

Rev. Moon will deliver a North Korean agreement, maybe by April. Moon has had this one in the bag for some time, IMHO, the whole negotiation thing is a fraud. Dollar to doughnut, they have known the outcome to this one for months. The question will be, when will Moon brag about doing it and will the press, as with all things Moon, ignore it.

Some time about September Bush will activate the first stage of Star Wars. It won't work, but it will be activated and will provide Bush with a chance to fog over the pod people minds some more. You know how 50% still think Saddam flew the planes on 911? Well, 50% will think the "missile shield" will protect us.

Posted by: mw at February 8, 2004 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Russert was a pushover just as everyone feared. Russert never questioned a Bush statement, never follwed up with a challenge to whatever Bush spewed. Russert took a dive. Bush just said he didn't want to get into "word contests" and that was good enough good ol' Timmy. Bush said he was going to cut the deficit in half when everyone knows that's bunk, but it was good enough for good ol' Timmy. Timmy didn't bother to challenge one factual claim Bush made about the budget.

And Bush fucked up badly:

1) He unwittingly agreed to release all of his military records. Doh!

2) He had to appeal to even more "Clintonesque" language to try to extricate himself from the WMD mess. Now it's not only weapons of mass destruction related program activities it's also the "capacity" to possess WMD, as opposed to the actual possession of WMD which he now peddles as the justification for his war. What a lying sack of shit we have in the White House!

3) Bush admitted that it is possible that Hussein did have WMD and that they were spread to other countries before the invasion. Now wouldn't that be a total disaster?! Clearly this would mean that we are less safe than before the invasion. What if those WMD are in the hands of indetectible radical terrorists right now instead of in the hands of a cornered, deterrable dictator?

4) He is depending on his unreliable exiles to guarantee that there will not be an Islamic government as the result of any elections in Iraq. But why should we believe that Ahmed Chalabi will have control under a democratic system rather than al-Sistani? Isn't this overestimation of Chalabi what got them into trouble in the first place?

Posted by: The Fool at February 8, 2004 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by TolucaJim/Visible Hand: "I really wish ... that Russert would have been able/willing to ask some tough follow-ups."

Russert saves the tough (punishingly unfair) follow-ups for Democrats. The Bush interview was filled with dead-end roads which Russert refused to travel. Here's an example:

When Russert asked if the loss of American lives had been worth it, Bush said: "For the parents of the soldiers who have fallen who are listening, David Kay, the weapons inspector, came back and said, “In many ways Iraq was more dangerous than we thought.” It's we are in a war against these terrorists who will bring great harm to America, and I've asked these young ones to sacrifice for that."

Why didn't Russert say: "Mr. President, you say, "In many ways Iraq was more dangerous than we thought." THAT'S what you'd tell the parents who lost children? In WHICH ways was it MORE dangerous, Mr. President? When you made your case for war in the State of the Union speech last year you said that Iraq had thousands of liters of anthrax and botulinium, hundreds of tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent, tens of thousands of long-range missiles, mobile weapons labs, and that he was working on acquiring enriched uranium and the tubes to produce it into weapons. We learn now from David Kay's report that he had none of these things, and yet you would console the parents of fallen soldiers by saying Iraq was even MORE dangerous that we thought? Can you understand how they might feel you are being misleading and disingenuous?"

Russert (continuing directly): "Mr. President, isn't it true that you should be impeached?"

Posted by: jayarbee at February 8, 2004 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Reg: I don't know why he bothered to do this in the first place.

Because even though everyone knows he can't orate...his handlers bet he could recite a few important paragraphs without err.

Here is the most important one he pounded into memory:

"I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind. Again, I wish it wasn't true, but it is true. And the American people need to know they got a president who sees the world the way it is. And I see dangers that exist, and it's important for us to deal with them."

There you have it folks. And it was perfectly phrased for the tin ears of the masses.

Question: Does this country ever switch horses in the middle of a war?

Answer: Expect to see the "I am a war president" drum played with the passion of a Sousa march.

Posted by: -pea- at February 8, 2004 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Fouro -- wasn't that Louis XIV the day the Bastille fell?

It would have been funny if George III had heard about the Declaration of Independence the day it was signed, given that there was no radio at the time. News took weeks to get through, at the best of times. Sort of like the Bush White House....

Posted by: sagesource at February 8, 2004 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

for those of us who actually listened, it was a poor performance. for the vast majority of the american peeps who will only see selected cuts of this interview, he'll seem just fine.

Posted by: dan a at February 8, 2004 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

This may be the first volley in the 'lower the Bush bar" stratergery, they need to get that bar down, after all he's just the president, we shouldn't expect much.

Yet another good point. The (supposed) appeal to many voters is the ostensible normalcy of Dubya: he's got his own set of personal f-ups and failures, "just like the rest of us." Emphaising this plays to his, um, strength. It will also do well to show him as the well-meaning president beset by career bureaucrats and spooks in the State Department and CIA who were so full of their Eastern establishment selves that they couldn't even deliver good intelligence to the Great Man. If this gains any traction, this will be disastrous for Kerry, what with his "People's Republic of Taxachusetts" upbringing and weird-o "European" moneybags wife.

It's the sadness of a contest of personalities when there are real issues at stake.

Posted by: Jerry Vinegar at February 8, 2004 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Tom --

That "book report" description was exactly my impression. The first little bit of the interview had Bush shifting in his chair trying out various versions of a smile and then quickly dismissing them. He seemed desperate to shift from the playing field of questions and facts to one of charm and good intentions.

Then his answers had that rambling quality of a student failing an essay test. He found a couple of phrases he seemed comfortable with -- stuff he had rehearsed like the "DMIADPOTW" -- and he latched onto them like a drowning man.

I could imagine his handlers in the next room wincing time and time again.

Posted by: slacktivist at February 8, 2004 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with Tom : They are just lowering the bar.

My conserv sis (supposedly educated) said she "didn't hear anything he, uh, spoke about that, uh, he mispoke. He always has spoke like this to regular Americans..."

I'm not kidding here either. I love my sis but this left me speechless... and afraid, very afraid.

Posted by: David at February 8, 2004 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Along the King George III/Louis XVI train of thought...

I believe in 1917 that Czar Nicholas II wrote something like "Took tea in the morning. Took nap." in his diary on the day the Bolsheviks seized power.

Aren't clueless dictators entertaining?

Posted by: Kid Charlemagne at February 8, 2004 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the last few times Shrubya jumped the shark has lifted the veil from conservatives' eyes and they can finally see what the rest of the world has seen for well over a year.

Posted by: Old Fashioned Patriot at February 8, 2004 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, did you miss the other comments at NRO? Seems there were quite a mix of comments. Lopez posts a number of emails from people who were not displeased:

"I disagree with your characterization, & Michael Graham's. Perhaps you all expect too much. After two months of drift, taking punches, & dispiriting his base while wild-goose-chasing the left-middle, this was a solid start."

"I guarantee you that most people who watched it like him more now than before. He came across as a thoroughly good man."

"It's amazing how different people can watch the same thing and come to such radically different conclusions. Watching Bush, I saw a decent man comfortable with power and clear on the importance of the moment he has found himself in."

More cherry-picking of the evidence by Kevin, who promptly stovepipes it up to his readers.

Posted by: Al at February 8, 2004 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't be too heartened by the NRO comments. Remember after the Gore-Bush debates, the pundits were all saying what a wonderful job Gore did and how Bush seemed lost. These same people turned around two weeks later and said that's where Gore lost the election, etc.

Right now, it's cool even among many conservatives to disrespect Bush, but when the chips are down in November, there's no question they'll all be in lockstep. Will they be as motivated as all of us angry liberals? I really don't see how that's possible, and that gives me a lot of hope going into the elections.

