Today President Bush held another dog an pony show--I believe the White House was calling it a “press conference”--and it yielded about as much new info as his sessions with the press generally yield: bupkis. It did reveal a new strategy by the administration, however: Bush has already had twice as many press conferences since his inauguration as he did in the previous four years (that may be an exaggeration--my fact checkers are looking into it). It’s easy to see why: he’s the perfect messenger. He has a little routine that guarantees no new information will emerge, frustrating his opponents (but who cares) and charming his believers. It’s become a rigid form of theater, political kabuki: 1) joke to the reporter; 2) false-somber restatement of the question; 3) self-deprecating preamble; 4) restatement of talking points connected only vaguely to the question’s subject; 5) Orwellian moment where he criticizes the Dems for being obstructionist in an effort to enforce his autocratic position; 6) false-somber agreement with the reporter about the seriousness of the subject.
No news can be made of this; instead, we must make non-news. Herewith I offer the Presidential Press Conference Quiz.
1. According to Bush, which of the following is a "compassionate, decent man."
A. Dick Cheney
B. Paul Wolfowitz
C. Condi Rice
D. Donald Rumsfeld
E. George Tenet
2. Bush used all of the following phrases except one. Name it.
A. “as in Iraq, the peoples of Iran yearn for freedom”
B. “a nuclear program that became discovered”
C. “evolve away from reliance upon oil”
D. “It’s a positive effect when you run for office.”
E. "There’s a lot of members are talking about different concepts."
3. President Bush called Silvio Berlusconi’s decision to withdraw Italian troops consistent with US policy. A reason he gave for justifying this position did not include:
A. Any withdrawals will be done in consultation with allies
B. Withdrawals will only be done when the Iraqis are able to defend themselves
C. Coalition has been buoyed by the courage of the Iraqi people.
D. Italians still express desire for peace in the Middle East.
E. We all share the enthusiasm about what’s happening in Iraq.
4. Bush cited a book he’d recently read. It was:
A. The Military Maxims of Napoleon, Napoleon
B. FDR by Joseph Alsop
C. His Excellency, by Joseph Ellis
D. The Reagan Revolution by Craig Shirley
5. Bush was questioned about why he won’t offer his own plan for Social Security. He responded: “First bill on the Hill always is dead on arrival.” This means:
A. Congress deadlocks on early legislation before hammering together compromises later in the session
B. Bad bills are always introduced early
C. Bush heard this recently and liked the Suessian sound of it, but doesn’t actually know whether it applies.
D. Democrats need to be worked over by the vast, right-wing conspiracy for a few months before they can be brought to heel on unpopular, pro-business legislation.
6. When Bush says, “I’m interested in coming up with a permanent solution. I’m not interested in playing political games. I’m interested in working with members of both political parties,” he means:
A. I’m interested in coming up with a permanent solution. I’m not interested in playing political games. I’m interested in working with members of both political parties
B. I’m interested in getting my solution passed; this is itself a political game I’m playing with you; I will crush the Democrats beneath the spiky tread of my jackboot.
7. Bush bristled when he felt the press was trying to make him “negotiate with himself” on Social Security. It’s a phrase he often uses to brush off criticism, but what does it mean?
A. He will never second-guess himself
B. He is easily confused by too many facts
C. Careful consideration of public policy isn’t the business of the President
D. He knows the wily reporter has tricked him, but he doesn’t know how and so refuses to fall into a verbal trap.
8. When asked why the US exports detainees to countries known to conduct torture, Bush offered this apparently contradictory rationale: “In the post-9/11 world, the United States must make sure we protect our people and our friends from attack. . . . And one way to do so is to arrest people and send them back to their country of origin with the promise that they won’t be tortured.” It was not contradictory because:
A. Leaders never tell lies—if Shavkat Mirzayev tells us Uzbekistan doesn’t use torture, who are we to argue?
B. Didn’t you hear what I just said? We’re at war with these people.
C. Al Gonzales says it’s a-okay.
D. Define “torture.”
9. Bush noted “There’s all kinds of polls. For every poll you quote, I’ll quote another one. . . . The one I read the other day said people like the idea of personal accounts.” The poll Bush references:
A. Consisted of a ad hoc survey at his last cabinet briefing
B. Was conducted by the CATO institute
C. May not actually exist; Bush was just playing the odds.
D. By “people,” Bush meant the 35% who are actually in favor, not the 55% who oppose it.
10. Bush made this odd claim: “I, frankly, don’t think we need a lot of incentives for energy companies in the energy bill.” What did he mean?
A. We don’t need a lot of them, they just need to be very large.
B. Unless you mean tax breaks when you say incentives.
C. By “energy companies” I mean alternative energy. For oil and gas companies, whoo-boy, they’re gonna make out like bandits.
D. Oh, you mean Cheney’s oil bill? Sorry. Yeah, there’s a lot of incentives in that one.
Answers to general questions:
1-B; 2-A; 3-D; 4-C.
By Jeff Alworth
March 16, 2005
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