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« A Bad Precedent? | Main | The Whining Of The Jersey Girls »

"The Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations"

That's not the phrase that the president used tonight, but he could have, given that it's one that he's used effectively in other contexts.

Overall, I grade him a "B" and better than expected.

Worst moment: when asked why he and Cheney insisted on appearing together before the commission, he had no satisfactory answer. My politically-incorrect response: "Because this has shown itself to be a partisan witchhunt rather than an investigation into how 911 occurred, which was its stated charter. There is safety in numbers."

But there's truly no good explanation for that.

Best moment: when he chastised those who thought that Iraqis couldn't build a democracy because they had the wrong skin color.

He went some distance toward explaining "why Iraq," but not sufficiently so to silence the critics, particularly since he can't tell the whole story for continuing diplomatic reasons.

I don't know if this helps or harms in the short run, but in general it gives me confidence for the upcoming presidential debates this fall.

Posted by Rand Simberg at April 13, 2004 08:17 PM
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I thought the worst moment was his fumbling the response to the question about mistakes since 9/11. For a brief moment I thought he was going to step up and take a strong "buck stops here" line, or even simply say something along the lines of "we all make mistakes, blah blah blah." As is he just fumbled around and then went off on a tangent.

As to the 9/11 commission - I don't think the partisan label is going to stick very well. An independent inquiry was certainly called for (and was called for by conservatives as well as liberals), but the administration resisted. Had they taken the initiative the inquiry would be over by now. They've really blown it with the commission, first by stalling in creating it, then by pushing the executive privilege line (which helped engender hostility among otherwise neutral commissioners). The essence of the problem is that the commission is hostile, but it's not obviously partisan.
Purely on a PR basis, that's a problem. The other part of the issue (more serious, IMO) is that they shouldn't have opposed an independent inquiry in the first place.

Posted by Andrew Case at April 14, 2004 09:59 AM

I think that the commission's credibility is damaged badly by Gorelick's clear conflict of interest--she should be a witness, not a member--and ben Veniste's presence, since he's clearly a partisan hack. People who say that it's just his nature to act as a prosecutor seem to forget that he was one of Bill Clinton's biggest defense attornies during Whitewater and impeachment. There's also been altogether too much grandstanding on the part of Kerrey and others, both during the hearings and in separate press engagements. This is a show trial, not a serious investigation.

Posted by Rand Simberg at April 14, 2004 10:22 AM

Best moment: when he chastised those who thought that Iraqis couldn't build a democracy because they had the wrong skin color.

A egregious strawman if ever I saw one.

Highlights: The tie.

-That long, long pause when he was asked about any mistakes he might have made.
-The segway from "But there was nobody in our government at least and I don't think the prior government could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale." to
"And part of it had to do with the Genoa G8 conference that I was going to attend. " where the main threat was a warning from Mubarak concerning flying airplanes into buildings on a massive scale.
-Refusing to say why Dick Cheney has to hold his hand in the 911 commission interview.

And as for the 911 comission as a "partisan attack" - by all rights they should have castrated John Ashcroft yesterday. He basically said he invented the WoT. Instead they let him off with barely a handslap.

The worse you can say is that Bob Kerrey is an ass. The choice of Gorelick was a suprise, but then again - Executive Director Phillip Zelikow wrote a book with Condi Rice, and was heavily involved with the Bush transition.

DC is a small town.

Posted by Duncan Young at April 14, 2004 10:59 AM

No politician and few others answer the question "what mistakes did you make?" very well or at all. The President reflected on the question too long for some, but if you give the question serious consideration and have a conscience, that's likely to happen. The commission is obviously partisan - so what? The conservatives lobbed questions to Ms. Rice and the liberals did the same for Mr. Clarke. As for Bob Kerrey being an ass, it's clear that a person might be a war hero and an ass seamlessly.

Posted by Cornell at April 14, 2004 09:16 PM

The President reflected on the question too long for some, but if you give the question serious consideration and have a conscience, that's likely to happen.

He reflected on the question for a long time and came up with ...nothing. Not even a quip.

Compare that to 01/04/04 Democratic primary debate...

Bam bam bam, they were all able to use that question as an opportunity get their core MESSAGE across, and there were nearly outbreaks of wit.

All were prepped to the eyeballs, of course. But by not preparing for his press conference, I was not honesty we saw last night - but contempt.
It's not as if he did'nt have the time...

