Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bush: Dictator, Moi?

There was a telling exchange between President Bush and a reporter during this morning’s press conference. The irony was lost on most, maybe because it was so blatant: Bush took offense at a question suggestion that he was acting dictatorially. The feigned offense in itself was a clever way to sideswipe the question, rather than answer it. When the reporter attempted to press the president for an answer, Bush acted exactly as dictatorially as he’d just said he couldn’t possibly, twice. Watch, and note the repeated talking-point lie about “talking to Congress all the time,” then fielding the softball from “John” to end the exchange:

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. I wonder if you can tell us today, sir, what, if any, limits you believe there are or should be on the powers of a President during a war, at wartime? And if the global war on terror is going to last for decades, as has been forecast, does that mean that we're going to see, therefore, a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I disagree with your assertion of "unchecked power."

Q Well –

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on a second, please. There is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law, for starters. There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time, and on this program, to suggest there's unchecked power is not listening to what I'm telling you. I'm telling you, we have briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times. This is an awesome responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the American people, and I understand that, Peter. And we'll continue to work with the Congress, as well as people within our own administration, to constantly monitor programs such as the one I described to you, to make sure that we're protecting the civil liberties of the United States. To say "unchecked power" basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the President, which I strongly reject.

Q What limits do you –

THE PRESIDENT: I just described limits on this particular program, Peter. And that's what's important for the American people to understand. I am doing what you expect me to do, and at the same time, safeguarding the civil liberties of the country. John.

Q Thank you, sir. Looking ahead to this time next year, what are the top three or top five -- take your pick -- accomplishments that you hope to have achieved? […]