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Monday, August 16, 2004
Answering The Tough Questions - Bush-League Style
There's a delightful article in today's New York Times about our Beloved Leader and the hard-hitting press conferences he's been having lately.
His father loved them, Richard Nixon started them and President Bush has turned them into the near-daily warm bath of his re-election campaign.
Last week alone, in Virginia, Florida, New Mexico and Oregon, Mr. Bush had four "Ask President Bush" question-and-answer sessions with rapt Republican audiences. The week before he had one in Columbus, Ohio, and this week he has one scheduled for St. Croix, Wis.
See? How could those mean-spirited liberals accuse him of avoiding tough questions?
As anyone who has sat through the 90-minute forums knows, the questions are not hand grenades that detonate onto the evening news.
Let's face it...They're not even the child-safe sparklers that your mom gave you on the 4th of July when you were 7.
Take, for example, one of the first queries at the "Ask President Bush'' session in Beaverton, Ore., on Friday:
"I'm wondering if I can get some inauguration tickets?"
George W. Bush, wondering as well
Or consider this from Albuquerque on Wednesday:
"Can I introduce my mother and mother-in-law, who are new citizens to this country?"
It's likely that our President took a while to answer this one. I can see the look in his eyes as he ponders the question. 'Well, Dick told me that immigrants are bad. But Karen told me moms are good. And if Karl let this person into my "Ask President Bush" time, it must be okay.'
The Times article doesn't give his answer so I'll go ahead and tell you what he is believed (by me) to have said:
"Sure. Uh, yes, I mean. Go ahead." [Wild Applause]
Many times the questions aren't even questions at all. Exhibit A might be these words from an audience member in Niceville, Fla., on Tuesday:
"I'm 60 years old and I've voted Republican from the very first time I could vote. And I also want to say this is the very first time that I have felt that God was in the White House."
How did the Almighty respond?
"Thank you," Mr. Bush replied, to applause.
Ah, well, at least God's gracious.
Bush campaign officials tell reporters at every "Ask President Bush" forum that the questions are not planted and that the sessions are spontaneous. Senator John Kerry's campaign officials say the events are too ridiculous to be believed.
How on earth could they get that idea?
Whatever the case, Bush campaign officials readily say that they carefully screen the crowds by distributing tickets through campaign volunteers. "Our supporters hand them out to other supporters and people who may be undecided," said Scott Stanzel, a campaign spokesman.
And by undecided, they mean people who wonder whether Bush the Younger is the greatest president ever or only second greatest next to St. Ron.
The result is often a love-in with heavily Christian crowds. Mr. Bush relaxes, shows off his humor and appears more human than in his sometimes tongue-tied and tense encounters with the press. He clearly relishes the sessions: As of this coming Wednesday in Wisconsin, Mr. Bush will have had 12 such campaign forums, which is one less than the number of solo news conferences he has had in three and a half years in the White House.
But hey, using Lucom Logic (TM) it's impossible to accuse him of not answering questions!
Of course, reporters write that the events are canned, but campaign officials care only about the lively snippets of Mr. Bush that get on the local news.
And hey, he's presenting a tough image to the terrorists. Well, the ones who live locally anyway.
"I'm also proud to be traveling with John McCain," Mr. Bush said to applause in Albuquerque, where he appeared with the Republican senator from Arizona after having him as an overnight guest at the presidential ranch. "Nothing better than waking up in the country and getting a cup of coffee and getting in the pickup truck and driving around and looking at the cows. That's what John and I did this morning. It's a good way to clear your mind and keep your perspective."
Ah, yes. The old drive-around-and-look-at-the-cows method of clearing your mind. I just wish I lived someplace more cow-friendly. You wouldn't believe how much perspective I've lost by living here in the relatively cow-free Bay Area.
So how about one more tough one?
"Mr. President, as a child, how can I help you get votes?" a youngster asked at the "Ask President Bush" event in Oregon on Friday.
I'm thinking much ice cream was profferred by the Republican parents after that precocious question.
"Thank you," the president responded. "That is the kind of question I like to hear."
I know that was supposed to be a joke but, man, kinda accurate, you know?
President Bush calls on some much-needed perspective as he prepares to field another tough question