Posted by: Observer at February 8, 2004 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

I followed Calpundit's link to the NRO, just to see what the reactionaries thought about their Commander in Chief's performance ... it reminded me of what Senator Hruska of Nebraska is said to have said about one of Nixon's (rejected) Supreme Court nominees -- Carswell (the nominee) may be mediocre but even mediocre people deserve to be represented on the Court. This seems to be the only reactionary defense of W's performance.

Posted by: John M at February 8, 2004 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

He lied with a straight face and Peggy Noonan will declare it a triumph. The fact that he failed to answer plausibly will be ignored.

Posted by: hylander at February 8, 2004 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

More cherry-picking of the evidence by Kevin, who promptly stovepipes it up to his readers.

Kevin, as I did on my blog, quoted the NRO folks. Nobody's claiming everybody thot Bush was a disaster, just that the NRO pundits did.

Posted by: NTodd at February 8, 2004 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

From what I've read up above...including my own post...and Kevin's previous blog point:

That's it, baby. This campaign is going to be all about terrorism, Iraq, and national security, 24/7

We all better be wishing for a Clark victory on Tuesday in Tenn. or Virgina.

He is the only candidate that truly can't lose on that issue, or any other issue, against bush.

Kerry simply has too many liabilities. Wes and Girt are an incredible idealistic pairing. It doesn't get any better.

And yeah, Clark's affirmation that he is not vice presidential material is perfect timed.

Let's hope Lurch gets left in a lurch down south. And that the Breck girl shows some dandruff.

Otherwise...we risk four more years of peckerwood george.

Posted by: -pea- at February 8, 2004 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

I'd say he stayed on-message. He just likes to repeat some words:

War 35 times (including 3 references to Vietnam War)
Terror (terrorist) 22
Weapons 21
Danger (dangers, dangerous) 17
Threat 14
Kill (killed, killer) 6
Madman 6
Harm 4
Attack 4 (includes 1 reference to campaign attack)
Shadowy 2

Doesn't care much for some other words:
Sacrifice 2 (referring to dead soldiers)
Peace 6 (includes 2 references to “war and peace”)
Truth 2

And as for the 2.2 million net loss jo--, jo--...
Jobs 2

But what do you know, he finally spoke the man's name in public:
Osama Bin Laden 1

Posted by: 537 votes at February 8, 2004 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, as I did on my blog, quoted the NRO folks. Nobody's claiming everybody thot Bush was a disaster, just that the NRO pundits did.

Exactly. There were plenty of opinions expressed over at NRO. I posted some of the other quotes. You used the quotes that supported your position. It's called cherry-picking.

Posted by: Al at February 8, 2004 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

"I disagree with your characterization, & Michael Graham's. Perhaps you all expect too much. After two months of drift, taking punches, & dispiriting his base while wild-goose-chasing the left-middle, this was a solid start."

Yep, that's right Al, I believe the catch phrase for this is "The soft bigotry of low expectations."

Posted by: Another Bruce at February 8, 2004 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

I thought his performance was a C+. Par for the course for Mr. Bush. I consider the argument that Iraq had the "capacity" to produce weapons a new lowering of the WMD bar. There are 120+ nations in the world. Probably 4/5 of them have the capacity to produce WMD given Mr. Bush's low standards for what constitutues WMD. He also said hilariously that democratic nations don't produce WMD. This from the man who controls the world's deadliest nuclear arsenal, not to mention our aging stockpiles of nerve gas and other chemical agents. I have to agree with the comments regarding his oversized shirts and suits. I've also noticed his wirey grey hair could use a styling by Christoph whether on a tarmac or not. I also thought his constant referrals to Saddam as a "madman" was pathetic. If anything the capture of Saddam humanized him. Rather than being a WMD-armed Lex Luther he turned out to be a pathetic old man hiding in a hole. The capture of Saddam has been said to be the beginning of the end for Howard Dean. I think the same can be said for Bush.

Posted by: fastback at February 8, 2004 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the most interesting phrase is "war president". Not "wartime president," but "war president." It is not entirly clear, to me at least, whether this phrasing is deliberate or spontaneous. It certainly speaks volumes about how Bush sees himself, and feeds into (or from) the view that Bush is on a Crusade of sorts. But it also raises a question: will voters vote for more war (as opposed, say, to "strong leadership"), and is this to be an element of Bush's political strategy?

Posted by: ajm at February 8, 2004 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Exactly. There were plenty of opinions expressed over at NRO.

At least at the time I posted, I saw no follow-ups. Regardless, it's not like anybody is cherry-picking evidence to convince the nation to enter into an illegal war.

Further, I don't think anybody is claiming that conservatives 100% deplored the MTP appearance. It is certainly interesting to observe how much the NRO pundits thought it sucked, though.

Posted by: NTodd at February 8, 2004 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

The ONLY surprise to me was that Shrub was babbling and incoherent right from the start. I thought he was at least prepped enough to sound coherent for 20 minutes or so.

Truly sad to see a President so obviously unable to reason and persuade....instead, he seems to think just repeating something over and over is equal to persuasion.

Hopefully, enough people have seen that the whole "bold, decisive leader" thing is a fraud.

He is just an abysmally inarticulate and ill-informed way over his head, and yet others pay the consequences. He will still retire to the ranch a millionaire without a care for waht he has done to our nation.

Posted by: marty at February 8, 2004 01:00 PM | PERMALINK


I've heard it used as a King George anecdote, but hey, if it was a Frenchman, all the better, eh?

Yes, Fox News wasn't piped into Hampton Court, but that wasn't the point I was making: The wheels were turning years before 7-4-76. Lord North was parked off the Virginia coast acting like Wolfie, Rummy and DeLay, making neocon-like noises, threatening small furry animals and offering freedom to slaves who'd split and join british garrisons. The Stamp Act had effectively turned loyalists into pissed off doubters. Neighbors were getting toasted at the Raleigh Tavern and planning sedition.

1776 was the exclamation point at the end of a run-on sentence filled with cuss words. George III knew what was happening. He paid attention eventually, but the train was in motion. Too late.

11-2-04 will be like 7-4-76. Republicans will go: "WTF?!" But they too know the writing's on the wall, they just chose not to pay attention.

Posted by: fouro at February 8, 2004 01:00 PM | PERMALINK

537 votes...Thanks for the breakdown of the word counts. Absolutely enlightening.

Was it a Cagney trait, that while playing a gangster, he would repeatedly begin sentences with "See..." ?

Seems to be a bush trait too.

He began 3 sentences that way:

"See, free societies are societies that don't develop weapons of mass terror and don't blackmail the world."

"See, I'm more worried about the fellow looking for the job."

"See, I know exactly where I want to lead."

What a parody.

Posted by: -pea- at February 8, 2004 01:02 PM | PERMALINK

Kathryn Jean Lopez: A pundit-type just said to me: "If he loses this year, this will be the day he lost it."

Geez, did they actually think Bush's interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer was a smashing success?

What about all those conservative constituents that are say they are voting for a Democrat or just staying home this year? NRO folks must be completely out of touch with the average conservative American voter.

Bush's 9/11 pixie dust wore off and they didn't even notice it, they were so busy graveling at Dear Leader feet?

Now it looks like the conservative world is set to get a far left liberal guy like Kerry as next president because they ignored the base principle of caring for the elderly and veteran voter. Oops!

At least it should make George F. Will appreciate Bill Clinton a hell of whole lot more. I don't expect Kerry to do anything great as the next president because he's too much of a dyed in wool dumbass (the professional media types hate Kerry) but I know conservatives are going to hate him a lot more than they did Clinton.

