Tuesday, March 21, 2006

They Laughed

On February 20th, I wrote: "A real town hall meeting in Ohio or Pennsylvania or Michigan, primetime on a Tuesday night, tickets actually available to the public, no scripts, random questions with no prescreening by aides, and families of current servicemen in the audience."

On Monday, President Bush was in Ohio. No, it wasn't primetime. But I've either watched the tape or read the transcript for every one of his Potemkin Village Q+A sessions over the past few years, and yesterday was a departure in that both the audience and the questions seemed completely unscreened. The transcript is here.

Today, just 24 hours later, the president held a press conference at the White House. As an indication of his newfound glasnost, Bush even fielded a question from Helen Thomas---the first question he's taken from her in several years. Yes, his responses were often misleading or absurd. Nothing new there. But beggars can't be choosers---and during the past few years, those of us who value the role of the press in presidential accountability have been paupers indeed. So for now, let's at least acknowledge Bush's new openness and appreciate the potential for the past few days to represent a new trend. We'll see.

What the press actually did with today's opportunity, though, is quite another matter. I counted over a half-dozen bursts of giggles and laughter from the crowd of reporters. On a day when four more troops were reported killed in Iraq with another six currently pending confirmation/family notification, expecting the White House press corps to maintain at least some semblance of professionalism apparently is expecting too much. Moreover, this space has chronicled the numerous misleading intimations and allegations about Iran's nuclear program that Bush and other senior administration officials have made during the past few months. Unless I've missed something, not once has a reporter asked Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bolton etc. how their dire warnings comport with our intelligence community's estimate that Iran is a decade away from nuclear weapons capability. Since the invasion of Iraq, there's been a lot of mirror-gazing and teeth-gnashing by the Fourth Estate about its own prewar failings. Today was the perfect opportunity for reporters to at least get the president on record about a crucial issue. Instead, they laughed.

Since purportedly professional reporters seem incapable of framing the question themselves, I'll do it for them: "Mr. President, you and other members of your administration have been sounding the alarm about Iran's nuclear program. Common to these warnings is a sense of urgency---that this is a problem that must be confronted now, and with military force if diplomacy fails. But in late 2005, a National Intelligence Estimate published by the U.S. intelligence community projected that Iran is about a decade away from the ability to produce a nuclear weapon. How does that comport with the urgency you've used to frame this issue, and have you seen any intelligence that contradicts the NIE?"

That type of question was not asked before Iraq. So far, it's not been asked about Iran. Assuming there's still time to inject some sanity and clear thinking into our Iran policy, isn't it about time the press stopped giggling and started doing its job?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

you will see that when pigs fly.

3/21/2006 9:46 PM  
Blogger James Finkelstein (Ga.) said...

Here's some other fun questions for our President:

Mr. President, what nationality was the hijacker who piloted American Airlines flight 175 into the south tower of the World Trade Center? (answer: a citizen of the United Arab Emirates)

Mr. President, you've been touting democracy in Iraq. Does that mean that you would let the Iraqi citizens vote on whether American troops have to dismantle the bases and leave the country?

Mr. President, what percentage of Iraqis want American to set a timetable to promptly leave the country (answer 80%)

Mr. President, name a member of your family who is in a combat area in Iraq? (answer: none)

Mr. President, name a son or daughter of any Republican Congressman or Senator who is in a combat area in Iraq? (none)

Mr. President, would you support a draft that would require that the President and all members of Congress have relatives in the line of fire whenever American troops have their lives put at risk?

Mr. President, were you, Mr. Cheney, and Ms. Rice, incompetent or lying when you all gave speeches before the war claiming that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program and warning we couldn't wait on inspections because the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud?

Mr. President, four and one half years after the 9-11 attacks, your administration still allows 95% of all ship cargoes to come into our country without being inspected. Al Qaida could have smuggled in 10,000 terrorists or 100 atomic bombs in those containers. What is your problem? Is it ignorance? Or is it apathy?