To Iowa..
ANGER: Several Iowans point out that there is a lot of denial and finger-pointing in politics these days. We'd like each of you to take 30 seconds, own up quickly to a mistake you've made in the past, and tell us what you learned from it.
Congressman Gephardt, I'm sorry, you're first.
GEPHARDT: I voted for the Reagan tax cuts in 1981. I tried to pass an alternative that I thought was much better, much fairer. We didn't get it done. And then I had to face a vote of, "Are you for a tax cut at all or not?" I voted for it. I thought we needed a tax cut to get the economy moving. In retrospect, that wasn't a good vote. And if I had it back, I would have voted the other way. But you learn from experience. I've got a lot of experience.
ANGER: To Senator Edwards.
EDWARDS: I voted for No Child Left Behind, because I believe in accountability, I believe in standards, I believe that every child is entitled to a quality education. But the truth is that we put too much faith in a Bush administration administering that policy. And I've seen what's happened on the ground. It's been devastating, not just here in Iowa, but all over this country. And it's clear that there are changes that need to be made, changes in the standards. We need to make whatever system we have for public education work for people who are actually dealing with it every day on the ground.
ANGER: Ambassador Braun.
MOSELEY BRAUN: I went to the funeral of a friend who had been assassinated, and the right wing was able to convert that into dancing with dictators and overturned a 25-year record of fighting for human rights. Having worked on every human rights issue from the time I got into public life, to see that one funeral visit, memorial service visit, turned into the kind of political issue that it was for me was really devastating. What did I learn? I learned: have press conferences before you go on any kind of trip outside of Illinois. (LAUGHTER)
ANGER: Thank you.
Senator Kerry.
KERRY: In the first race I ever ran, I came under withering attack. And it was the first time that some negative advertising had taken place, and even negative attacks from the newspaper. I made the great mistake of thinking you didn't have to defend yourself. I have learned now, and I will never, ever make that mistake again. And we saw Max Cleland suffer from the same thing. He regrets he didn't defend himself. I will not stand for Tom DeLay, Dick Cheney, President Bush or others challenging the patriotism or the ability of Democrats to question the direction of our country. And I'll use everything in my power to stand up to them to present what I think is the real definition of patriotism in our country.
ANGER: Congressman?
KUCINICH: I was mayor of Cleveland over 25 years ago, and one of the things I'm proud of is I saved the municipal electric system. And one of the things that I'm not so proud of is that -- and the biggest mistake I think I made was I fired the chief of police live on the 6 o'clock news...(LAUGHTER) ... on Good Friday. (LAUGHTER) Now, if any of you can top that, I'll yield to you. (LAUGHTER) But let's say that, in the years since, I have learned a certain amount of diplomacy...(LAUGHTER)... and actually have reconciled with that gentleman.
ANGER: To Senator Lieberman.
LIEBERMAN: Paul, your question about mistakes, I cannot resist telling a quick story about my mother in 2000, when I was on the ticket. Larry King interviewed her and said, "Mrs. Lieberman, what do you say to you son when he makes a mistake?" And my mom said, "Mistake?" (LAUGHTER) But I do make mistakes, believe me, many of them. I would say the one that comes quickest to mind is that early in my career in the state senate in Connecticut I was more focused on the rights of criminals than the rights of victims of crime. I think in our system of justice, we have to be focused on both, and I have been since then.
ANGER: And to Governor Dean.
DEAN: Well, as you know, I have a reputation for saying exactly what I think. And while the words may not be precise, the meaning is not hard to figure out. But one of the mistakes I've made was in this campaign when I accused John Edwards of having said one thing to the California state convention and something else to his position. I was wrong about that. I wrote him a letter of apology, and I apologize again today.
EDWARDS: Thank you, Howard.

Posted by Duncan Young at April 14, 2004 10:19 PM

President Bush was not asked what mistakes he'd made in his life, but more specifically what happened in the days leading up to September 11 and what mistakes he'd made in that time. The reporters were looking for something specific. Who would not forgive a senator for an offense made early in his career? Or who said something false about a rival, but apologized? Et cetera. Yes, we can fault the President for not being practiced enough to say something as mind-numbingly banal as what his mother used to say about him or a quip, something snappy or hip. That this president is unlikely to do that is not something I would criticize him for.

Posted by Cornell at April 15, 2004 07:07 AM

Check the transcript - the pause came after he was asked if he had made *any* mistakes *after* 9/11.

Lots of opportunities.

"I would have liked to have stopped the highway bill"

"I could have been clearer on the FMA" - and leave it at that, winning the immediate support of both Sullivan and Musgrove.

"I shouldn't wear radioactive ties"

Posted by Duncan Young at April 15, 2004 08:23 AM


Posted by Cornell at April 15, 2004 11:58 AM

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