BUT maybe Kerry, as president can find some way to get rid of bug-eyed freak, Tom DeLay.

I tell ya, Washington DC insider politics sure do sucks these days.

Posted by: Cheryl at February 8, 2004 01:10 PM | PERMALINK

Al wrote: "It's called cherry-picking"

Al once again reveals his inability to understand plain English. Al, not only do you not understand the meaning of the word "cherry-picking," you also fail to comprehend Kevin's point.

The folks at NRO are among the most doctrinaire, rabidly pro-Bush folks in the U.S. If any of them, particularly the thought-leaders, have questions about Bush's performance, this is newsworthy. This would be equivalent of your finding pro-Bush quotes at the Democratic Underground site.

No stove-piping, Al, and no cherry-picking. Can you at least try to engage your brain before you write, please?

Posted by: PaulB at February 8, 2004 01:11 PM | PERMALINK


I have read the NRO site. Kevin quoted from all the pundits. He did not quote any of the emails. How do we know what kind of emails NRO received and whether they cherry picked the ones they posted.

Actually I suspect they may not have. The simply got emails from the die hard supporters who would never criticize Bush under any conditions. The Bush supporters who agreed with the pundits probably thought "Yep, I thought he pretty weak' and so did not see any need to email NRO.

Posted by: ____league at February 8, 2004 01:13 PM | PERMALINK

I saw it on NBC, then listened on CSPAN radion. It was a lot like them Nixon-Kennedy debates: If you watched, you thought it was a disaster, if you listened, you thought it was a complete catastraphe.

Good gravy, the sputtering, hemming, and hawing to answer the simplest of softball questions was incredible (e.g., "Was this a war of choice or of necessity? Duh, what?").

I know the Repubs have a ton o' dough to throw at the peoples, but what are they gonna do when they can't send Chimpy out anywheres that's not a completely controlled environment? Whatisname in Kentucky is even ascared of aWol.

There is no way to spin this well for the [Technical] President. No way, no how. Poll numbers will drop further, and Kerry et al will be able to (legitimately) pile on. Should be fun. What will happen then? They can't trot out Dum-Dum before the camera, he's too much of a disaster. Will they produce Osama? What will happen?

Best part:
Russert: "Will you testify before the 9-11 commission?"
Chimpy: "Possibly"

Mr. Kerry, do you have any response to that?

Posted by: some dude at February 8, 2004 01:20 PM | PERMALINK

Actually though, I don't think anybody has ever come out of MTP looking good. (From what I saw) Bush certainly did better than Deano did, but not quite as good as Edwards. I never saw the Kerry on MTP.

Posted by: Reg at February 8, 2004 01:26 PM | PERMALINK


You're's hard to come out of such a clearly confrontational interview on a positive note. Russert won't let himself be charmed, and your performance is judged by how well you deflect his pre-planned gotchas. Success comes when you avoid clear negatives and contradictions.

Posted by: Skip Perry at February 8, 2004 01:31 PM | PERMALINK

It may be that the Republicans are waking up from a few years in denial.
He was the "anybody but Gore candidate".
If they were to think about it, John McCain would have beat Gore in a landslide and things would be a bit different today.
It may be time for more sensible and intelligent Republicans to step forward and call a spade a spade before anymore damage is done.

Posted by: SteveR at February 8, 2004 01:34 PM | PERMALINK

The folks at NRO are among the most doctrinaire, rabidly pro-Bush folks in the U.S. If any of them, particularly the thought-leaders, have questions about Bush's performance, this is newsworthy. This would be equivalent of your finding pro-Bush quotes at the Democratic Underground site.

Exactly. Bush-lovers thinking his performance was wonderful isn't news. But when any significant number of the True Believers start going "oh shit" about his performance, then yes, it's news. That applies to any candidate, btw...

Posted by: Ducktape at February 8, 2004 01:35 PM | PERMALINK

"The tongue-tied blather was coming thick and fast. At times, he looked like Al Sharpton on the Federal Reserve."

Of course, Derbyshire had to get in a little gratuitous racism there. What an intellectual skinhead.

Posted by: Billmon at February 8, 2004 01:41 PM | PERMALINK

what was Rove thinking?

Posted by: john steppling at February 8, 2004 01:42 PM | PERMALINK

I give Bush a grade of B. He's not much of a public speaker, but don't forget he's not interviewing for a job as a newscaster. For a President, actions speak louder than words.

The key is that he responded to the main accusations against him without saying something disastrous. Remember George Romney admitting he was brainwashed? Recall Gerald Ford misunderstanding a question about iron curtain countries?

Bush will never match Reagan or Kennedy as a speaker. Still, I think his on dull, message performance will be a boost for him.

I think Kerry has a tough row to hoe on the two biggest issues: keeping taxes low and protecting America against Islamic terrorism. In addition, continued improvement in the economy is forecast. The election is Bush's to lose. He avoided losing it today on MTP.

Posted by: David at February 8, 2004 01:46 PM | PERMALINK

Bush-lovers thinking his performance was wonderful isn't news

Exactly. It's "dog bites man" stuff. NRO groaning about Bush's performance? That's priceless "man bites dog" territory, and worth remarking.

Posted by: NTodd at February 8, 2004 01:47 PM | PERMALINK


"what was Rove thinking?"

"No choice, we have to do it. If he really screws up we can dump him and get Tom Delay."

Posted by: ____league at February 8, 2004 01:48 PM | PERMALINK

My pick for best moment:

"BUSH:...David Kay did report to the American people that Saddam had the capacity to make weapons. Saddam Hussein was dangerous with weapons. Saddam Hussein was dangerous with the ability to make weapons. He was a dangerous man in the dangerous part of the world. And I made the decision to go to the United Nations. By the way, quoting a lot of their data in other words, this is unaccounted for stockpiles that you thought he had because I don't think America can stand by and hope for the best from a madman, and I believe it is essential that when we see a threat, we deal with those threats before they become imminent. It's too late if they become imminent. It's too late in this new kind of war, and so that's why I made the decision I made."

Totally incomprehensible.

Posted by: QuakerinaBasement at February 8, 2004 01:54 PM | PERMALINK

"Derbyshire had to get in a little gratuitous racism..."

Low blow there, Billmon. Sharpton's answer to a question about the Fed really WAS a load of faking and double-talk. If Derb was comparing Bush's performance to an imagined Sharpton oration, you might have a point. But the comparison was to a real event.

Posted by: QuakerinaBasement at February 8, 2004 02:00 PM | PERMALINK

Exactly. It's "dog bites man" stuff. NRO groaning about Bush's performance? That's priceless "man bites dog" territory, and worth remarking.

Exactly the same as with Iraq's WMD!

For the CIA to say "here's some evidence that [X] doesn't have WMD" is dog-bites-man. For the CIA to say "here's some evidence that [X] has WMD" is man-bites-dog and worth remarking.

So, then, tell me, if the Bush administration on talks about the man-bites-dog, but doesn't mention the dog-bites-man, is that cherry-picking or not?

Posted by: Al at February 8, 2004 02:03 PM | PERMALINK

I didn't watch MTP this morning but where have these people been for 3+ years? Unfortunately, Derbyshire hits the nail on the head though - they'll still vote for the idiot -that's the strength(?) of their party.

Posted by: CJ at February 8, 2004 02:11 PM | PERMALINK

Gratuitous racism? That's ridiculous. Comparing him to Sharpton on the Fed has nothing to do with race and everything to with ineptitude.

Posted by: Skip Perry at February 8, 2004 02:16 PM | PERMALINK

He was a dangerous man in the dangerous part of the world.

He can't even get his own talking point right! As anybody who watches the Daily Show knows, this should be " the most dangerous part of the world." Condi said it 3 times in one appearance...

