In case you've just recently picked up on the president's incompetence as a leader and decision-maker, then ahoy! Welcome aboard! We missed you back in November 2004, but we're glad to have you now.
I realize that there's a multitude of reasons why President Bush is the worst president in modern history. The list grows longer practically by the second. So rather than enumerating the litany of reasons, let's go back to yesterday's press conference in which the president fielded a question from Helen Thomas for the first time in years. Everything you need to know about President Bush's incompetence is pretty much summed up in that exchange.
Before we go through the Q&A, let's take a look at the broadstroke idea of the president calling on Helen Thomas. Helen Thomas has been a staple of the White House press corp since Kennedy. She's asked tough questions of all presidents no matter their party or politics. She's also 80-years-old and just about the height of a hobbit. Yet the president decided to toss her to the back of the room and strip her of her ceremonial "Thank you, Mr. President" closer simply because she said something critical about the president. Tough guy. He's a really tough, strong man. But yesterday, he was apparently ordered by his political strategists to field a question from her. Oh the horror!
If you saw the cable news pundit shows last night, you know that everyone from Newt to O'Reilly to Scarborough to Hannity were blasting Thomas and the press for their harsh treatment of the president. What I can't figure out is why a group of tough-talking manly men needed to defend the President of the United States against Helen Thomas. And they went on to praise the president for doing well in the face of it all. Stop the presses! Our second-term president handled questions well (he didn't)! Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.
Poor, poor LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD and COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF OUR MILITARY. Had to take hard questions from the mean press corps and a tiny old woman for the first time in forever. How tragic. How sad. To quote Artie Lange: "WAH! The press asked tough questions. WAH!"
Let's go to the videotape.
Helen has built up a lot of questions over her years of not being called upon by the president. Yet, she addressed one of the big ones on everyone's mind.
HELEN THOMAS: I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?
THE PRESIDENT: I think your premise -- in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist -- is that -- I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect --
See now, that's a lie. He's a liar. We're not sure whether he realizes he's lying, but he is. Going as far back as 1999, he told his autobiographer Mickey Herskowitz about his desire to go to war in Iraq. GNN:
"He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. "It was on his mind. He said to me: 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.' And he said, 'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He said, 'If I have a chance to invade -- if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency."
Back to the exchange.
HELEN: Everything --
THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please.
HELEN: -- everything I've heard --
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, excuse me. No President wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true.
Two more lies. "No president wants war." Lie number one. "It's just simply not true." Lie number two. Next thing you know, he'll be mixing Iraq and 9/11.
THE PRESIDENT: My attitude about the defense of this country changed on September the 11th. We -- when we got attacked, I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people. Our foreign policy changed on that day, Helen.
Helen is asking about Iraq, and he's bringing up 9/11. In other words, even though it's been debunked ad nauseum, 9/11 somehow remains an excuse for invading Iraq even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. The UAE had more to do with 9/11 and the president calls them an ally and almost gave them a ports deal.
THE PRESIDENT: You know, we used to think we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy. But we realized on September the 11th, 2001, that killers could destroy innocent life. And I'm never going to forget it. And I'm never going to forget the vow I made to the American people that we will do everything in our power to protect our people.
Power to protect us is a great idea, but we prefer to be protected from real threats. Not cherry-picked ones. But here's the incompetent liar quote of the day:
THE PRESIDENT: Part of that meant to make sure that we didn't allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy. And that's why I went into Iraq -- hold on for a second --
Yes, please. Hold on. Okay, he's on Iraq now and claims that they provided a safe haven for the enemy. The enemy being the people who attacked us on 9/11. So he's still mixing Iraq and 9/11 even though he said on Monday:
First, just if I might correct a misperception. I don't think we ever said -- at least I know I didn't say that there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein. [...] But I don't want to be argumentative, but I was very careful never to say that Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks on America.
Of course, Helen knew the score:
HELEN: They didn't do anything to you, or to our country.
THE PRESIDENT: Look -- excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where al Qaeda trained --
Now he's slipped into a quantum vortex of some sort. The question is absolutely about Iraq, but now he's switched over to the Taliban and Afghanistan. Are you confused yet? Are you dumbfounded yet? This is why the Bush administration has failed time and time again. They pretend to be straight-talkin' no-gray-area cowboys, but at every turn, they mince words and insert so much gray area into the discourse that nuance and deception have become synonymous.
HELEN: I'm talking about Iraq --
Have you heard the old clip from Larry King's radio show in which a caller asks about journalism and Larry thinks he's asking about the medical field? The caller reminds Larry, "I'm talking about the journalism field." Larry disintegrates into a stupor and rants about "the diverse and the bizarre." Here's the big difference. Larry had been doing 30 consecutive nights of his radio show; was exhausted; and probably close to his first heart attack. The president, however, had no excuse. Besides, he's THE PRESIDENT.
THE PRESIDENT: Helen, excuse me. That's where -- Afghanistan provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where they trained. That's where they plotted. That's where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans.
No-one disputes this. Too bad Helen is clearly asking about Iraq.
THE PRESIDENT: I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences --
Another fallacy from the build-up to Iraq. How the bloody hell could Saddam disarm and disclose something he didn't have? Hans Blix, Scott Ritter, Joe Wilson, and dozens of others were screaming at the time that Iraq didn't have WMD. And we know now that he didn't. Also, the president wouldn't dare to mention that 1441 was passed only after Colin Powell, the most reputable member of the administration, went to the UN and presented flawed and deceptive information -- information which Powell has since regretted attaching his name to.
HELEN: -- go to war --
THE PRESIDENT: -- and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.
In the grand scheme, the world is minutely safer. But at what expense? Tens of thousands are dead. Our reputation on the world stage is greatly diminished. North Korea remains a threat and Iran could be developing weapons. Yet our military will be bogged down in Iraq into the next administration and maybe beyond. Despots and dictators continue to operate throughout Africa and the rest of the world. Toxins and pollutants are everywhere. Hurricane Season 2006 is around the corner. Millions of children right here in America don't have adequate health care. Our leaders from both parties are selling away our sovereignty piece-by-piece to finance the debt. We can't even eat fish anymore without worrying about mercury contamination.
And hence, President Bush is utterly and totally incompetent. But damn -- the press was so mean to him!