After his opening remarks, many of the questions directed at Bush focused on 9/11. We speak with one of the reporters usually prevented from asking questions at the president’s tightly-controlled press conferences–Rusell Mokhiber as well as investigative journalist Robert Dreyfuss.
As we said earlier, this is only the 3rd prime time press conference this president has held. They are tightly controlled and certain reporters are prevented from asking questions–reporters like Helen Thomas, the veteran White House correspondent. In a moment, we will be joined by Russel Mokhiber, who was allowed into the press conference but was not allowed to ask the president any questions. But first, we move to some of the questions Bush was asked. Most of the questions centered on 9-11:
- QUESTION: Mr. President. To move to the 9-11 commission, you yourself have acknowledged that Osama bin Laden was not a central focus of the administration in the months before September 11th. I was not on point, you told the journalist Bob Woodward. I didn’t feel that sense of urgency. Two and a half years later, do you feel any sense of personal responsibility for September 11th?
BUSH: Let me put that quote to Woodward in context, because he had asked me if I was — something about killing bin Laden. That’s what the question was. And I said, you know, compared to how I felt at the time, after the attack, I didn’t have that — and I also went on to say, my blood wasn’t boiling, I think is what the quote said. I didn’t see — I mean, I didn’t have that great sense of outrage that I felt on September the 11th. I was — on that day, I was angry and sad. Angry that al-Qaida — I thought at the time al-Qaida, found out shortly thereafter it was al-Qaida — had unleashed this attack. Sad for those who lost their life. Your question, do I feel — yes?
QUESTION: Personal responsibility for September 11th?
BUSH: I feel incredibly grieved when I meet with family members, and I do quite frequently. I grieve for, you know, the incredible loss of life that they feel, the emptiness they feel. There are some things I wish we’d have done, when I look back. I mean, hindsight’s easy. It’s easy for a president to stand up and say, now that I know what happened, it would have been nice if there were certain things in place. —-——————————————- QUESTION: Two weeks ago, a former counterterrorism official at the NSC, Richard Clarke, offered an unequivocal apology to the American people for failing them prior to 9-11. Do you believe the American people deserve a similar apology from you, and would you prepared to give them one?
BUSH: Look, I can understand why people in my administration are anguished over the fact that people lost their life. I feel the same way. I mean, I’m sick when I think about the death that took place on that day. And as I mentioned, I’ve met with a lot of family members, and I do the best to console them about the loss of their loved one.
As I mentioned, I oftentimes think about what I could have done differently. I can assure the American people that had we had any inkling that this was going to happen, we would have done everything in our power to stop the attack.
Here’s what I feel about that: The person responsible for the attacks was Osama bin Laden. That’s who’s responsible for killing Americans. And that’s why we will stay on the offense until we bring people to justice. —-——————————————- QUESTION: Mr. President, why are you and the vice president insisting on appearing together before the 9-11 commission? And, Mr. President, who will we be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30th?
BUSH: We’ll find that out soon. That’s what Mr. Brahimi is doing. He’s figuring out the nature of the entity we’ll be handing sovereignty over.
And, secondly, because the 9-11 commission wants to ask us questions, that’s why we’re meeting. And I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions.
QUESTION: I was asking why you’re appearing together, rather than separately, which was their request.
BUSH: Because it’s a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9-11 commission is looking forward to asking us. And I’m looking forward to answering them. —-——————————————- QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Sir, you’ve made it very clear tonight that you’re committed to continuing the mission in Iraq, yet, as Terry pointed out, increasing numbers of Americans have qualms about it. And this is an election year.
QUESTION: Will it have been worth it, even if you lose your job because of it?
BUSH: I don’t plan on losing my job. I plan on telling the American people that I’ve got a plan to win the war on terror. And I believe they’ll stay with me. They understand the stakes. Look, nobody likes to see dead people on their television screens. I don’t. It’s a tough time for the American people to see that. It’s gut-wrenching. One of my hardest parts of my job is to console the family members, who’ve lost their life. It’s a chance to hug and weep and to console, and to remind the loved ones that the sacrifice of their loved one was done in the name of security for America and freedom for the world. One of the things that’s very important, Judy, at least as far as I’m concerned, is to never allow our youngsters to die in vain. And I made that pledge to their parents. Withdrawing from the battlefield of Iraq would be just that, and it’s not going to happen under my watch. The American people may decide to change. That’s democracy. I don’t think so. I don’t think so. And I look forward to making my case. I’m looking forward to the campaign. Now’s the time to talk about winning this war on terror. Now’s the time to make sure that the American people understand the stakes and the historic significance of what we’re doing. —-——————————————-
- Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter.
- Robert Dreyfuss, investigative reporter and contributing editor at Mother Jones, the Nation and American Prospect and author of a new blog on TomPaine.com.