Via Dan Froomkin, we find the European press pushing the president to answer questions that American journalists would never pose.
Representatives of the print media questioned Chimpy in Moscow.
Q: Mr. President, you are a transformational, they call it, and promoting democracy in the world is a very ambitious goal; and achieve peace, changing the world, and it’s also acknowledging Europe. But such a far-reaching idealism can also easily lead to moral inconsistencies that risk to undermine your credibility. For instance, how does the way detainees at Guantanamo Bay are being handled, how does that relate to your promotion of democracy and the rule of law?
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that. That, and, for example, the pictures people saw about the prison — prison abuse is different from the detainees in Guantanamo [Huh? Abuse of detainees in GITMO is not “prison abuse”?]. We’re working our way forward, so that they — and our courts, by the way, are adjudicating this. It is a clear, transparent review of the decision I made by the courts, so everybody can see it. And they’re being argued in the courts as we speak. People are being treated humanely. They were illegal non-combatants [Huh? Non-combatants?], however, and I made the decision they did not pertain to the Geneva Convention [Again, huh? They did not pertain to the Geneva Convention ?]. They were not — these were terrorists. Obviously, we’ve looked at Iraq differently.
I can understand people being concerned about prison abuse when they see the pictures out of Abu Ghraib, and it made Americans universally sick, because the actions of those folks didn’t represent the heart and soul of America, didn’t represent the sentiments of the American people. And I am an idealistic person, because I believe in what is possible. I believe that freedom is universal, and I believe, if given a chance, people will seize the moment.
But I’m also a realistic person, and I’m realistic enough to know that images on TV have sullied our country’s image, at times. And we’ve just got to continue to spread — tell people the truth, be open about the mistakes of Abu Ghraib, hold people to account.
While Dutch TV NOS correspondent Wouter Kurpershoek pushed his buttons in this exchange.
Q Does it frustrate you sometimes that — for example, in The Netherlands they did a poll before you are coming now that vast part of the population does not agree with the way you’re handling world affairs, for example.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know —
Q Is it frustrating?
THE PRESIDENT: No, it doesn’t. I mean, I —
Q It must be a little, though.
THE PRESIDENT: No, it doesn’t; it doesn’t frustrate me. I make decisions on what I think is right. That’s what leaders do. The other day in a press conference I was asked about polls here in America. I said, a leader who tries to lead based upon polls is like a dog chasing his tail. That’s not how you lead. No, I feel comfortable with the decisions I’ve made.
Q Is it maybe, then, a communication problem?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know, I don’t follow the Dutch media, don’t know what’s being said in Holland.
Q Well, when people are being asked about you, or America, they admire, again, your goals, but when you talk about — for example — about the war on terror, and you see freedom and democracy, the Dutch see that, as well, but they also see, for example, prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib prison; or Guantanamo Bay, where prisoners are being held without charge; or the Americans who do not want their soldiers in The Hague for the tribunal, to be accountable.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have different —
Q So they see that problem.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, all Americans, including me, reject Abu Ghraib. That was an aberration. That’s not what America stands for. And if people are concerned about the tactics, I understand that. But the goal is peace. And now is the time to work together to achieve peace.
Q How do you want to do that? What do you want to tell the Dutch people?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me finish. But you asked me, do I worry about polls — I don’t, that’s not what leaders do. Leaders who sit around and read polls all the time are leaders that don’t lead.
Q But the Dutch people are interested in —
THE PRESIDENT: Let me finish, please. And I have an obligation to lead. And we’re making progress. You saw eight-and-a-half million people voted in Iraq. They defied the terrorists, they defied the suicide bombers, because they desire to be free. And now we have an obligation to work to help that country develop into a democracy, because the lesson of Europe, of working together as democracies, has yielded peace.
You know, 60 years ago, people would sit around and wonder whether or not peace was possible. And as a result of the good work of many in Holland and around Europe, and the United States working collaborative, the world is a peaceful place. And that’s what we have a chance to do today. And that’s why I thank the Dutch government, for helping train Iraqis, for example, helping Iraq become stable. And it’s in our long-term interest that that happen.