Presidential Press Conference Live Blog

My extensive live coverage of President Bush’s April 29 press conference is below.

I plan to liveblog the press conference in this space. If you’re covering it on your site, feel free to advertise it via the inline trackbacks to this post.

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Interestingly, the White House had to negotiate an early start time to get the networks to cover this thing. Apparently, only ABC was going to carry it at its original 8:30 time slot so the White House agreed to an 8:01 start. Quite bizarre, and an indication of how much things have changed in recent years.

The opening statement is expected to last 10-12 minutes.

(2001): The president has arrived, wearing a dark suit and a red tie with tiny polka dots on it. Not a great tie, although no bizarre effects at least.

He starts talking about consumer protection from high gas prices. He wants to address root causes, a suspiciously leftist idea. 4 key steps: 1) better use technology to conserve energy, 2) innovative way to make better use of existing resources, 3) develop promising new sources of energy (including some not really new), and 4) help new overseas consumers be more efficient.

Congress needs to address Social Security. Worked fine in last century but math has changed. Fuzzy math? A new generation of Baby Boomers getting ready to retire–“I happen to be one of them.” Good line although not well delivered. Otherwise, a pretty solid, conversational explanation of how the demographics work.

FDR did a great thing creating the safety net but there’s now a hole in it. Seniors will get their checks! Duty to make permanently solvent but also to improve it by directing to those in most need and making better deal for young workers. Reformed system would guarantee current benefit levels, make more of a commitment to those less well off, etc.

Puts raising payroll tax rate off the table. Interesting.

Most replace empty promises with real assets. Give young OPTION–OPTION, damn it!–to save in a voluntary retirement account. That would be OPTIONAL and have a variety of OPTIONS. Including Treasury bonds, which are backed by full faith and credit of government (oddly, just like the current failed system).

Too important for politics as usual, can’t look at it through lens of partisan advantage. Democrats and Republicans should stand together and be proud to take credit for doing the right thing.

(2011): Questions begin.

Q (Terry Hunt): Why is your leadership on this failing, you loser? A: It’s hard! We’re doing something hard here. It’s hard. (Apparently left over from the first debate, where it worked so well.)

Q: Inaudible. A: Presidents relying on polls and focus groups are like a dog chasing its tail.

Q: (Steve Holland): Why are we failing in Iraq, like Gen. Myers said? A: He didn’t say that, you idiot. Iraq is really hard. We’re winning. Democracy in the Middle East is new but taking hold and peace will eventually be the norm. Freedom is way to defeat terrorists. Going from tyranny to democracy is hard.

Q (David Gregory): Are judicial filibusters an attack on people of faith? And what do you think of faith and politics? A: No, they’re just opposing the judges based on philosophy. They like judges to legislate from the bench, I don’t. My guys deserve an up or down vote. A vote. They should get a vote. Religion is a personal matter and people ought be judged by how they live their life. Faith important in my life individually but I’m mindful that people in political office shouldn’t say someone is not equally American if not in agreement on faith. (Quite well handled.)

Q (John Roberts): How would energy bill effect current gas prices? A: Um, it wouldn’t, didn’t you listen to my opening statement? It was only 10 minutes, dude. The way to lower prices in the short term is to get excess capacity into the market. It’s going to take a while to solve the energy problem–it’s been a long time in coming. Longer term, we need nookular stuff and some liquid somethingoranother. We should have been working this ten years ago.

Q (Terry Moran): Why are more people dying in terrorist attacks than ever before? A: We’re engaging the terrorists head on abroad. That steps up their counter-attacks. But we’re making good progress. Al Qaeda greatly diminished. Spreading freedom and democracy the long term answer.

Funny line about TV journalists.

Q (Suzanne Malveaux): Something about Eastern Europe. A: Vladimir Putin loves democracy. (Wuh? Are we talking about the same guy?) Russia has agreed to send highly enriched uranium to Iraq, just for energy purposes, though. (Cuz they don’t have any energy there?) Putin is apparently going to personally collect the waste products to make sure they don’t make any weapons–and I appreciate that. I appreciate Vladimir.

Q (Wendall Goler): Is that John Bolton guy as mean as everyone says? A: Nah, he’s like a really seasoned diplomat and has been confirmed by the Senate four times before. Hell, I’m blunt, too, and I’m president. Speaking your mind is good, especially when talking to those dunderheads at the U.N. He and I both think the U.N. is important but really, really screwed up.

Q (Stretch): Would you take Social Security reform without the private accounts? A: No. Why shouldn’t everybody get to own stuff? Owning stuff is good. Nobody’s making anyone have an account, we’re just giving people the right. Did I mention this would be OPTIONAL?

Q (David with the green tie and bad haircut): When are we getting out of Iraq? A: When we’re done? Timetables don’t work because the enemy just adjusts. We’re making progress, though, in getting the Iraqi’s ready to go. GEN Petreaus is pleased with the progress, too, and he’s a general. We’ve also reduced our troop level a little bit.

