Tuesday, April 13, 2004

QUICK TAKE. The opening statement was clear on the Iraq plan, and also contained the information, which really needed to be spoken aloud in a very public way, that the plan has no clear ending: June 30 is a waystation, after which we may (read: probably will) still be in Iraq ("our military commitment will continue... coalition military forces... protect their government... Our commitment will not end June 30th"). It helped Bush that he was able to surround this truth with expressions of support for the military and their families, a sense of a widespread and nefarious threat (Jerusalem, Bali, Madrid, etc.), several references to the United Nations, and compound sentences clearly not of his own devising.

This doesn't work so well when people are asking impertinent questions. I don't know if anyone was really expecting Bush to apologize or admit mistakes about 9/11, but he seemed awfully dodgy when they asked him about it, with his endless inklings and war footings. Also, if only the threat of terrorist mischief, not the presence of weapons of mass destruction, were reason enough for dislodging Saddam, why not just dismiss the subject forthrightly, rather than speculate on a possible second turkey farm in Iraq?

He finished by saying the American people knew that he meant what he said -- which seems like a way of excusing his ragged public speaking skills as proof of his sincerity. But you don't have to be slick (as in Willie) to seem as if you're hiding something. Doubling back, inane repetition, and off-topic answers can also signal prevarication. If I were advising the President, I'd tell him to butch it up.

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