Donnez moi un break: Bush press conference


It is hard to know what is the most contemptible part of President Bush's press conference (ongoing as I write -- and as I listen to it, on a Cspan internet feed, in Shanghai). But it's going to be hard to top what he just uttered: the most blatant attempt so far to blame everything that went wrong in Iraq on the advice of the military.

Don't have the transcript in front of me now, but the point was: Hey, I asked Tommy Franks if he was ready to go -- including the postwar phase; and he said Sure, no problem. So (says the President), Don't blame me! I was listening to the experts!

Yes, as Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz so notably listened to Gen. Eric Shinseki. And yes, the president's laser-like assessment of Gen. Franks' shortcomings must have lain behind his decision to give him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Talk about "personal accountability" and "supporting the troops." (Franks does deserve a good share of the blame, and so do other military commanders -- but not for reasons the President apparently even grasps.)

Close second in the most-contemptible derby, half way through the press conference: Catechism-like repetition of the idea that we have to "fight them in Iraq so we don't fight them here." I wonder if anyone has ever dared challenge the logic of this to the President's face. (Ie, what are you talking about??? Why should people bother to plant bombs in Baghdad if they thought they had a chance of planting them in DC?) My oh my.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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