Maybe we'll all be lucky enough some day to bear witness to something truly special from the White House and the mainstream press.....
President Bush: Thank you all for being here. As I've stated many times, America is at war. A war we're fighting with some very, very bad people. Real nasty folks. These Islamo-fascist terrorists are hellbent on our destruction, and the destruction of free nations everywhere. They hate the West, and they hate freedom. It's a very difficult battle against a hidden army of really bad folks who are willing to kill themselves to further their murderous cause against freedom. We must wage war against these killers wherever they are. It's been five years since this brutal enemy attacked us on our soil, killing 3000 innocent people in New York City, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania. We vowed to not only hunt down these terrorists and bring them to justice, but to eliminate their terror organizations so that they can't attack us again.
The battle we wage in Iraq is critical to achieving this goal, and Iraq is the central front in this war against Islamo-fascist terrorists. We must fight them over there so that we don't have to fight them over here. I cannot and will not allow them to attack America again. Now a lot of people in Washington are saying we should withdraw and I say that policy of cut and run would be a disaster. It would result in death, executions and ethnic cleaning and civil war. And the terrorists would win. They'd take over the country. And they'll start planning their next attack on America. And they'll be dominated by the real enemy, Iran. We must show resolve, and we must stay the course until the mission is complete.
MSNBC's David Gregory: Mr. President, I'd like to ask you again what was asked of you two weeks ago by a reporter: what does the war in Iraq have to do with 9/11?
Bush: My answer is the same. Nothing.
Gregory: Why then, after all we now know about no WMD and no connections to al Qaeda, are you still discussing it in the same sentence every time you talk about the war on terror?
Bush: Because Iraq is the central front in the war on terror.
Gregory: But Iraq before the invasion was controlled by Saddam, and there was no presence of al Qaeda there. And the terrorists who attacked us were mainly from Saudi Arabia; not one was from Iraq. So, it would seem that it's only become the central front since the invasion. Are you denying then that we created the very thing we were most afraid of?
Bush: No. Next question...Helen...
Hearst's Helen Thomas: Mr. President, I'd like to stay on this subject. Is it not duplicitous therefore to continue referencing the 9/11 attacks every time you are asked about Iraq? Is this not an attempt to blatantly deceive the American people?
Bush: Er...um...no, it's not
Helen. And I take offense to the accusation.
Thomas: The American people have a right to know why we're in Iraq, what the mission is, what the estimated costs are, and when our troops will return. So far we've been given nothing but talking points and double-speak. I will ask you a blunt question, Mr. President, and the American people would appreciate an honest answer: are we in Iraq to avenge the 9/11 attacks?
Bush: No. Let's move on. Ann....
ABC's Ann Compton: Mr. President, you keep stating that we're fighting "the terrorists" in Iraq. If, as you stated, these are not the 9/11 terrorists, who are they then? You use the term "terrorist" quite broadly sir, but don't you think Americans would be better served if our elected officials were honest with them about the enemies we're fighting. About who our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, are being sent off to kill. Who are we fighting in Iraq, sir?
Bush: Ann, I've said this a million times. We're fighting some very bad folks. Islamo-fascist terrorists who want to kill us again.
Compton: But see, there you go again, Mr. President, using deceptive words like "again" when you just admitted those we're fighting in Iraq are not terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. So I'll ask again, who are they?
Bush: Ann, let's give someone else a chance. Nora...nice blouse by the way (winks)...
MSNBC's Nora O'Donnell: Thank you sir. But if I may, I think we're onto something significant here which I will continue with as a follow up to Ann. The American people are being told repeatedly by you, VP Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Rice and many in the Republican leadership that we're indeed fighting "terrorists" in Iraq. But isn't it true that perhaps 95% of those we're fighting there are Iraqi insurgents and not al Qaeda terrorists? That the bloody, deadly insurgency began with Saddam loyalists as a direct result of the U.S.'s occupation, and is now also being fueled by Sunni vs. Shia violence? Is it not true that only 5% or less of those we're fighting in Iraq are foreign radical Muslim extremists?