FINALLY: Mr. President, explain why the troops stationed in Iraq to protect Iraqis have to be American? Why couldn't they be peacekeepers from Egypt, Jordan, or other Arabic speaking, Muslim countries? What is so important about American blood being shed in defense of Iraqi democracy?

3/22/2006 12:27 AM  
Blogger James Finkelstein (Ga.) said...

And another one:

Mr. President, your administration and the Republican controlled Congress have borrowed almost 200 billion dollars to fund this war. In the meantime, your tax cuts and runaway spending have left this nation an additional 3 trillion dollars in debt since you became President. Who is going to pay back that debt? Have you considered asking wealthy Americans to give back their tax cuts as a sacrifice to help reduce the deficit? Do you think the American people would refuse to sacrifice their tax cuts to help you make Iraq into a stable democracy?

3/22/2006 12:45 AM  
Blogger CM said...

Aw man, why you gotta harsh on the press corps' high? It wouldn't be kewl to ask such a downer question when there is so much to giggle about-- the Prez is flawed, but he ROCKS.

You know, Helen Thomas is a crotchety old bitch, but at least she doesn't much give a shit what the White House thinks about her-- that is a rare and special quality.

3/22/2006 10:55 AM  
Blogger copy editor said...

I did not see a single question (maybe I missed it) about Tal Afar actually having quite a few assassinations despite US anti insurgent actions and Bush's reference to it earlier in the week.

3/22/2006 11:05 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Very good point TCR. I also would have been interested in a couple of questions such as:

1. What is the status of the Anthrax attack investigation?

2. Are we establishing permanent bases in Iraq?

3/22/2006 3:00 PM  
Blogger 277fia said...

I've listened to David Gregory, supposedly a real White House correspondent "star" on Imus and the man is a bubbleheaded wimp.

A couple of years go, I figured out the email address of one of the top execs at Hearst and sent him an email about Helen Thomas being terrific and necessary. Least I could do for the only reporter at the White House with any guts or brains.

nathan, I'd like to hear about the anthrax investigation myself. I even came up with one avenue for the FBI to follow.

Remember Kathy Nyugen, the 61 year-old Vietnamese woman from the south Bronx who was murdered? She escaped from Saigon in 1976 so she had to know somebody connected back then. She lost her only son and child in a motorcycle accident and then was divorced. Her ex lives in California. I thought the FBI should check on the ex to see if he was CIA or something and bumped her off to save splitting his government pension with her.

I'm big on the CIA as the prime suspect in the anthrax attacks! Means, motive etc

3/22/2006 3:15 PM  
Blogger 277fia said...

LOL - I forgot, did Ottilie Lundgren have incriminating evidence against Joe Lieberman in her basement? Her husband was in CT politics. BTW, Bayer sponsored a memorial for Lundgren, At Yale-New Haven, maybe?

3/22/2006 4:29 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Nathan, you are spot on. Balad is massive. MASSIVE. Meant to stay. Rummy and the Neocons wanted (want?) it to be the Germany of the 21st Century.

It's not a permanent base. But then again, do you see any permanent Roman bases in Gaul?

3/22/2006 5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A reporter asked point blank, General Peter Pace and Rumsfeld at the podium, if they had proof of Iran weapons and involvement. And after a glance back at each other, the General said, "no".

Relevant Daily Show videos (John Stewart is awesome!):
One: Defending Your Strife

Two: Iraq the Gathering

Three: Rambling Man

PS: A video pop-up will be displayed.

3/22/2006 6:20 PM  
Anonymous grass root said...

TCR, you, you Republican you, you think that Bush’s throwing us a bone could possibly indicate a new trend towards openness? When I heard him state that pulling out of Iraq would be the responsibility of 'some future president’ I had to sit down. Most of us already know that Bush LLC isn’t going to be around to clean up their own mess but talk about cut and run! The only thing that leering twit didn’t do was call us Sukkahs. He’s tired of being president and looking forward to a lucrative retirement. And just like every fourth-rate CFO I’ve watched run companies into the ground he’s losing interest in this company/country because it’s BROKE! His work is done.

