This morning’s “Meet the Press” on NBC should have been called “Meet the President.” If
only Tim Russert had said: “Yes, Mr. President, but you didn’t answer the question.” The first
exchange set the tone for all the rest:

Russert: On Friday, you announced a committee,
commission to look into intelligence failures regarding the Iraq war and our entire intelligence
community. You have been reluctant to do that for some time. Why?

President Bush: Well, first let me kind of step back and talk about
intelligence in general, if I might. Intelligence is a vital part of fighting and winning the war against
the terrorists. It is because the war against terrorists is a war against individuals who hide in caves
in remote parts of the world, individuals who have these kind of shadowy networks, individuals
who deal with rogue nations. So, we need a good intelligence system. We need really good

The answer went on at more than twice that length but never got around to addressing the
actual question. Read the transcript. Similarly, other canned
replies begged the questions and went on and on at length but with so few specifics and so little
variation they should have come stamped with a generic product label: “Oval Office house

Some peculiar answers were simply the testimony of a confused mind, all claims to the
contrary notwithstanding.

Russert: But can you launch a preemptive war
without iron clad, absolute intelligence that he had weapons of mass destruction?

President Bush: Let me take a step
back for a second and there is no such thing necessarily in a dictatorial regime of iron-clad
absolutely solid evidence.  The evidence I had was the best possible evidence that he had a

Russert: But it may have been

President Bush: Well, but what
wasn’t wrong was the fact that he had the ability to make a weapon. That wasn’t

Huh? Let’s just call it the war context of no context, which our
Maximum Leader kept insisting on. He cocked his head like a bantam rooster and moved
his lips like a sock puppet. This is considered “presidential”?

Equally rotten, the news media are treating the interview as news instead
of the joke it in fact is. This pretense — that the
president actually said something of value — is one more confirmation that the United States is
being turned into a Banana Republic.

Postscript: Glad to see Peggy Noonan’s commentary: “The president
seemed tired, unsure and often bumbling. His answers were repetitive, and when he tried to clarify
them he tended to make them worse. He did not seem prepared. He seemed in some way
disconnected from the event.” She also noticed something very important about the transcript of
the interview: “It reads better than it played.” I was struck by that myself. The transcript almost
makes him seem coherent.

It’s also nice to see that somebody besides me thought Tim Russert did a lousy job. Here’s David Corn in The Nation: “In his Oval Office,
hour-long session with Bush, he repeatedly let Bush slide or elide. The few tough queries
produced the predictable replies from Bush. And then Russert did not come back with the obvious
follow-ups. … Instead, Russert allowed Bush to dish out the all-too familiar, White
House-approved rhetoric. It pains me to say, he was more enabler than interrogator.”

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