"Good News" Conference
By Sheila Samples
Scarcely a month after whining that the whole bloody mess
in Iraq was the media's fault - a month wherein the administration
bypassed the White House Press Corps and took its "good news"
public relations campaign to local media and to US-controlled
media sites in the Gulf - President Bush startled the media
establishment with an abruptly-announced "news conference."
The few media who could make it to the Rose Garden on such
short notice were grateful that their disciplinary "time out"
seemed to be over. They grasped at sound bites and feverishly
scribbled down worn-out BushCo talking points. For 48 minutes,
Bush played "20 Questions" with hand-picked reporters who
declined to ask probing questions or follow up on brazen lies
lest they be banished, a la Helen Thomas, from the
press corps kingdom.
An event at which both questions and answers are controlled
is not a news conference; it's a public relations exercise.
In this particular instance, it was a carefully orchestrated
circus act - Bush, the fearless leader with whip and chair
in hand, and the media cats quivering on their chairs.
The only news worth repeating came in Bush's opening remarks
when he shamelessly announced that our allies understood the
importance of our continuing "work" in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Liberating the people of those nations from dictatorial regimes
was an essential step in the war on terror," Bush said, nodding
his head wisely. "The world is safer today because Saddam
Hussein and the Taliban are gone."
Aha! Any journalist who isn't brain dead will call him on
that one, I thought. Everybody knows we attacked Afghanistan
because Saudi Arabia is an evil regime... and nobody seems
to know why we attacked Iraq - least of all George W. Bush.
Now would be a good time for him to clear up these pesky
little items. Maybe he could even explain in what way scattering
innocent body parts all over the international landscape for
no good reason - at least not one that the parties involved
can agree upon - makes the world safer. Maybe he can explain
why the United Nations suspended operations just this week
in four southern Afghan provinces because of increasing violence
and danger to aid workers.
But nooo. The first question out of the box was a deferential,
"Can you identify who's behind (the recent) surge of attacks,
where they came from and how to stop them?"
Well, it's easy to see how this guy earned his seat on the
front row. What better way to open a Bush news conference
than to put him at ease by giving him an opportunity to lecture
the captive audience on the nature of a terrorist? Lord, yes,
he knows who's behind the attacks - terrorists! "They're trying
to send a warning... to cause people to run. They want to
kill and create chaos. That's the nature of a terrorist,"
he said dreamily. "That's what terrorists do. They commit
suicide acts against innocent people and then expect people
to say, 'Well, gosh, we better not try to fight you anymore.'"
After speculating that "they're either, or, and probably
both" Baathists and foreign terrorists, Bush lamely admitted
that, even though he didn't have a clue who was behind the
attacks, he knew they hated freedom. Yep. That's it, all right.
People are desperately blowing themselves up; killing everything
in sight - because they hate peace and fear freedom. The
obvious question that wasn't asked was, "How do you know what
they hate and fear if you don't know who they are?"
And so it went. Why aren't Syria and Iran being held accountable
for their terrorists? (we're working on that) ... why are
you stonewalling the 9-11 Commission? (we're working on procedures)
... What about that "Mission Accomplished" sign on the USS
Abe Lincoln? (Not me - that was the Navy's sign saying
their mission was accomplished. That sign had nothing
to do with me and I had nothing to do with that sign) ...
George Orwell had it right. People believe what you condition
them to believe - what you put into their minds. They learn
not to trust their own lying eyes. And no subject underscores
that truth more tragically than what the media dutifully reports
about the slaughter in the Middle East. When asked about his
biased policies toward Israel, Bush launched into his scripted,
inane, and totally incomprehensible spiel about how Palestine
must first stop the terrorism so they can "live side by side
He brushed aside an apologetic question about "the fence,"
which is in reality a formidable 200-mile wall intended to
separate Palestinians from their land and means of making
a living, and when completed, will slice through the eastern
side of the West Bank and cut off the Jordan valley, leaving
Palestinian "concentration camp" pockets completely surrounded
by Israel. "I have said that the fence is a problem," Bush
admitted, "and I have spoken to Prime Minister Sharon about
Move on. Nothing to discuss here. Given Bush's doctrine
on WMD and on what constitutes a terrorist regime, why would
he discuss the only nuclear power in the Middle East... the
only country in the region that refuses to sign the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty... the only country that defiantly
refuses to allow inspection of its nuclear facilities... the
only country that gives the finger to United Nations resolutions...
the only country that occupies land belonging to its neighbors,
and the only country that continues to attack and destroy
its neighbors without fear of retribution every single day?
Terrorists, Bush says, "rely on the death of innocent people
to create the conditions of fear that therefore will cause
people to lose their will. That's their strategy," he said,
"and it's a pretty clear strategy to me..."
This particular strategy - a major facet of Bush's war
doctrine - is also becoming "pretty clear" to a majority
of Americans. When asked about the upcoming election, Bush
wrapped up the news fiasco by bragging that he was looking
forward to defending his record at the appropriate time. "I'll
say that the world is more peaceful and more free under my
leadership, and America is more secure, and that'll be how
I'll begin describing our foreign policy. As you know, these
are open forums, you're able to come and listen to what I
have to say."
However, although there are people on the ground getting
ready for his second coming, he says there is plenty of time.
"In terms of the balloon drops and all that business," he
said, "you know, it's going to take - it'll be a little while
for me to be catching the confetti, as they say."
I can hardly wait. And, it is my fervent hope that this
clueless warmonger catches his share of tar and feathers long
before anyone starts throwing confetti at him.
Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma freelance writer, a former
US Army Public Information Officer and an Axis
of Logic contributing editor.