Bush Videoconference With Troops Staged (Democracy Now!):
It has emerged that President Bush's nationally televised videoconference with US troops in Tikrit, Iraq on Thursday was scripted beforehand. The White House had painted the event as an impromptu conversation with the troops, but video from the satellite feed before the event gave lie to those claims. The ten US soldiers and one Iraqi were coached in their answers before the event by Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Allison Barber. She stood at the White House podium where Bush would later stand, she read part of his opening remarks and then proceeded to outline the questions Bush would ask. At times, she suggested phrasing for the soldiers' responses. With the referendum on Iraq's constitution just days away and President Bush's popularity plummeting, the White House clearly wanted this event to give the impression that the US plan in Iraq was moving forward.
President Bush, "You defeat a backwards dark philosophy with one that is hopeful. And that hopeful philosophy is one that is based on universal freedom. I'm very impressed at the Iraqi government to have a constitution that attracts Sunnis, Shias and Kurds. They worked hard to get a constitution and now the people of Iraq are going to get to vote again, on a constitution."
During the brief videoconference, the handpicked soldiers appeared to fawn over the president. At one point, one told him,"We began our fight against terrorism in the wake of 9/11, and we're proud to continue it here." But a telling moment came when Bush asked the soldiers to comment about their interactions with Iraqi civilians and Captain David Williams could only cite a second hand account:
Capt. David Williams, "Sir, I was with my Iraqi counterpart in the city of Tikrit last week, and he was going around talking to the locals. And from what he told me that the locals told him, the Iraqi people are ready and eager to vote in this referendum."
The videoconference was set in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, which Bush lightly acknowledged he could not safely visit. Interestingly, Tikrit was the backdrop for many of Saddam Hussein's propaganda videos. There was one Iraqi present for the videoconference, Sergeant major Akeel, whose only role was to tell President Bush "I like you."
When it emerged that the event was staged, reporters grilled White House spokesperson Scott McClellan, asking him directly about the coaching:
MR. MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry, are you suggesting that what our troops were saying was not sincere, or what they said was not their own thoughts?
Q: Nothing at all. I'm just asking why it was necessary to coach them.
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, in terms of the event earlier today, the event was set up to highlight an important milestone in Iraq's history, and to give the President an opportunity to, once again, express our appreciation for all that our troops are doing when it comes to defending freedom, and their courage and their sacrifice.
I'm reminded of a passage from a Bruce Springsteen song ("Reason to Believe"):
Struck me kind of funny
Seems kind of funny, sir, to me
Still at the end of every hard day
People find some reason to believe.
The White House certainly found a reason to believe that things hadn't changed and they could still pass off a lie as truth. This must have really stung. Reality rising up to slap them in the face.
If they needed a sign of how much things had changed, they got it in the reaction to their staged "conference" didn't work out the way they thought it would.
Did you notice that Scott tried to hand behind the soliders? That's a trick Mary Matalin likes to pull on TV as well. There was Scott pulling a Mary. "Are you saying they weren't sincere. We support the troops." That's the spin Scott tries to put in place. The issue wasn't the troops and Scott knew that. But he uses Bully language to attempt intimidation. He should have been called to the carpet for that.
McClellan Says Helen Thomas Against War on Terror (Democracy Now!):
Meanwhile, during the same White House press briefing, McClellan declared that veteran correspondent Helen Thomas opposes what he called the broader war on terrorism. His comment came in response to her critical questioning of Bush's Iraq policy. Eventually ABC's Terry Moran jumped in defending Thomas. Here is some of the exchange:
McCLELLAN: Well, you have a very different view of the war on terrorism, and I'm sure you're opposed to the broader war on terrorism. The President recognizes this requires a comprehensive strategy, and that this is a broad war, that it is not a law enforcement matter. Terry.
TERRY MORAN: On what basis do you say Helen is opposed to the broader war on terrorism?
McCLELLAN: Well, she certainly expressed her concerns about Afghanistan and Iraq and going into those two countries. I think I can go back and pull up her comments over the course of the past couple of years.
MORAN: And speak for her, which is odd.
McCLELLAN: No, I said she may be, because certainly if you look at her comments over the course of the past couple of years, she's expressed her concerns --
THOMAS: I'm opposed to preemptive war, unprovoked preemptive war.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- she's expressed her concerns.
Isn't it interesting how Helen Thomas is Scott McLellan's big issue? He makes a fool out of himself but he does change the topic and that's why he's a better lap dog for Bully Boy than even Barney. If Bully Boy could, you get the feeling, he'd carry his Scotty around like a clutch purse too.
Sometime ago, in Canada, Bully Boy met an assistant named Scott and said something like, "You're Scott is prettier than mine." I always heard that in Bully Boy speak: "He sure is purdy." Said with a leer. "Dueling Banjos" (or whatever the Deliverance song is) playing in the background.
Helen Thomas is a brave journalist and there was probably a point to attacking Helen besides changing the topic.Possibly to try to intimidate the the journalists. But maybe things have changed so much that it's not currently possible or maybe it's just that Scott's no Ari?
I will say this for Scott, he could be a hand model. His hands look so soft he could do print layouts for Jergen's. You rarely see hands that look so soft. Forget "on the man" at the end of that sentence because they look softer than a woman's as well. I don't know if that's a genetic trait in his family or if he just takes care of his hands but they certainly look soft. Rebecca has great hands. C.I. has great fingers. (Great because they're long.) But I've never seen anyone with hands as soft looking as Scott's.
I certainly don't have great looking hands. So I'll give Scott that, he may have the softest looking hands in the country. If he doesn't end up in prison over some administration abuse of power, he should consider becoming a hand model in 2009.
Remember to check Mike's Mikey Likes It! for his take.
C.I. e-mailed a thing by Cindy Sheehan and I want to note that.
"I Have Arrived; I Am Home" (Common Dreams):
I was honored and humbled to be in the presence of holy man, Thich Nhat Hahn, today at MacArthur Park in a very Hispanic neighborhood in Los Angeles.
Tha^y, (teacher) as he is known, is a Buddhist monk who was active during the Vietnam War years bringing peace and reconciliation to the countries of North and South Vietnam. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr. He walks with an aura of peace and acceptance radiating from him.
Every day we do things, we are things that have to do with peace. If we are aware of our life..., our way of looking at things, we will know how to make peace right in the moment, we are alive. Thich Nhat Hahn.
In a speech I delivered at the Riverside Church in NYC on the one year anniversary of Casey's death, which was also the 37 th anniversary of MLK, Jr's death, I said: We must all do one thing for peace each day. I now know that is not enough. We must live peace and embody peace if we want peace on earth. Our entire lives must be for peace. Not just one activity a day.
Every step is peace.
It's the weekend. For those fortunate enough to be off this weekend, I hope they find a quiet moment to reflect because there is a great deal happening and we can recognize that if we take a moment or two to absorb it.
"Peace Quotes" (Peace Center):
Wars are not acts of God. They are caused by man, by man-made institutions, by the way in which man has organized his society. What man has made, man can change.
Frederick Moore Vinson, Speech at Arlington National Cemetery (Memorial Day, 1945)
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