The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events
March 7, 2003
Dubya Meets the Press
President Dubya conducted just the second
press conference of his presidency last night. He should be holding more press conferences, on a
regular basis, live and in prime time. Two in almost two and a half years
in office just doesn't cut it.
Press conferences are important. They give
the American people, at least those who care enough to watch, a chance to
see the President engage in debate with the press corp. While the
President's staff prepares him for probable questions, his answers are
largely off the cuff and unrehearsed. This provides folks with an
unpolished look into any President's thinking, character, and philosophy.
Think about it. Most times when the President speaks publicly, it's in the
form of a prepared text with little to no chance of feedback or challenge.
A skeptic could say it's propaganda. But a press conference provides the
people, through the press corp, a chance to ask tough questions, attack
assumptions, and challenge the party line.
I would urge Dubya to go even farther than
holding more press conferences. Have any of you seen what the British do?
It's called Prime Minister's Questions, and it's a delight.
One Sunday night a few years ago, I was
bored and channel-surfing, and came across C-SPAN. Now, I know I write
this little column every so often, and it's based mostly on politics, but
I'm no junkie - I don't watch C-SPAN at all hours or every political show
on cable. I'm not a fanatic about this stuff. But this show on C-SPAN
intrigued me. There was British Prime Minister Tony Blair, standing in the
well of Parliament (I think it's the House of Commons), taking questions
from the people's elected representatives. The debate was spirited,
feisty, passionate, and lots of fun to watch. Tories would boo and hiss
whenever Blair slammed them, while Labor cheered and clapped. I later
learned that this takes place every Wednesday (C-SPAN replays it on Sunday
I've come to the conclusion that we need a
President's Questions in Congress, probably the House of Representatives,
as the legislative body that is closest to the people. The President and
some advisers would sit in the House chamber, and the House speaker would
conduct the debate. Representatives could be given, say, one minute to ask
a question, the President could take three or four to reply, and then the
next representative could ask his question.
This would be super! Democrats, can you
imagine your local liberal rep grilling President Dubya about Iraq, or
Medicare, or Social Security, or the environment, or Dick Cheney and
Halliburton, or Dubya and Enron? Imagine the opportunities! And
Republicans, just imagine if you had a chance to directly question, live
on TV, President Bubba Clinton about Monica, or perjury, or FBI files, or
pardons, or Whitewater, or any other sundry Clinton scandals. Talk about
entertaining and educational theater. The talking heads on TV would have
that much more to talk about. It's a win-win for everyone.
Why should a few select members of the
Washington press club hold a monopoly on questioning the president? Our
elected representatives should enjoy the privilege, as well, in public, so
the whole country benefits.
Because as good as press conferences are,
last night demonstrated they're not all they could be. I think every
reporter asked roughly the same question: Why don't other countries agree
with us? Sure, they used different words, and different scenarios, but it
was all the same. And Dubya replied in much the same way each time: I
don't care who's with us, I've determined that Iraq is a threat to the
United States, I've sworn an oath to protect the United States, so Saddam
had better disarm or he's toast.
President Dubya was suitably somber and
serious, very much wearing the look of a reluctant warrior, which starkly
contrasts the European image of him as a gun-slingin' cowboy. I honestly
believe he does not want to invade Iraq, but he feels he has little
choice. Actually, the one choice we have as Americans is clear and not
difficult to make, and Dubya touched on it last night. We can place our
blind trust in Saddam Hussein and hope that the murdering dictator will
not use his weapons against us or sell them to the terrorists that he
funds, or we can believe our elected president. Folks, that should be a
no-brainer, and I say that with the full knowledge that the federal
government isn't always as honest or forthcoming as it should be.
Barring a miraculous about-face by Saddam,
war will break out in a couple weeks, a war that Saddam has brought about
with his own behavior.