Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Friday, March 07, 2003  

A few comments on President Bush's news conference last night. He's a man who doesn't put much stock in words. He's a man of action, of clear vision--words are deceptive, obfuscating. But the truth is, even though they are those things--and every honest blogger will admit it--speech can be more revealing. A good poker player will spot a "tell" instantly--some quirk of body or speech that reveals what his fellow player is thinking. I'm not much of a poker player, but last night, I couldn't help but pick up the President's tell. Did you catch it?


For all the support the President tried to give to his argument last night, you couldn't help but feel it was deeply personal. The way he characterized the argument showed, time and again, what the real problem was:

• "We have arrived at an important moment in confronting the threat posed to our nation and to peace by Saddam Hussein and his weapons of terror."
• "Saddam Hussein is not disarming. This is a fact. It cannot be denied."
• Saddam Hussein has a long history of reckless aggression and terrible crimes."
• The cause of peace will be advanced only when the terrorists lose a wealthy patron and protector, and when the dictator is fully and finally disarmed."
• And I've [not] made up our mind about military action. Hopefully, this can be done peacefully. Hopefully that as a result of the pressure that we have placed--and others have placed--that Saddam will disarm and/or leave the country."

For Bush, the problem's personal--it's Saddam. In the course of the news conference, the Presdident used the word Saddam or Saddam Hussein 39 times; add to that 6 times he referred to him not by name (though personally) as "dictator." Throughout the entire news conference, the word "Iraq" or its variants only appeared 36 times together--and many of these referred to the "Iraqi people" and so on.

I think it's very clear, too--despite the President's objections about words--what's going on in his mind in the last comment I quoted (if you overlook the mangled first sentence). Despite all the talk of disarmament, the danger of the Iraqi regime's weapons and their availability on the open terrorist market, the President will be satisfied if Saddam (not Iraq) disarms or leaves the country. Leaves the country? That's not consisent with anything we've heard from the White House. But it is consistent with getting back at Saddam personally. Which, when you read the transcript, is the unmistakeable tell the President gives about his real intention.

posted by Jeff | 11:09 AM |
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