Posted by: velvethammer at February 8, 2004 02:38 PM | PERMALINK

A dozen times or more the Weed (too noxious to be a mere Shrub) called himself Decisive or talked about how he had made Decisions because. after all, he is a decisive wartime president. But note how he conflates the war on terra with his Iraq stunt. One is a hot war, one is a rhetorical trick, like the war on (some) drugs or the war on poverty. He was not a wartime president in any real sense until he started a real war.
As for whether he "won" or "lost" the interview, as we should have learned by now, it doesn't matter what actually happened. All that matters is what people say happened. There are no objective correlatives in politics anymore. What's true is what people say is true. What happened is what people say happened. It worked to smear Paul Wellstone's memorial, it worked to smear Howard Dean in Iowa, it worked to hand a presidential debate to the fumble-tongued loser, and it worked to steal the presidency in Florida. Why shouldn't it work with arguably more factual support now?
Bush Lost! Bush Lost! Come on, everyone, sing along. Bush Lost! Bush Lost!

Posted by: Tomm at February 8, 2004 02:42 PM | PERMALINK

Just to be clear, the NRO guys weren't really criticizing the substance of his defense, they agree with him, just his presentation. I don't know how much you can take away from that. Its like Deaniacs complaining about Deano's grimace/smile. You know they'd follow him as if he was the Pied Piper, regardless of his lack of style. Same for Republicans.

Posted by: Reg at February 8, 2004 02:46 PM | PERMALINK

For the CIA to say "here's some evidence that [X] doesn't have WMD" is dog-bites-man.

Bzzz! Thanks for playing, but the answer we were looking for is 'CIA saying "here's some evidence that [X] doesn't have WMD" is man-bites-dog, and is a reason to NOT GO TO WAR WITH [X].'

Remember that "everybody knew" Saddam had WMD, so saying he had 'em is dog-bites-man (i.e., not unexpected). Also recall the context: I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind. Bush's cherry-picking was part and parcel of his "when everything is a hammer [war], everything looks like a nail [a case for war]" mindset.

What Bush needed was a Devil's Advocate, just like the Vatican has when considering sainthood. If you don't allow any contrary interpretations, you invite groupthink. That is inherently dangerous.

Posted by: NTodd at February 8, 2004 02:46 PM | PERMALINK

Well, now, I didn't see the interview, but I've read the transcript, and I think the Bush didn't come off all that poorly. I especially like this bit: "...I’m not gonna leave him in power and trust a madman. He's a dangerous man." Seems like that's not a thought that the Bush would want to be putting into the minds of the American voters during an election year.

Posted by: josef at February 8, 2004 02:53 PM | PERMALINK

Another question Toothless Timmay didn't ask:

"Mr. President, in 2002, the State Department issued a legal memorandum that flatly stated the only justification under international law for a preemptive or preventive attack on another nation was where that nation posed an "imminent threat" to the attackng nation.

You, and your administration, on the other hand, refuse to categorize Saddam Hussein's regime as an "imminent threat." Doesn't that mean you violated international law when you invaded Iraq?

Posted by: Hesiod at February 8, 2004 02:59 PM | PERMALINK

George Walker Bush is a lying drunk. Nuf said.

Posted by: Andrew Smith at February 8, 2004 03:30 PM | PERMALINK

Here is a key Bush gaffe that Timmy-boy let slide:

Bush said, "The world thought he was dangerous and needed to be disarmed. And, of course, he defied the world once again."

In what sense did Hussein defy the world once again on the issue of disarming? Didn't Kay report that he never had any WMD? What was Hussein supposed to do? Go out and acquire some WMD and then turn himself in? How did Hussein defy the world when it comes to disarming?

Here's a question Russert should have asked AWOL: what the fuck have you been smoking Mr. President?

We know that Bush has twice claimed that Hussein wouldn't let the UN inspectors in and apparently Senator Warner made a similar claim today before being shot down by Senator Carl Levin. This is pure Humpty-Dumpty land where words mean whatever the Republicans want them to.

These assholes either have no command over the basic facts about what happened in the most important thing they were ever involved in their whole lives or they are shameless liars.

Posted by: The Fool at February 8, 2004 03:35 PM | PERMALINK

What a lot of people don't seem to realize is that the message about this guy to middle America is that he's a gooooood man. And it works. They lap it up, especially the church stuff. How could such a God-fearing person be bad?

Democrats don't seem to understand the extent to which this country has been dumbed down. People don't like patricians. They want an aw-shucks good ole boy, who's "just like them." This was Clinton's genius: off the charts in IQ, but able to mask it as needed. The American people don't want an intellectual as president. They will therefore forgive Bush's gaffes and awkwardness and will actually close ranks against anyone with an obvious intellect who attacks him. He's one of them, after all. This is his genius.

Kerry will have problems. He can come off looking pretty supercilious at times. Ask your grandparents about Adlai Stevenson and Eisenhower, intellectual vs common man. Contemporaries knew how smart Eisenhower was, but he was just "Ike" to the American people. He played it perfectly, as did Reagan. Bush doesn't care about Russert, the National Review or George Will. He just goes over their heads.

Posted by: lost in rhetoric at February 8, 2004 03:37 PM | PERMALINK

Hesiod's post above outlines the question I wish had been asked--international law has been broken by Bush, but that is obviously a verbotten subject in the mainstream U.S. media. In addition, more real questions about domestic policy should have been asked. That is the noose that will hang Bush more than the invading of Iraq.

In terms of the MTP interview, I was reminded of listening to the Gore/Bush debates in 2000. All of my family and friends who saw it on television thought Bush was terrible--I heard it on radio and thought Bush more than held his own. I can see why people like the guy personally (although I think he's just a prick)--and I am not surprised that many Republicans love his in-your-face, I'm-right-you're-wrong style. Like Clinton said: a majority of Americans will choose someone who is strong and wrong, over the candidate that is correct but weak.

This election is going to come down to the fence sitters deciding if they trust this man. It is also possible that enough Republicans (the older generation) will find it too cognitively dissonant to vote for a man who they know is a liar and fiscally irresponsible. Despite Sunday morning interviews, Bush is a piss poor leader and America needs someone wiser and better these days. I really believe that more voters will get that by November.

Bush just sounds like a used car salesman. Charming, but untrustworthy.

Posted by: Tim B. at February 8, 2004 03:39 PM | PERMALINK

If W were interviewing for a job or a promotion, would anyone have hired him? His performance reminds me of nighmares I've had about performing bad job interviews. Is that what the people want? Someone who exudes absolutely no confidence in what he is saying?

Posted by: tstreet at February 8, 2004 03:44 PM | PERMALINK

My local news managed to find three sentences that sounded like they made sense. I watched the whole thing and was amazed at how poorly he did. Hiding behind the NG was low.

Posted by: John Gillnitz at February 8, 2004 03:51 PM | PERMALINK

Off topic, but I had to say it

Hey Ducktape

Unless you are doing something to waterfowl that I do not want to know about,

I think you mean Duct tape.

For the sake of waterfowl everywhere, I hope I am right

Posted by: Free American at February 8, 2004 03:58 PM | PERMALINK

Meet the Truth

Posted by: Al at February 8, 2004 04:12 PM | PERMALINK

The NRO isn't alone.

Peggy Noonan pans the interview here.

Here's an excerpt:

The president seemed tired, unsure and often bumbling. His answers were repetitive, and when he tried to clarify them he tended to make them worse. He did not seem prepared. He seemed in some way disconnected from the event. When he was thrown the semisoftball question on his National Guard experience--he's been thrown this question for 10 years now--he spoke in a way that seemed detached. "It's politics." Well yes, we know that. Tell us more.

