After a speech yesterday before the World Affairs Council in Philadelphia, President Bush departed from his normally scripted affairs and took questions from an audience that included potential critics of his administration's Iraq policy, and even (gasp!) Democrats.
Too often, the president has insulated himself, speaking before partisan crowds who had to take loyalty oaths, with questioners hand-picked to lob softball questions. At one point, the White House filled a room with interns posing as reporters.
But just because someone asks a legitimate question of Bush doesn't mean Bush has to provide a legitimate answer.
Faeze Woodville, 44, a naturalized US citizen born in Iran and now living in Stratford, PA, asked why Bush keeps linking the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to the Iraq war despite no evidence of a direct connection.
Woodville asked a great question. Bush, no doubt providing a scripted answer he's offered many times before, answered by linking the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 to the Iraq War!
It was a tour de force for anyone studying empty Bush Administration spin.
Here's a transcript of that exchange:
Q: Mr. President, I would like to know why it is that you and others in your administration keep linking 9/11 to the invasion of Iraq when no respected journalist or Middle Eastern expert confirmed that such a link existed.
THE PRESIDENT: What did she — I missed the question. Sorry. I didn't — I beg your pardon, I didn't hear you. Seriously.
Q: I would like to know why you and others in your administration invoke 9/11 as justification for the invasion of Iraq --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes --
Q: — when no respected journalists or other Middle Eastern experts confirm that such a link existed.
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that. 9/11 changed my look on foreign policy. I mean, it said that oceans no longer protect us, that we can't take threats for granted; that if we see a threat, we've got to deal with it. It doesn't have to be militarily, necessarily, but we got to deal with it. We can't — can't just hope for the best anymore.
And so the first decision I made, as you know, was to — was to deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan because they were harboring terrorists. This is where the terrorists planned and plotted. And the second decision, — which was a very difficult decision for me, by the way, and it's one that I — I didn't take lightly — was that Saddam Hussein was a threat. He is a declared enemy of the United States; he had used weapons of mass destruction; the entire world thought he had weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations had declared in more than 10 — I can't remember the exact number of resolutions — that disclose, or disarm, or face serious consequences. I mean, there was a serious international effort to say to Saddam Hussein, you're a threat. And the 9/11 attacks extenuated that threat, as far as I — concerned.
And so we gave Saddam Hussein the chance to disclose or disarm, and he refused. And I made a tough decision. And knowing what I know today, I'd make the decision again. Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country.