Bush: Um...that's correct.
O'Donnell: Then why does your administration constantly attempt to confuse the two and as a result confuse the American people?
Bush: Nora look, the people we're fighting want to kill us. To destroy the freedoms we enjoy. And they want to attack us again. I won't let that happen. Next question...Andrea...
O'Donnell: No Mr. President. Excuse me. I would like an answer to my question. Why is your administration not leveling with the American people? They deserve to know the truth. Why do you continue to portray Iraq as the response to 9/11? As revenge against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, which, unlike Iraq, did attack us? Stop stonewalling please and tell the American people the truth about this war! (to applause in the room)
Bush (visibly disturbed): Nora you are out of line. Next question. Jim....
NY Times' Jim Rutenberg: I'm sorry, Mr. President, but you are clearly on the line here today for some straight answers. Since we're not in Iraq avenging 9/11, when will you and your cabinet stop blurring the lines as if we are?
Bush (belligerent): My goodness Jim, don't you people understand the gravity of the situation we're facing? We're fighting...
Rutenberg (interrupts): With all due respect sir, we don't. And we'd like more than talking points and spin. America's been told we need to fight in Iraq because of terrorists, yet you yourself admit Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and that less than 5% of those fighting us there are radical Islamists. You must've seen all the latest polls showing that Americans no longer support the war and no longer see it as part of the broader war against terror. Yet you and your cabinet continue to perpetrate this myth, and the public, quite frankly, is fed up. History will judge you sir not solely by why you took the nation to war, but by your words ands actions thereafter as well.
Bush: This is startin' to sound like an inquisition, people. Let's bring the focus back on this war on terror we're....(interrupted loudly by many reporters shouting questions at once)
Gregory: Mr. President, why are you and key Republicans like Rick Santorum and Dennis Hastert taking credit for the foiled terror plot in Great Britain when U.S. intelligence had nothing to do with it?
CBS News' Bill Plante: Why do we continue to spend most of our precious financial and military resources in Iraq if we're not truly fighting terrorists there while Afghanistan continues to fall back into Taliban/al Qaeda hands?
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux: Why can't you find, capture or kill bin Laden after five years?
Washington Post's Michael Abramowitz: When will you fire Rumsfeld for botching this war from the start to every step since?
Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva: Since we killed Al Qaeda in Iraq's leader Zarqawi, the violence of the insurgency and civil war has escalated...why should we care that the #2 guy, Hamad Jama al-Saedi, has been captured? And, just how many #2's are there?
Thomas: Are you afraid, Mr. President, that if the Democrats win back the House this November that they will immediately begin conducting investigations into your administration's campaign of deception and war crimes...which could ultimately lead to your impeachment?
Fox News' James Rosen: Given what the Brits just did, wasn't Sen. John Kerry right when he said fighting terrorists is the job of law enforcement agencies not the military? Why are we wasting our time in Iraq when this money and manpower could be spent shoring up DHS, CIA, FBI, state/local police and special forces?
Los Angeles Times' James Gerstenzang: Can you please tell us how we "win" in Iraq given how it appears the country is falling apart under civil war?
AP's Terrence Hunt: Why are many key Republican incumbents refusing to campaign with you?
USA Today's Richard Benedetto: Please tell the American people why....
With that last question, Karl Rove hurriedly approaches the lectern in the White House press room, whispers in the president's ear, the president turns to the throng of reporters, says "Thank you all" and the two of them quickly exit the room, leaving the press stunned and rushing to the phones. The news reports that night, and the next day's headlines, are: "President Skewered by Frustrated Media Demanding Accountability and Answers About the War and the Deception Over the Terrorist Threat." Within days, Bush's approval ratings drop to the low 20's, the worst ever for a sitting U.S. president.