She tries to make out that it doesn't matter. In fact, she tries to make his performance into something grand. She says Bush can't do interviews because he has a PHILOSOPHY (I kid you not) and you can't do a philosophy in talking points.

A desparate, almost funny, attempt to spin this as a good thing.

Posted by: emptywheel at February 8, 2004 04:14 PM | PERMALINK

We know that Bush has twice claimed that Hussein wouldn't let the UN inspectors in and apparently Senator Warner made a similar claim today before being shot down by Senator Carl Levin

At least two C-SPAN callers this week have said the same thing. I think we may be seeing the birth of a "the hijackers were Iraqis"-type belief among the True Believers. Has Fox been promoting this claim as well?

George Orwell appers to have been a documentarian instead of a fiction writer.

Posted by: Basharov at February 8, 2004 04:19 PM | PERMALINK

After listing to 20 minutes, I wonder why the President decided to focus on Saddam instead of Osama

He kept saying that Saddam could do this and Saddam could do that

Osama could do the same, and Osama murdered 3000 Americans

Why did we waste lives and resources on Saddam and let Osama Get away ???

Posted by: Free American at February 8, 2004 04:22 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I was surprised at the comments over there. BTW -- I like your blog a lot. One of the top two or three in the country.

Anyhow, I thought the President's performance was par for the course for him. I've watched the interview twice now.

First, I was disgusted by Russert's lack of hard core questions. You or I could do better. That's why they gave it to Russert.

Second, I'm not surprised at the right's reaction. People seem to be waking up to how bad the President is on TV. Having met him in person, I can tell you that he doesn't come across any better in person. He comes across poorly on TV because he doesn't cut it person either. Reagan, who I also met -- he and I are in the same Fraternity -- came across so, so much better in person. Really at ease in his own skin.

Bush's big problem is that he doesn't wear well -- particularly with the 9/11 effect wearing off. I agree with the Republican wag (can't remember who) that said Bush would be facing a primary challenge had not 9/11 happened. Over time, EVEN CONSERVATIVES are starting to see that.

This was really a very standard performance for him. I figured the right wouldn't be happy with his performance. Being born well doesn't really get you anything real, in terms of improving your intelligence or personality.

When I was still a Republican in 2000, I constantly told everyone in my family that Bush would be death warmed over for the party in the long run. They all laughed and called me "liberal" and other such imagined slurs.

Now that I'm in the right party for me -- I get a nice little glow inside being proved right.

It's all downhill for Bush from here. The real question is whether or not enough people will see that before November to put this puppy away.

Posted by: Tony Shifflett at February 8, 2004 04:23 PM | PERMALINK

Even Peggy Noonan thinks Bush stunk it up.

It's almost as though David Kay was the guy on the parade route yelling "the Emperor has no clothes!"

Posted by: Hesiod at February 8, 2004 04:23 PM | PERMALINK

In what sense did Hussein defy the world once again on the issue of disarming? Didn't Kay report that he never had any WMD?

No, Fool. David Kay said that Saddam definitely was not complying with the UN resolutions:

"But Kay, who supported the war, said the Iraq Survey Group's conclusions did nothing to undercut his belief that Saddam needed to be removed from power.

He said Iraq was in violation of U.N. Resolution 1441, which mandated Saddam to disclose and destroy prohibited weapons.

He said inspectors have found hundreds of cases of Iraqi officials concealing from U.N. weapons inspectors evidence that placed Iraq in clear violation of the world body's resolutions."

You are aptly named, Fool.

Posted by: Al at February 8, 2004 04:30 PM | PERMALINK

"U.N. Resolution 1441, which mandated Saddam to disclose and destroy prohibited weapons."

Hard to disclose and destroy what isn't there.

Good one.


The president seemed tired, unsure and often bumbling. His answers were repetitive, and when he tried to clarify them he tended to make them worse. He did not seem prepared. He seemed in some way disconnected from the event. When he was thrown the semisoftball question on his National Guard experience--he's been thrown this question for 10 years now--he spoke in a way that seemed detached. "It's politics." Well yes, we know that. Tell us more.

Posted by: Al at February 8, 2004 04:40 PM | PERMALINK

No, Fool. David Kay said that Saddam definitely was not complying with the UN resolutions

Yes, Fool. As I blogged this morning, Kay said this:

I don't think [WMD] existed. I think there were stockpiles at the end of the first Gulf War and those were a combination of U.N. inspectors and unilateral Iraqi action got rid of them.

Regardless, we didn't follow the letter or the spirit of S/RES 1441 and launched an illegal war. Quibbling over David Kay quotes won't change that.

Posted by: NTodd at February 8, 2004 04:47 PM | PERMALINK

CNBC 7pm PT, 10pm ET & 10pm PT

Posted by: doug r at February 8, 2004 04:48 PM | PERMALINK

He said Iraq was in violation of U.N. Resolution 1441, which mandated Saddam to disclose and destroy prohibited weapons.

Pitiful, Al. If Saddam was violating Resolution 1441, it was up to the Security Council to say so and then to outline the "serious conseqeunces" that would follow. Hans Blix and the Security Council asked for one month more of inspections before determining if Saddam were in violation of 1441. Bush was too much of a coward to put his claims to a vote. Instead, despite clear evidence that Saddam was complying -- evidence that to any sane person showed that Saddam had no stocks of WMD -- Bush launched his "aggressive war." He had to do this fast, of course, because another month of inspectons would have shown to all but the True Believers (like you, Al) that he had no legitimate grounds for this war.

Posted by: Basharov at February 8, 2004 04:59 PM | PERMALINK

Al achieves his all-time low.

When Kevin cites the Corner, he is citing, as is apparent to any sentient being, the people who make up the Corner, not their emailers. It is inconceivable that anyone would try to pretend that Kevin not quoting the emailers is "cherrypicking" what the Corner had to say.

As for WMDs and Iraq, it's no longer worth the time to try and walk you through the facts, Al: the administration hyped a threat that turned out not to have existed at all, and its retrospective rewriting of what it said, enabled by apparatchik-babblers like you are only convincing to fellow aparatchik-babblers.

Posted by: howard at February 8, 2004 05:13 PM | PERMALINK

After viewing the Tim Russert interview, I was impressed with the Presidents? willingness to open his records of his service in the Alabama Air National Guard. This is a particularly courageous position given that the records presently available, which are open to the public through freedom of information requests and available on the internet at , clearly indicate that: 1) there is no official record of his attendance during a period of about one year of his service, and 2) that none of his direct superiors had any recollection or any direct knowledge of his attendance, and 3) that he clearly received favored treatment to have his tour of duty cut short to work on an election campaign and return home to Texas.

His willingness to allow the press and public to interview fellow guard members, who were in attendance and who actually witnessed his attendence at the numerous drills, should do a great deal to clear up the mystery of why no one has yet come forward to corroberate his side of the story. So far, not a single member of the guard yet interviewed has indicated that they actually saw him attend any of the required drills. This mystery is particularly baffling in view of the significant monetary reward still being offered to anyone with direct evidence of his attendance by various veterans groups.

Perhaps, now with the greater publicity and in view of Senator Kerry?s distinguished and heroic war record there will be at least one person who will step forward who can put this story to rest. It is inconceivable that he could have actually attended without anyone noticing or any official record indicating that he actually served.

Posted by: S. G. Poss at February 8, 2004 02:50 PM

Posted by: Neo-Troll at February 8, 2004 05:29 PM | PERMALINK

"But Kay, who supported the war, said the Iraq Survey Group's conclusions did nothing to undercut his belief that Saddam needed to be removed from power."