Q (David, following up): Is Iraq making it hard to do other stuff? A: Gen. Myers doesn’t think so. We’ve got plenty of capacity in places like the Korean Peninshula, for example.

Q (Bush to himself): What about Korea? A: Kim Jong Il is a mean son of a gun who might have nukes. We’re bringing leverage there by including other countries. Diplomatically. And we’re also putting together a missile defense system just in case he does launch a missile.

Q (Ed Chen): Why is this town so partisan? Is it your fault? A: I don’t know. I’ve been disappointed in how much politics there is here. Zero sum. We did have some success on the ed bill and after 9/11. Tough issues divide people into camps. Name calling isn’t productive. The people wonder why we can’t come together and get stuff done.

Q (Bill Sammon): You came into town trying to bring people together. Is partisanship making it harder to get stuff done? A: Not really. We’re getting lots done.

Q (Mike Fletcher): Something about Korea and the five party talks vice bilateral negotiations. A: Bringing the five countries together is the only way to get it done. Especially China, which has a Security Council veto. We need to isolate KJI when he’s bad.

Q (Mark Knoller): Doesn’t rendition suck? A: The US Government has an obligation to protect the American people and will do so within the law. We expect countries we send people to not to torture them. But we’re at war, you know?

Q (John McKinnon): The economy sucks, doesn’t it? A: Well, I wish things were better, especially gas prices. But most of the forecasts are good. We need legal reform, asbestos reform, and some other things to incentivize growth.

Q (Richard the old guy): Is No Child Left Behind Working? A: Yep. We’re measuring it and kids now know how to read and do math. Plus, they can do math and read and write. Plus, we’re measuring. Which is good. People should be able to read when they graduate high school–which they couldn’t before.

Q (Oliver Knox): Reasks Mike’s question on North Korea. A: Same as I told Mike. Other parties important. KJI having nukes bad.

Joke about not wanting to cut into the TV schedule for the sake of the economy.

Q (Hutch): How much means testing for Social Security? A: That’s gotta be negotiated still. It’s just a principle right now to make sure that people at the bottom get taken care of even if the wealthy don’t get quite as much back. We need to make sure nobody retires into poverty after paying into the system all their life. We also need to take care of people in cases where the spouse dies early, who we’re now screwing over.

Overall, despite my tongue-in-cheek transcription, I thought he did a mediocre job with the opening statement but was quite good with the answers. He was quite conversational and at ease in the latter. For the most part, his answers were substantive and understandable.

Brit Hume notes that the “hard news” of the night was the discussion about means testing. Kevin Drum is right that there wasn’t a lot new overall, and certainly nothing that needed an hour in prime time. But, of course, most people don’t follow things like the political junkies who read and write blogs. A lot of those watching probably got a lot out of this. Of course, those who are least informed are least likely to watch given the choices available.

Fred Barnes is right, too, that the president probably didn’t get much done in terms of changing congressional votes. Mort Kondracke thought Bush was too light in his touch against the Democrats. Maybe so, although I think that plays well to the viewing public, who is his real audience. As I’ve said before, I think Bush has likely already lost this debate. If he has any chance, though, it’s to get the people mobilized and writing their congressmen. My guess is that didn’t happen, but tonight’s performance was as much as he could have done given his skill set and the fact that the game is almost over.
Well, that’s my take for now. Perhaps more in the morning. Lots of others will have commentary. See the trackbacks below for a starting point.

Update (4-29): The White House transcript: Press Conference of the President

Joe Gandleman has an excellent roundup of the blogospheric reaction, Left, Right, and otherwise.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Is it ever like a cat chasing its tail? My cat chases his tail rather freqwuently.

  2. Michael says:

    Apparently, “liquefying” gas is “putting it in solid form”

  3. herostratus says:

    Thank you for the transcription. It was a good summart, while at the same time being cute. You’re cute.

  4. Dave says:

    I am HD challenged, but the tie had an orangish tint to my eyes. Perhaps this is a nod to the successful democratic movement in Ukraine. Regardless, it is quite popular in NYC these days.

    Overall, Bush gets a B+.

    Press corps gets a solid A for asking interesting questions for a change.

    Solid A for James’ synopsis as well.

  5. I must say that I was very upset with this press conference: it preempted “The OC.” Hardly a way to appeal to the younger set, methinks.

  6. Rod Stanton says:

    As I said a month ago he is going to raise the tax. It will be at least 100k or a 11% hike. Another liberal President Bush. I have been fooled by liberal Bushes twice! When will I learn!

  7. Doug Martin says:

    President Bush and the Republicans should revise their proposal, to simply allow younger americans to increase the amount of money they can put into IRAs and 401k plans. Social Security money should not be used to fund private accounts – that will just hurt retirees even more. By diverting social security money into private accounts, Republicans are hurting the middle class.

  8. marie says:

    All in all I was disapointed with Bush’s press conference. It was pretty much the same old same old but now he’s telling middle class Americans to expect less in SS benefits. YAHOOOO! NOT.

    Man you have to be the fastest blogger in town!

    best wishes marie