Oh, what a glorious press conference it was. In his sixth year in office Chimpy finally calls on Helen Thomas, although he was warned not to. And of course he comes out the worse in the exchange when he conflates Iraq with Afghanistan and Helen calls him on it.
THE PRESIDENT: Helen. After that brilliant performance at the Grid Iron, I am — (laughter.)
Q You’re going to be sorry. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, let me take it back. (Laughter.)
Q 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 —
Q Everything —
THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please.
Q — 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. 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. 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.
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 —
Q 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 —
Q I’m talking about Iraq —
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.
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 —
Q — 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.
Q Thank you, sir. Secretary Rumsfeld — (laughter.)
Q Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: You’re welcome. (Laughter.) I didn’t really regret it. I kind of semi-regretted it. (Laughter.)
Q — have a debate.
Questions that make Your President angry.
Q Mr. President, I’d like to ask you for your reaction on the latest insurgent attack in Baghdad: 17 police officers killed and a bunch of insurgents freed. I spent a fair amount of time in front of that hotel in Cleveland yesterday, talking to people about the war and saying you were there to talk optimistically. And one woman who said she voted for you, said, “You know what, he’s losing me. We’ve been there too long; he’s losing me.” What do you say to her?
Q You’ve said during your presidency that you don’t pay that much attention to the polls, but —
THE PRESIDENT: Correct.
Q — there is a handful that have come back, and they all say the exact same thing: A growing number of Americans are questioning the trustworthiness of you and this White House. Does that concern you?
Q You mentioned earlier that you were encouraged by some of the discussions going on over a unity government, over the last few days. Do you now have in mind a target date for forming the unity government and —
THE PRESIDENT: As soon as possible. Next question.
Q How much of a factor do you think that will be — in turning around, or at least improving the situation in the public opinion?
THE PRESIDENT: Here in America?
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a trick question, because you want to get me to talk about polls when I don’t pay attention to polls.
Q That was one —
THE PRESIDENT: At least that’s — after five-and-a-half years I was able to rout you out.
He doesn’t like the “tired and tone deaf” questions either. Note the highlighted irony.
Q Some say they are tired and even tone-deaf, even within your party who say that maybe you need some changes. Would you benefit from any changes to your staff?
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve got a staff of people that have, first of all, placed their country above their self-interests. These are good, hardworking, decent people. And we’ve dealt with a lot. We’ve dealt with a lot. We’ve dealt with war, we’ve dealt with recession, we’ve dealt with scandal, we’ve dealt with Katrina. I mean, they had a lot on their plate. And I appreciate their performance and their hard work and they’ve got my confidence.
Brain Farts Part I: Where’s Bianca?
THE PRESIDENT: Cannon.
Q Mr. President —
THE PRESIDENT: No, you’re not Cannon. That’s Cannon. You’re Ken.
Q Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Sorry, Ken. You thought I said Cannon —
Q I thought you said Ken.
THE PRESIDENT: Bazinet.
Brain Farts Part II: Lost the Script.
THE PRESIDENT: Let’s see here. They told me what to say. David.