So what? He's just a mid-level bureaucrat, not king of the world. His expertise in this matter is limited to the hunt for weapons of mass destruction. Somebody please stop David Kay, or he'll be giving us his thoughts on taxes and the death penalty.

Posted by: Mario at February 8, 2004 05:44 PM | PERMALINK

David Kay is being treated as a great and unbiased expert, rightly or wrongly. His prediction that WMDs won't be found goes beyond what he knows, just as does his comment that Iraq was even more dangerous than expected. Both of those comments deserve equal weight in news reports. That is, both or neither should be reported.

Posted by: David at February 8, 2004 06:06 PM | PERMALINK

George W. Bush is never good when he has to do more than read a speech off a teleprompter. He makes it even harder by refusing to ever admit that he, or anybody in his Administration, is ever wrong. It would be hard for anyone to avoid stumbling while trying to defend his record. Especially George W. Bush

Posted by: EvanstonDem at February 8, 2004 06:12 PM | PERMALINK

All you need to see to realize how little people care.. at this moment this story is #1 on Yahoo's Most Emailed news list (#16 on Most Viewed):

Bush keeps mum about college secret society

...yep, that's what's important.

Posted by: bubba at February 8, 2004 06:33 PM | PERMALINK

"He had better get his act together...."

With all the coaching, years of experience, and a taped and edited broadcast? My my. Revealing, isn't it.

Actually, he had better get his story straight.

For once.

Posted by: Mark Richards at February 8, 2004 06:56 PM | PERMALINK

I am surprised no one has brought up the fact that when he was stuck on something and really bumbling that he would look down to his left and stutter a bit until he read his notes on the preplanned question Russert asked.

Also, no one has commented on this remark:

Russert: Will you testify before the commission?

President Bush: This commission? You know, I don't testify. I will be glad to visit with them. I will be glad to share with them knowledge. I will be glad to make recommendations, if they ask for some.

Posted by: Maria at February 8, 2004 07:12 PM | PERMALINK

Re the Kennedy/Nixon debates: A couple of people up-thread have the audience reaction backwards. Radio listeners felt the callow JFK just didn't measure up to the seasoned RMN; those who saw the handsome, wholesome senator debating the sweaty, beady-eyed shyster disagreed. That debate is often cited as the moment when American politics boarded the handbasket to hell by opting for the telegenic over the substantive. I'm not sure Nixon's policies were substantially better than Kennedy's but that's the argument. Here's a brief summary, with useful references.

As for the oratorical skills of Our Fearless Leader: I'm one of those 0.0007% of Americans who don't own a TV. When I listened to the Gore/Bush debates, the pundits' immediate reaction matched my own: fumbling and flailing, nearly pre-verbal, Bush had nothing to say and hadn't said it very well. But within hours (or maybe minutes — I didn't time it) everything changed. Gore sighed a lot; he wore orange make-up; he was devastated by the rapier-like thrust of Bush's "fuzzy math" riposte. And that's what stuck.

I don't think the 2000 rewriting was about TV-v.-radio as much as consuming-v.-sampling. Same with MTP. As others have already mentioned, most of our fellow citizens didn't watch or hear Bush's entire performance — assuming they even knew about it in the first place. All Bush had to do was spit out 4.5 coherent seconds (didn't even have to be sequential!) that could be slapped into a news segment later on; the DC Press Glee Club would handle the rest. Why does the Glee Club go along? Why do they seem to be thinking, ever so hesitantly, about dropping Bush from their best-friends list? Will they be seduced, or flogged, back into the cult? Who the fuck knows.

Anyway, for visual-input aficionados or anyone who prizes their ability to resist frauds, here's a little exercise in reading non-verbal communication. Warning: though you may feel that 3+ years of recognizing Bush's obvious, technicolor, visible-from-space dissembling has sharpened your skills, you won't find such barreled-fish examples here. Enjoy the challenge!

Posted by: dix at February 8, 2004 07:23 PM | PERMALINK

Just up thread reminds me of one of the things I think lots of us would like to know: What were the groundrules agreed to by NBC News and that changed Russert from attack dog to lap animal? Did Russert give his script to the White House beforehand, including the order of questions? Did our chickenhawk in chief have a prompter in the room with talking points, where he seemed to be looking down and to his left when he needed to find message? A campaign rehersal behind the fig leaf of the attack animal?

Posted by: vetfordean at February 8, 2004 07:38 PM | PERMALINK

Before the war, the UN had inspectors on the ground. When given leads by the US, the UN inspector found them to be dead-ends, false leads, worthless information. They told the US this BEFORE THE WAR STARTED. Why oh WHY is anyone buying this "intelligence failure" BS?

The US had every opportunity to have the UN find the stockpiles, or at least tell if their intelligence was any good. But upon finding out their intelligence was no good, told the UN inspectors to leave before the bombing began.

That's why so much of what Rumsfeld, Rice, and the others say makes NO SENSE. War was not a last resort, and claims about specific knowledge of WMD had been disproven PRIOR.

Imagine if Russert had tossed this one: given that the UN inspectors were checking US leads and finding them false, why did you continue to claim the intelligence was good enough to start a war? Don't you owe Hans Blix an apology? Doesn't this mean that France and Germany were right in saying there was no evidence for a pre-emptive war?

Remind folks of this information.

Posted by: Tubino at February 8, 2004 07:56 PM | PERMALINK

Sadly, I missed the broadcast, and will have to find time to watch a re-run. I've read comments alluding to Bush's poorly cut clothes, and his pants being too short. Was he wearing white socks?

And you say Rovian handlers think of everything?

Posted by: bobbyp at February 8, 2004 08:44 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for that link Dix...I got 11 out of 20.

Also I agree with your observations, (someone upthread mentioned the same general idea), and in fact on tonight's new reel the splicing of the interview was done to rovian perfection.

bush appeared warm and glib and concerned about his flock.

Posted by: -pea- at February 8, 2004 09:12 PM | PERMALINK

Well Republicans, the party is over. I certainly didn't expect it to end this soon. I mean, it's not even March yet. I'm not even going to comment on Bush's performance on MTP because everyone has pretty much echoed my thoughts on his verbal skills. All of this was plain to me in 2000, but apparently "the sky was green" to those who put this bafoon in office.

I wonder if Peggy Noonan will perform "The Exorcist" spinning head motion on her next appearance on "Hardball." Last Saturday night she said that Bush is a highly respected, simple man who has done wonders for our country and that Kerry is a "shooting star" who should be worried about being the current front runner. Shooting star? What the %&#^@ does that mean? Now I see why she has no husband. The woman is from freakin' jupiter. How does one end up like her? Is she not getting any or did someone use her head for batting practice during her youth? That's why she can create her own reality because her brain bounces from side to side when she talks.

Bye Bye GOP! There is no recovering from this afternoon. I'm gonna' enjoy the next 8 months of spin of your "President oops I've finally been caught" and his fatal peformance today.

Posted by: eagle eye at February 8, 2004 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

I was surprised to hear someone tell me today that Russert was tough on Bush, and it heartened me for a while.

Go Demos!

Posted by: The Dark Avenger at February 8, 2004 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

W's funniest line: "I see dangers that exist." Halley Joel Osment was far more convincing saying "I see dead people."

Posted by: Tulse at February 8, 2004 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

Bush claims he never met or knew Kerry from their days at Yale yet they both belong to Skull and Bones. I wonder whether Kerry will mention he knew Bush while they were at Yale. Of course, that will be just one person's word against another unless they can name a person who can say for certain they knew or at least met each other. Just a thought because I'm sure this isn't among any big issues.

BTW I read about a month or so ago that a German newspaper reported that an unnamed source admitted we had captured Ossama bin Forgotten. In reference to an earlier post, I think you are correct and that we will "suddenly" capture Ossama along about October.

