Monday, December 19, 2005

Bush press conference: There’s a lot of work to get rid of the past

Jeez, Bush gives a press conference. Isn’t there some brush that needs clearing? The only thing more annoying than Bush not doing his job is Bush doing his job.

On NSA surveillance: “The fact that we’re discussing this program is helping the enemy.” Also says they’re not listening to domestic calls under the secret NSA program, the FISA courts are evidently sufficiently speedy to deal with those calls, but not foreign ones. And if that weren’t murky enough, he want on to draw a distinction between “detecting so we can prevent, and monitoring,” a distinction he didn’t actually explain. (Click here for the very plausible theory that Bush avoided the FISA courts because the calls he was intercepting were those of journalists).

Says democracy in Iraq is developing really fast, though “I know with all the TV stations and stuff in America, two-and-a-half years seems like an eternity.” And of course it’s so much faster than in our crappy old country, where “our road to our Constitution... was pretty bumpy.” Yeah, there was all that violence between the Sunnis of Massachusetts and the Shiites of New Hampshire.
And what you’re seeing now is an historic moment, because I believe democracies will spread. I believe when people get the taste for freedom or see a neighbor with a taste for freedom, they will demand the same thing because I believe in the universality of freedom.
Bush went on, “It’s pretty much like the way I saw Rummy with his new Xbox 360 and I asked Laura over and over if I could have one too...”
And it’s not going to be easy. It’s still going to be hard, because we’re getting rid of decades of bitterness. If you’re a -- you know, you find these secret prisons where people have been tortured, that’s unacceptable. And, yet, there are some who still want to have retribution against people who harmed them.
Unacceptable, huh? Makes it sound like putting your elbows on the table. And you’ll notice he’s talking about Saddam’s secret prisons where people were tortured, not the American secret prisons where people were tortured, or the Interior Ministry secret prisons where people are tortured.
My only point to you is there’s a lot of work to get rid of the past, yet we’re headed in the right direction. And it’s an exciting moment in history.
History which he’s planning to abolish.

Asked a rather good question by the WaPo’s Peter Baker about whether he sees any limits to the powers of the president in time of a war which may go on for decades, Bush rejected the term “unchecked power,” citing, among other things, the fact that people in the executive took an oath to uphold the law (here he mimed taking an oath),

and added that there is oversight, because they briefed a few members of Congress. Secretly. About powers they have claimed Congress has no right to modify because they are part of the president’s “inherent authority.” So Congress can’t talk about it, and they can’t stop it. Some oversight.

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