That Surprise Press Conference, Part I

From Holden:

The president deined to answer a few questions from the press this morning. It was a surprise to me, as no impending press conference was mentioned in Friday’s gaggle.

Anyway, here are some lowlights.

He got off on the wrong foot, fucking up the first line of his opening message:

We’re nearing the end of a year where — of substantial progress at home at here abroad — and abroad.

Next it was time to mangle a description of his relationship with Vlad Putin:

When Vladimir made the decision, for example, on the — whether to elect governors or appoint governors, I issued a statement that said in a free society, in a society based upon Western values, we believe in the proper balance of power. I think he took that on and absorbed in the spirit in which it was offered, the spirit of two people who’ve grown to appreciate each other and respect each other.


And it’s a relationship where it’s complicated — it’s complex, rather than complicated.

Up next: the no-mistake preznit is true to form, even if he can’t recall the acronym for an important position he created just last week.

Q Any lessons you have learned, sir, from the failed nomination of Bernard Kerik? As you look forward now to pick a new Director of the Homeland Security Department, and also as you pick a Director of National Intelligence, any lessons learned in terms of vetting, and particularly with the DNI? What sort of qualities are you going to be looking for in that man or that woman that you choose?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first, let me say that I was disappointed that the nomination of Bernard Kerik didn’t go forward. In retrospect, he made the right decision to pull his name down. He made the decision. There was a — when the process gets going, our counsel asks a lot of questions and a prospective nominee listens to the questions and answers them and takes a look at what we feel is necessary to be cleared before the FBI check and before the hearings take place on the Hill.

And Bernard Kerik, after answering questions and thinking about the questions, decided to pull his name down. I think he would have done a fine job as the Secretary of Homeland Security, and I appreciate his service to our country.


And so the lessons learned is, continue to vet and ask good questions and get these candidates, the prospective nominees, to understand what we expect a candidate will face during a background check — FBI background check, as well as congressional hearings.

Now, in terms of the NDI — DNI, I’m going to find someone that knows something about intelligence, and capable and honest and ready to do the job. And I will let you know at the appropriate time when I find such a person.

On to another mangled explantion, this time dealing with the failure of his policy in Iraq.

Q Mr. President, thank you. A year ago we were in this room — almost to the day — and you were heralding the capture of Saddam Hussein and announcing the end of Baathists tyranny in Iraq. A year later, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the Senate said, after returning from Iraq, that — talking about Iraqi troops — the raw material is lacking in the willpower and commitment after they receive military training. At the same time here at home a higher percentage of Americans is less confident of a successful conclusion in Iraq — 48 percent less confident to 41 percent. What’s going wrong?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first let me talk about the Iraqi troops. The ultimate success in Iraq is for the Iraqis to secure their country. I recognize that, the American people recognize that. That’s the strategy. The strategy is to work to provide security for a political process to go forward. The strategy is to help rebuild Iraq. And the strategy is to train Iraqis so they can fight off the thugs and the killers and the terrorists who want to destroy the progress of a free society.

Now, I would call the results mixed, in terms of standing up Iraqi units who are willing to fight. There have been some cases where when the heat got on, they left the battlefield. That’s unacceptable. Iraq will never secure itself if they have troops that when the heat gets on, they leave the battlefield. I fully understand that. On the other hand, there were some really fine units in Fallujah, for example, in Najaf, that did their duty. And so the — our military trainers, our military leaders have analyzed what worked and what didn’t work. And I met with General Abizaid and General Casey in the White House last week. And I think it was before the — yes, I think it was Thursday morning, if I’m not mistaken — I was going to say before the interminable press conference — I mean press party. Anyway. (Laughter.)

Here’s what — first of all, recruiting is strong. The place where the generals told me that we need to do better is to make sure that there is a command structure that connects the soldier to the strategy in a better way, I guess is the best way to describe it. In other words, they’ve got some generals in place and they’ve got foot soldiers in place, but the whole command structure necessary to have a viable military is not in place. And so they’re going to spend a lot of time and effort on achieving that objective. And so the American people are taking a look at Iraq and wondering whether the Iraqis are eventually able — going to be able to fight off these bombers and killers. And our objective is to give them the tools and the training necessary to do so.

Degrees from Yale and Harvard yet no understanding that the word media is a plural form?

Yes, John. And then John.

Q Mr. President, thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: I had to work my way through all the mass medias.