I also read about a week ago that John Hannah & I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby from V.P. Cheney's office are likely to be indicted any day for outing Valerie Plame. I have not seen boo about this in the main stream media yet. Also, no question about this in the MTP interview. What a whimp!

I think the assessment of some is correct, the Repubs for the most part will think Bush did a great job.

The rest of us saw through him and his wimpy and evasive replies.

I kept telling myself Russert didn't challenge him for his evasion or nonanswers to questions precisely because he is the president. I still think he could have pushed much harder than he did and gotten by with it.

I would loved to have seen the look on Bush's face if Russert had only ratcheted things up a few notches.

Posted by: k ols at February 9, 2004 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

BTW I read about a month or so ago that a German newspaper reported that an unnamed source admitted we had captured Ossama bin Forgotten.

Der Welt was reporting, briefly, that bin Laden had been captured, but that was the same day that Zarqawi's associate got nabbed and it's been generally assumed since then that some lines must've got crossed.

Posted by: Anarch at February 9, 2004 01:46 AM | PERMALINK

As a few wise men above succintly stated, this interview wasn't for pundits or bloggers. It was for the conservative base. The carefully edited, glowing clips will be recycled on Faux News and all the other crap non-newschannels. Already I'm hearing that his poll numbers are rising. He's going to get at least 6-7% uptick from this interview. Most Americans see this schtick as warmth, humanity, the common touch. They pat him on the head and coo over his honesty.

The Republican Party has never been so entrenched, influential, or aggressive. People here really think that the GOP is somehow horrified or ashamed of Dubya? This is all for show. The party never, never strays. This is all being done so Bush can have a staged revival, can show his amazing powers of beating the evil Democrats, liberals, terrorists, and homosexuals. This is the first step to him being reelected by a wide margin in November.

Posted by: James Barber at February 9, 2004 03:59 AM | PERMALINK

Bush only got about an 8-9% uptick from capturing Saddam Hussein, and that lasted him less than a month. Going on Meet the Press in this day and age wouldn't give him a several percent uptick even if he gave I Have a Dream and the St. Crispin's Day speech rolled into one.

I'd also suggest to people who say that he's deliberately making himself look bad for purposes of a staged comeback that you're spinning excessively elaborate theories. If the Bush team are doing that, they're pretty dumb (dumber than I think they are); nobody can predict or control events well enough to pull that off. I read one commenter on Texeira's blog saying that he thought Karl Rove had infiltrated a dozen different poll organizations and faked dropping numbers just so that Bush could be the Comeback Kid in the summer. If he could do that, don't you think it would be a better strategy to just boost the fake numbers sky-high and keep them there?

The opponents we are dealing with are not complete idiots, but neither are they omnipotent puppet-masters, and to interpret every setback for them as a carefully planned stage in a deterministic Kabuki drama encompassing the entire national population is overthinking it.

Posted by: Matt McIrvin at February 9, 2004 06:32 AM | PERMALINK

Very good point, Matt. There is a disturbing trend on the left towards assigning the likes of Rove and Cheney supernatural powers of deception and though each of them is Satan in a Brooks Brothers suit. It seems a odd mirror image of some folks' attitude toward Bin Laden. Paranoia runs deep, as the saying goes. It's easier than analysis, and it prevents us from seeing actual causes and reasons.

Took the 'Spot the Fake Smile' test Dix pointed towards. 17 out of 20. It's all in the eyes.

Posted by: delcyphr at February 9, 2004 07:02 AM | PERMALINK

I caught a rebroadcast at 1:00am this morning. Painfully awkward performance on Bush's part but I think the previous commenters are correct in that politically aware people are the only ones that really watch programming like Meet the Press in its entirety. The spinmeisters got enough footage to santitize his performance for his base of supporters who only watch the soundbites on the evening news.

Still I can't help but find it somewhat heartening that so many of the usual Bush apologists found it equally embarassing.

Libby Spencer

PS: Add my thanks to Dix for the smile quiz. I'm always looking for amusing links to lighten up the depressing drug war news on my blog.

By the way, I got 16 out of 20.

Posted by: Last One Speaks at February 9, 2004 07:41 AM | PERMALINK

The problem with Bush and company maintaining a status quo instead of staging a comeback is that status quo causes resentment and hidden undercurrents of anger which are not easily controlled.

The present situation allows Bush to admit there has been a problem, reset the terms of the debate (notice how he has very successfully persuaded the media and the public to move on from his blatant lies on WMD), and also know that the media will invite comparison to his father's final year in office. Then when Bush comes roaring back once the $200-300 warchest destroys every Democrat in it's path and once the GOP GOTV (Get Out the Vote) effort sends in a huge flood of new seats for Republicans, Bush can bask in new, all-time bright media adoration, because the media will spend day and night clucking about how he had managed to do what his father could not, and maybe Jeb will do the same in 2012.

All of this is planned out. Finding Osama, the current growth of the economy (it will probably boom out of nowhere by July), the Sept. 11 tear-jerking at their National Convention -- this is all being done slowly but surely, as in the 2002 midterms, to assure a GOP landslide.

IMO When we underestimate Karl Rove and Ralph Reed, we let them win. So let's not underestimate them.

Posted by: James Barber at February 9, 2004 07:59 AM | PERMALINK

Who said Tim Russert is a Republican?

But Mr. Russert is seen as a challenging interviewer with a style informed by the life he left 20 years ago as a lawyer and Democratic political operative for Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, both of New York.

Posted by: Mike at February 9, 2004 08:44 AM | PERMALINK

That's right - Russert is NOT a Republican.

P.S. Eagle Eye re: Noonan - you must have missed the two times IN THIS THREAD where Noonan's comments were already posted. Here's a third time for your "eagle eye":

[Neither Ronald Reagan nor Dwight Eisenhower were good at talking points] Mr. Reagan had a ready wit and lovely humor, but he didn't as a rule give good interviews when he was president. He couldn't remember his talking points. He was a non-talking-point guy. His people would sit him down and rehearse all the fine points of Mideast policy or Iran-contra and he'd say, "I know that, fine." And then he'd have a news conference and the press would challenge him, or approach a question from an unexpected angle, and he'd forget his talking points. And fumble. And the press would smack him around: "He's losing it, he's old."

. . .

George W. Bush is not good at talking points. You can see when he's pressed on a question. Mr. Russert asks, why don't you remove George Tenet? And Mr. Bush blinks, and I think I know what is happening in his mind. He's thinking: Go through history of intelligence failures. No, start with endorsement of George so I don't forget it and cause a big story. No, point out intelligence didn't work under Clinton. Mention that part of the Kay report that I keep waiting for people to mention.

He knows he has to hit every point smoothly, but self-consciousness keeps him from smoothness. In real life, in the office, Mr. Bush is not self-conscious. Nor was Mr. Reagan."

Posted by: Charlie at February 9, 2004 08:58 AM | PERMALINK

And Mr. Bush blinks, and I think I know what is happening in his mind. He's thinking...

And right there, we see the fatal flaw in Peggy Noonan's argument... ;)

Posted by: Anarch at February 9, 2004 09:08 AM | PERMALINK

I though he conducted himself the same as always: like an idiot. But, he's our idiot.

Posted by: GOP Insider at February 9, 2004 09:36 AM | PERMALINK

Very funny, Anarch. You obviously aren't seriously suggesting that the POTUS doesn't think, are you? What's next - he really is not human but some animatron radio controlled by Cheney? If I had to pick between a genius IQ Clinton president and GWB . . . well, I guess you would say I am not thinking either ; )

Posted by: Charlie at February 9, 2004 09:53 AM | PERMALINK

Bush continues to wear the shredded tatters of international law. UNSCR 1441 is laden with language straight from the Lie Factory (Pentagon Office of Special Plans), save one important concept: war was NOT to be "automatic". All UNSC states that took the 11/8/2002 unanimous vote for 1441 emphasized this last point in their commentaries.

