Bush on Irish TV

This interview, taped in advance of Bush’s trip to Ireland, is definitely worth watching. Kevin notes that when Bush said that

“most of Europe supported the decision on Iraq. Most European countries are very supportive and are participating in the reconstruction of Iraq,”

the truth of the President’s words “depends on the meanings of ‘most’, ‘very supportive’, and ‘participating’. I wonder which meanings he was thinking of?”

The interview was conducted by Carole Coleman, an Irish reporter. Atrios first notes that following the interview, her interview with Laura Bush was cancelled. In a later post, Atrios links to Ms. Coleman saying that

“The policy of the White House is that you submit your questions in advance, so they had my questions for about three days.”

The hullabaloo is over the fact that, rather than letting Bush meander on, Ms. Coleman attempted several times to interrupt. Each time, Bush would say “let me finish. Then ask your follow-up question.” For example in one instance, she asked about peace between Israel and Palestine and Bush replied by talking about Turkey. She attempted to cut in, Bush said “let me finish” (or something similar) and then eventually, in fairness, did in fact connect democracy in Turkey to Israel and Palestine.

But overall, Bush’s hostility to interruptions makes a lot more sense in the context of knowing her questions were submitted in advance. Bush presumably had rehearsed answers to each question and a path for the interview from which he did not want to deviate. I didn’t think he did badly, by his standards (e.g. few Bushisms), in the interview.(*) But had he allowed himself to be drawn into extemporizing, he might well have.

In any case, don’t take my word for it; watch for yourself. And be sure to watch to the very end to see the outwardly polite, but clearly non-plussed final exchange, followed by a few seconds of them both sitting silently and awkwardly in their chairs. See also the Daily Beast’s take on the interview.


(*) Digby disagrees, opining that, “[Bush was] rude, thickheaded and childish, insisting that he be allowed to blather his incoherent and totally irrelevant talking points to eat up the clock and then getting mad when the reporter tries to get him to focus on the actual question asked.” I think Digby’s both right and wrong. Bush certainly did come across as rude, impatient, and trying to run out the clock. But while his detractors will agree with Digby, his supporters will see it as evidence as strength, conviction, and decisiveness. Bold, too. Always bold. Certainly, the interview won’t win him any new friends in Europe. But it’s unlikely to cost (or win) him any votes in the US, either. Hence my conclusion that Bush didn’t do badly.

UPDATE: A commenter at Digby’s blog reminded me of something else I meant to address: Bush said that there is “democracy in Pakistan,” which seems like something of a stretch. Just today, the NYT reported that

… But for advocates of democracy in Pakistan, General Musharraf’s refusal to let Mr. Jamali finish his term was a blow, emphasizing again that Parliament has less power than the president. Under constitutional amendments General Musharraf created, he has the right to dismiss the prime minister, as well as Parliament, though Mr. Jamali’s formal resignation means the president did not actually exercise this right.

“It is shallow,” Rasul Baksh Rais, a Pakistani political analyst, said of his country’s democracy. “It doesn’t have roots in the society – and there are questions about the locus of power in the system. I am less optimistic about the prospect of genuine representative democracy today than I was six or seven months back.”

So Pakistan is a democracy, but the president (who came to power in a coup, not an election) gets to (1) make constitutional amendments, (2) dismiss rivals at will, and (3) dismiss Parliament if he so chooses? That may comport quite closely with Bush’s vision of democracy, but not mine.