In case you missed it:
Bias? Who's biased?
The Media: After listening to the president's news conference on Tuesday, we really found nothing to argue with. Which puts us at odds with the rest of the press corps, which seems to argue with everything Bush says.
We've got to hand it to the president. There must be more pleasant and productive ways to spend a spring morning than by fielding two dozen loaded questions designed to put you, your team and your policies in as bad a light as possible.
Herewith a sampling from Tuesday's Q&A, along with excerpts from some of the answers we thought most noteworthy:
Q: Iraq's former prime minister, Iyad Allawi, said Sunday that violence is killing an average of 50 to 60 people a day - and that if this is not civil war, then God knows what is. Do you agree with Mr. Allawi that Iraq has fallen into civil war?
A: I do not. The way I look at the situation is that the Iraqis took a look and decided not to go to civil war. The army didn't bust up into sectarian divisions, (and) I was pleased to see the religious leaders stand up . in denunciation of violence and the need for the country to remain united. The political leaders, who represent different factions of Iraqi society, have committed themselves to moving forward on a unity government.
Q: You describe Iran as a threat. Yet you're close to opening talks with them about Iraq. What would be the objective in these talks if they are not negotiations? And is there a risk of getting drawn into the nuclear issue?
A: I gave our ambassador to Iraq permission to explain to the Iranians that attempts to spread sectarian violence, or to move parts that could be used on IEDs (improvised explosive devices), is unacceptable to the United States. Iraq is a sovereign government. They have a foreign policy. And when they get their unity government stepped up, they will be in charge of negotiating with the Iranians. Our negotiations with Iran on nuclear weapons will be led by the EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany) . as well as Russia and China. The Iranians must hear a unified voice that says they shall not have a capacity to make a nuclear weapon or knowledge as to how to make a nuclear weapon. If the Iranians were to have a nuclear weapon, they could blackmail the world, (and weapons) could proliferate. This is a country that has walked away from international accords.
Q: Your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis. Every reason (you've) given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. Why did you really want to go to war with Iraq?
A: I think your premise is just flat wrong. No president wants war. My attitude about the defense of this country changed on September the 11th, when we got attacked. I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people. I saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve the problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the (U.N.) Security Council. The world said: Disarm, disclose (weapons of mass destruction) or face serious consequences. When (Saddam Hussein) 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.
Q: If a civil war should break out in Iraq . are you willing to sacrifice American lives to keep Iraqis from killing one another?
A: Our position is, one, to get a unity government formed, and two, to prepare the Iraqi troops, and support Iraqi troops if need be, to prevent sectarian violence from breaking out.
Q: Do you believe you need to make any adjustments in how you run the White House? Many of your senior staffers have been with you from the beginning. Some say they are tired and even tone-deaf.
A. These are good, hard-working people. They've had a lot on their plate. I appreciate their performance . and they've got my confidence. We've been a remarkably stable administration, and I think that's good for the country. Obviously, there are times when government bureaucracies haven't responded the way we wanted them to. And I don't like that at all. It sends wrong signals to taxpayers.
Q: Are you listening to suggestions to bring somebody else into the White House, a wise man, a gray beard, some old-time Washington hand who could steady Congress, (which) is very upset about things?
A: I've listened to all suggestions. We bring Congress down here all the time. I understand there's a certain unease as you head into an election year. And my message to them is: Please continue to give me advice and suggestions. And I take their advice very seriously.
Q. Polls . all say the exact same thing: that a growing number of Americans are questioning the trustworthiness of you and this White House. Does that concern you?
A: I believe that my job is to go out and explain to the people what's on my mind. That's why I'm having this press conference. And what's on my mind is winning the war on terror.
Q: There have been growing calls from some (in Congress) for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and also from his own former subordinates . who describe him . as incompetent and tactically inept. Do you believe Rumsfeld ought to resign?
A: I think he's done a fine job not only of conducting two battles, in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also of transforming our military, which has been very difficult inside the Pentagon.
Q: Just after the 2004 election, you claimed a really enviable balance of political capital and a strong mandate. Would you make that claim today - that you still have that?
A: I'd say I'm spending that capital on the war.
Q: Is that costing you elsewhere, then, (as with) Social Security?
A: I don't think so. We've worked to get a lot of positive things done. Over the last 12 months, we've got two Supreme Court judges confirmed, we've got the Patriot Act reauthorized over the objections of the Democrat leadership in the Senate. We've got some tort reform passed. We've passed a budget that cut nonsecurity discretionary spending. We've got an energy bill passed. Social Security is a really difficult issue for some members of Congress to deal with, because it is fraught with all kinds of political peril. As a matter of fact, it's been difficult for a lot of Congresses to deal with. So I'm disappointed Congress didn't want to go forward with it, but I'm not surprised. Last year, the tactic was to believe that once the people saw there was a problem, they would then demand a solution. And we made progress on describing the problem. The new tactic is to try to take the politics out of it. There are quiet consultations going on to get a commission that would have a bipartisan appeal to it. This issue is one that's going to require a bipartisan approach. But I'm committed to moving the issue. I think it's important, and I'm not deterred by the fact that nothing happened. As a matter of fact, I take great pride in the fact that I was willing to bring up the issue while others might not have. That's the job of the president.
Q: There (are) now three sponsors to a measure to censure you for the implementation of the terrorist surveillance program. The primary sponsor has suggested that impeachment is not out of the question. What do you think the impact of a discussion of impeachment and censure does to you and this office and to the nation during a time of war and in the context of the election?
A: I did notice that nobody from the Democratic Party has actually stood up and called for getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program. If that's what they believe . then they ought to stand up and say . the tools we're using to protect the American people shouldn't be used. They ought to take their message to the people and say, "Vote for me. I promise we're not going to have a terrorist surveillance program." That's a debate the country ought to have.
Q: The national debt, which was $5.7 trillion when you took office, is now nearly $8.2 trillion. And Congress has just voted to raise it to $8.9 trillion. That would be a 58% increase. You've yet to veto a single bill, sir. I assume that means you're satisfied with this.
A: No, I'm not satisfied with the rise of mandatory spending. As you know, the president doesn't veto mandatory spending increases - those in the budget caused by Medicare and Social Security. That's why it's important for us to modernize and strengthen Social Security and Medicare. In terms of discretionary spending, that part of the budget over which Congress has got some control and over which the president can make suggestions, we have suggested that the Congress fully fund the troops in harm's way . and the reconstruction efforts for Katrina, and I think that's money well spent. We have (also) said we ought to actually reduce the amount of discretionary spending. And since I've been the president, we have slowed the rate of growth of nonsecurity discretionary spending . One reason why I haven't vetoed any appropriations bills is because (Congress) has met the benchmarks we've set. Now, sometimes I liked the size of the pie, but sometimes I didn't particularly like the slices within the pie. And one way to deal with the slices in the pie is to give the president the line-item veto.