style="margin-top:40px; BROADSIDES

March 07, 2003

W's Press Conference
What's all this crapola about the president appearing tired, exhausted and distracted during last night's press conference? The Washington Post's genetic clone of Roger Ebert, Tom Shales, seems to think the president's job is to provide televised entertainment:

George W. Bush kept seeming to lose interest in his own remarks last night as the president did that rarest of rare things -- for him -- and held a prime-time news conference. Televised live on all the major networks from the East Room of the White House, the occasion found Bush declaring this to be "an important moment" for America and the world, yet he spoke with little urgency and no perceptible passion . . . Have ever a people been led more listlessly into war?

Tom, put down that bag of Ruffles and pay attention: this press conference was not The West Wing; it's real life.

One comment repeatedly made by network pundits is that the press conference wouldn't change any minds. Well, duh. Of course not; changing minds wasn't the reason for the press conference. This press conference had a two-fold purpose: 1) call the UN Security Council's bluff by informing them that the United States will call for a vote on a resolution authorizing military force against Iraq and 2) telling the Security Council that regardless of the outcome of the resolution vote, the United States and its allies will open a can of whoop-ass on Saddam. (Though I don't think the president actually used the phrase "whoop-ass".)

I listened to the press conference on the radio and thought the president's opening remarks were characteristically direct and precise and, thankfully, entirely lacking in spin. And his tone was somber but adamant. When the issue at hand is war, such a tone is appropriate.

So why did so many in the press find the president's performance lacking?

Because it wasn't a performance.

Many in the American press miss the days when they marveled at the ease and grace with which Bill Clinton would look them in the eye and tell an obvious lie. They swooned in admiration of Bill Clinton's ability to be simultaneously likeable and dishonest. They long for the return of such a president.

So now we have a president who doesn't set out as a matter of policy to bullshit everyone whenever he opens his mouth. To Clinton's groupies in the press, such a trait betrays "listless" leadership. To those who understand that the presidency is not prime time entertainment and that America is engaged in a war for survival, that trait is the hallmark of a great leader.

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