3/22/2006 6:57 PM  
Anonymous thirdeye said...

TCR, if you keep the guiding principle "don't shoot the messanger" in mind, you'd not waste a lot of time worrying about things that don't matter.

3/22/2006 7:53 PM  
Blogger 277fia said...

C.R., You are perfectly within your rights to delete my other post about the anthrax investigation but I think you should know that this is the second time that certain info in that post has been deleted from the internet. The first is when I posted it in the now defunct Center for Cooperative Research's People's Investigation of 9/11.

Am I hitting a raw nerve?

Anyway, I am posting from a Florida public library and am on a timer so my posts might seem a bit rushed. The fellow who monitors internet usage at this branch told me that Mohammed Atta used the internet at the Coral Springs branch of the Broward Public Library system which is on the intersection of University and something. I tried to find it one day but gave up. I know, a touristy type thing to do but what the heck.

What I forgot to mention yesterday is my idea that FBI agents were drawn off the investigation of the mayor of Waterbury, Phil Girodano, and Republican dirty politics in general to investigate the Ottilie Lundgren case. Giordano was a lowlife but if you read back NYT articles, the governor had authorized a $40 million Waterbury bailout in March 2001.

Politics in the Brass City have always been corrupt. I spent some time working in Waterbury so I know firsthand that the amyor before Giordano demands bribes for zoning changes.

In fact, I am quoted by name in a December 1998 Waterbury newspaper article about a manufacturing plant in Waterbury closing down. The reason I am quoted is because the cowardly crud who owned the company were afraid to tell a factory of teamsters in December that the company was shutting down. They left that lousy job to me and the plant managers. Then the shitheads stiffed me on a $15k bonus.

When I was posting in the the now defunct NYT Abuzz forum, I wrote about the owners by name and told everyone in Abuzz about how they cheated on their taxes. I even mentioned a Penn Mutual annuity scheme that I bet other companies use too. I could have said more and maybe I will some day.

Joel Jacks who used to be with the investment group, Carl Marks when I interviewed with him, was on the board of directors of this company and let me tell you, he did not do his job. I noticed he left his stint as a director off his resume at CMEP.

By the way, if you think that ordering kosher meals gets you better food on the plane, think again. Ideal Provisions, run by Hassidics, operates out of a filthy factory in Ridgewood in Brooklyn that I used to work in. Behind the factory is an open coal bin which spews coal dust into the factory. Enough said for the moment about that!

Anyway, Lloyd Grove wrote about my former boss when Grove was still at the Washington Post. I wrote to Grove and offered to dish the dirt on the creeps. He answered my email but didn't take me up on my offer.

3/23/2006 3:10 PM  
Blogger 277fia said...

Correction to my deleted post: Joel Jacks was not involved with Titan Mailsafe. I was thinking of Michael Alexander, one of CMEP's venture partners. Paul Harder, another CMEP venture partner, is on the board of The Louis P. Ciminelli Group of Companies.

I'd be interested to know how Joel Jacks got hooked up with Malcom and Eve Bund, two lowlife crooks from Washington DC. At the same time he was a director, Jacks was paid to perform the oversight function at the Ridgewood Brooklyn company. Every week, he went out to Ridgewood and beat up long- time president and former owner, Fred Ripilli. Jacks helped push Ripilli out the door and replace him with a crook named Harold Axelrod. Axelrod's resume was a red flag. He was a CPA who worked for two companies with questionable financial activities.

Once Axelrod took over, Jacks never bothered to visit the plant again or question Axelrod's financials. The company's lenders must have been concerned about something because they insisted the company hire a controller and that's where I came in. Axelrod went out of his way to hire what he thought was the worst and cheapest one he could find. By mistake, he got me.

That's all I have time for now. Just wanted to correct my mistake and I rambled on too long. But make no mistake about Joel Jacks, the guy acted like a common thug.

3/25/2006 11:42 AM  
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