Meanwhile, the "shadowy terrorist networks" of n-weapon proliferation linked to Pakistan with Saudi-based funding are given a pass. The weaponless "dangerous man in a dangerous part of the world" was simply more important to attack because, well, he was dangerous!

Posted by: Deep Blade at February 9, 2004 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Here's what Noonan had to say on Tweey's show last April when asked if the administration was going to invade another country.
from Tweet's transcript

Ms. NOONAN: It is 2003, we have a presidential election in 2004. Let's not forget it. The administration just did something huge. It was a gamble. They put their own life on the line. They just won. Now they have to deal with what they've won.

"They put their own life on the line." hahahaha

Hey, Russert may have been a democrat once, but people change when they quit working for a dem and go to work for GE. Look how Tweety has changed, a few months ago he defended TWT when Conason attacked it.
from the WP
The administrative assistant to House Speaker Tip O'Neill, Chris Matthews, has told staff members not to bother with Times reporters. "The Rev. Moon can buy a newspaper, but I can't buy the idea he's a newspaperman," says Matthews. "We work hard enough responding to legitimate press inquiries."

Posted by: mw at February 9, 2004 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

I don't want to see a "madman" with access to unconventional weapons either. McCain should be considering running against "our" madman.

What the hell is a "war president" anyway?

Posted by: Seapost at February 9, 2004 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Charlie, a lot of us think that having a president who cannot communicate except in a highly staged manner is in fact a problem. For Noonan to either assume she knows what's in his mind or, more likely, project what she would *like* for him to be thinking, is foolish at best.

Eagle, I will say this for Noonan--suppose we lay off her personal life? She's a poor pundit, but her marital status simply isn't relevant. Thanks.

Posted by: hesprynne at February 9, 2004 12:33 PM | PERMALINK


"Charlie, a lot of us think that having a president who cannot communicate except in a highly staged manner is in fact a problem."

I can understand that, really. But given the choice between Clinton (a president who can communicate) and GWB (a president who cannot communicate except in a highly staged manner), don't be surprised that a lot of us pick GWB ; )

"For Noonan to either assume she knows what's in his mind or, more likely, project what she would *like* for him to be thinking, is foolish at best."

At least Peggy's met the man - I assume Anarch hasn't - so is it at least as foolish to say he's not thinking ANYTHING?!

Posted by: Charlie at February 9, 2004 01:53 PM | PERMALINK

Our resident humorist, Charlie, wrote: "well, I guess you would say I am not thinking either"

Based on the evidence to date, I would say that's a safe assumption. Were you planning to start anytime soon?

Posted by: PaulB at February 9, 2004 02:50 PM | PERMALINK

You folks should subscribe to newsletter. Here's some relevant scoop in 2/8 edition, re "George W. Bush Angers Conservatives":

Howard Dean isn't the only presidential candidate suffering a self-inflicted meltdown. There's a certain Republican with the same problem, and we don't mean Wesley Clark the former Reaganite.

President Bush has so angered his conservative base by spending more than any Democrat in history and pandering to illegal aliens that Republican congressmen, stunned by constituents' complaints, met privately with Karl Rove to unload, the Washington Times revealed Friday.

"I would say 97 out of 100 of our members who asked questions laid into him pretty good about spending and the lack of discipline on the administration's part," said Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla.

The White House, however, does not seem to be taking the problem seriously. Presidential spokesman Trent Duffy said Bush wanted "to broaden the party."

Good luck with that sorry strategy. Those who try to be all things to all people end up standing for nothing and having nothing. Proof of this tactic's failure: The more money Bush squanders, the Democrats attack him.

Wall Street Journal columnist John Harwood notes that Bush is getting socked from the right and the left and has only himself to blame.

Harwood traces the recent plunge in Bush's popularity to four events:

The uproar caused by former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill undermined Bush's biggest asset: his image as "a strong leader, with capable advisers, who talks straight."

The State of the Union speech deepened misgivings on Capitol Hill. Bush blamed the GOP-controlled Congress for his own massive spending and deficits, and angered Democrats when he "improbably suggested that he had been vindicated" on what he now calls "weapons-of-mass-destruction-related program activities."

After insisting his humongous expansion of Medicare would cost $400 billion over a decade, he jacked up the estimate to $540 billion. Democrats, of course, say the program should be even more gargantuan, and conservatives don't want it at all.

The latest insult: a record deficit of $521 billion this year in a $2.4 trillion budget that pleases no one. This from a man who said "we can proceed with tax relief without fear of budget deficits."

Most damning of all is a statistic the Journal published recently. Bush increased domestic discretionary spending by a record 8.2 percent, compared to 2.5 percent for Bill Clinton, 2 percent for Jimmy Carter and 4.3 percent for Lyndon Johnson.

Harwood notes that "just as with the nose-diving candidacy of Howard Dean, the problem is largely self-inflicted."

Posted by: danderous at February 9, 2004 07:32 PM | PERMALINK

To follow up a little on Dix's comment, I've begun to wonder if there might be fundamental differences in the vocabulary of visual or verbal cues used by liberals and conservatives to assess qualities like competence or trustworthiness.

What if, to use the test linked to by Dix as an example, it could be shown that liberals tend to look at the zygomatic arch, and conservatives tend to look at the eyebrows in determinating the sincerity of a smile?

What if it were the case that liberals tend to focus on the posture of the shoulders, and conservatives on the position of the hands as indicators of self-assurance (or vice-versa)?

Look, I don't mean to suggest that it's as simple as that, and I fully understand that 'liberal' and 'conservative' are a convenient shorthand for a much broader range of beliefs, but still--

Posted by: Chris Vosburg at February 10, 2004 01:35 AM | PERMALINK

Man, you all are sure going to be crushed when Bush rolls over Kerry in November. Hey, I thought John looked good with Hanoi Jane as he was trashing his fellow v eterans and calling them war criminals. wasn't he supposed to turn them in, or was that a violation of his duty?

Posted by: GBYEKerry at February 10, 2004 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Bush is the most blatantly transparant "celebrity" if you will, that I have ever's the same mentality as Britney Spears- oh my wedding wasn't some publicity stunt.

Bush spins and spins fear into paranoid Americans, hoping to exploit 911 into his re-election. I was ashamed of his nonsense on MTP regarding how he vows to protect us, the only thing he is trying to protect is his own ass- before everyone figures out the real truth of this organization. Shameless.

And Tim Russert was pathetically gentle.

Posted by: Drea_NM at February 10, 2004 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

I feel I must point out that for eight years we had a president who did not serve in any branch of the military. In fact, "Draft Dodger" comes to mind when describing him. The very same people who downplayed this aspect of President Clinton's history are now trying to create a furor over whether or not President Bush reported for duty at one of his National Guard postings. Of course, this specific question surfaced only after Bush's critics took some heat for suggesting that serving in the National Guard was not as good as serving in the Army/Navy/Airforce/Marines. It's interesting that, all of a sudden, military service, or lack thereof, is important when deciding who should be president. More political smoke and mirrors!

Decide who should or should not be president based on the issues; at least on those issues that are important to you.

I do not vote along party lines. I vote for the people I think will do the better job. I'm not always right and those for whom I vote are not always right, but at least I am voting as responsibly as I can.

The questions about President Bush's military service should now be answered. His records are available for review. Get on to some real issues. This country needs government, not politics.

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