Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 10, 2004
POLITICS/WAR: Bush Meets The Press
Adding my two cents here . . . I watched Bush's interview on CNBC Sunday night at 10. I thought Russert was noticeably more deferential to Bush than to his usual guests, although he asked plenty of tough questions; the difference was more in the followup.
My take on Bush: obviously, this isn't his best format, but we knew that already. On Iraq, at least, I thought he was great. He stayed relentlessly on message (Bush's ability to not say things is a hugely underestimated skill), but once he got rolling he was also fiesty and impassioned on the importance of Iraq to the larger situation. On the connection between Iraq and the larger war on terror, you couldn't help but be impressed by his depth of conviction.
He had definitely prepared extensively for this. After each question, he'd pause and say "sure" or "OK" and then launch into his prepared answer, which made clear that he was there to stake out his positions rather than to engage in genuine back-and-forth conversation. Which is frustrating, but it also shows an un-Dean-like appreciation of the gravity of every word that comes from the President.
He was weaker on the other stuff. He was too defensive on the economy, didn't stress enough how things have improved lately, but then, he doesn't want to seem unconcerned to people who haven't tasted the recovery yet. I also thought when he started talking about how the market started dropping in March 2000 and the recession began a year later, he could have tossed in a dig about how when he proposed his tax cuts in 2001, the Democrats were saying he was overstating the country's economic problems (remember "talking down the economy"?). Maybe by debate time, the opposition research people will have dug up Kerry saying that.
Like Andrew Sullivan, I don't know what planet Bush gets his budget numbers from. But then, I don't put much stock in anybody's budget numbers.
On the AWOL issue, Bust could have said more but he doesn't want to dignify the issue; what the Democrats have been stupid about is giving him an opening to rip them for lumping in Guard service with desertion or fleeing to Canada.