George W. Bush's news conferences

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On April 14, 2004, President George W. Bush held the most recent of only three primetime news conferences since coming to office in January 2001.

"Questions about Iraq and the administration's antiterror efforts dominated the one-hour news conference. ... Bush opened the session with a 17-minute statement on Iraq, in which he acknowledged 'tough weeks' in the country -- where deadly violence against coalition forces has flared -- but vowed to 'finish the work of the fallen.'" The President's address was given "almost midway through the deadliest month for Americans since Baghdad fell last spring." "At least 83 U.S. forces have been killed and more than 560 wounded in April, according to the U.S. military, as American troops fight on three fronts: against Sunni insurgents in Fallujah, Shiite militiamen in the south and gunmen in Baghdad and on its outskirts. ... At least 678 U.S. troops have died since the war began in March 2003. ... Additionally, four American employees of a private security company working in Iraq were killed and their bodies mutilated two weeks ago, and Thomas Hamill, a employee another firm, was seized as a hostage since last week." [1] [2] [3]

Transcript: April 14, 2004, News Conference

Read the full April 13, 2004, news conference (provided by the Associated Press).

Commentary & Analysis

CNN's Sean Louglin writes April 14, 2004, that "The news conference, in the East Room of the White House, comes at a time when Bush's policy in Iraq is under fire -- particularly from Democrats -- his administration's pre-9/11 antiterrorism efforts are under scrutiny and the battle for the White House is heating up." [4]

Adam Nagourney wrote April 13, 2004, that "Bush's decision to face the news media after a week in which he kept largely out of view while vacationing in Texas is a sign of what some Republicans have described as an increasingly jittery White House." [5]

"Officials say they are concerned that events beyond their control, from the battlefields of Iraq to a hearing room here in Washington, are threatening a carefully planned re-election campaign," Nagourney says. "Bush's senior advisers expressed confidence on Monday about the president's political standing. But other Republicans close to the White House expressed unease about world events, noting opinion polls that revealed growing questions among Americans about where the nation is heading, a measure that pollsters historically watch closely as a barometer of trouble for an incumbent." [6]

For 43 minutes, Bush responded to questions from reporters. However, the Boston Globe's Anne E. Kornblut comments that "in a 90-minute appearance designed in part to address the violent uprising in recent days, Bush failed to answer the central question hanging over the occupation: Who, exactly, will assume power once the American civil authority disbands? ... And despite his acknowledgment in a brief opening speech that there had been rough weeks in Iraq of late, Bush repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether his administration had made miscalculations of any kind. Indeed, Bush sounded characteristically self-assured throughout the night, denying any flaws in his handling of intelligence before Sept. 11, 2001, declining to apologize to families of the Sept. 11 victims, and even struggling to name a single mistake he had made in his three years in office." [7] [8]

Kornblut says that "Not once during the event did Bush -- or a reporter -- mention Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, the presumptive Democratic nominee in the presidential race. But the questions were delivered against a charged political backdrop, many of them drawn directly from criticisms Kerry and other Democrats have leveled in the campaign." [9]

Following Bush's news conference, "the Kerry campaign issued a statement taking Bush to task for not offering more specifics about Iraq." [10] CNN reports that the response to Bush's news conference was "mixed".

  • CNN's article for quotes by 9-11 Commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean and Vice Chairman Lee H. Hamilton, Senator Mitch McConnell, (R-KY), and Governor Bill Richardson, (D-NM).
  • Robert G. Kaiser, "President Bush Press Conference," Washington Post, April 14, 2004.
  • Tom Shales, "A Prime Time to Ask The President Questions," Washington Post, April 14, 2004.
  • Jerome Doolittle, "The Answer is No," Bad Attitudes, April 14, 2004.
  • Kevin Drum, "A Chip Off the Old Block," Political Animal, April 14, 2004: "Back in 1988 George Bush Sr. famously described a TV encounter with Dan Rather as 'tension city.' ... Today, responding to a routine press conference question, George Bush Jr. froze like a deer in headlights. He excused himself by saying it was really hard to come up with an answer under the 'pressure' of a press conference. ... Like father, like son?"
  • Dan Balz, "President Is Long On Resolve but Short on Details," Washington Post, April 14, 2004: "He repeatedly did not answer pointed questions about his policies and was better at describing his vision of a democratic Iraq than in explaining how he will overcome the mounting obstacles to achieve that vision."
  • William Saletan, "Trust, Don't Verify. Bush's incredible definition of credibility," Slate, April 14, 2004: "'One thing is for certain, though, about me, and the world has learned this: When I say something, I mean it. And the credibility of the United States is incredibly important for keeping world peace and freedom.' ... That's the summation President Bush delivered as he wrapped up his press conference Tuesday night. It's the message he emphasized throughout: Our commitment. Our pledge. Our word. My conviction. Given the stakes in Iraq and the war against terrorism, it would be petty to poke fun at Bush for calling credibility 'incredibly important.' His routine misuse of the word 'incredible,' while illiterate, is harmless. His misunderstanding of the word 'credible,' however, isn't harmless. It's catastrophic."


  • Blogger Lord Sedgewick of Strathmore, on April 20, 2004, provides the following: [11]
"The sight of Mr. Foot hanging himself higher and higher and higher with every shifting, gaseous, unfinished verbless unintelligible sentence which he emitted like ectoplasm [ ... ] was so distressing that I switched off two-thirds of the way through: I felt like a member of Greenpeace watching a month old seal pup beating its own brains out." --Bernard Levin, The Times, 1 June 1983.

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