Hear the one about how Politico went to the White House and a softball game broke out?

President George W. Bush doesn't make a habit of speaking to anyone who won't willingly and happily act as his lapdog. Thus, Politico.com easily scored an interview with him.

When Politico came into existence, they had a bold mission statement that included these words:

"There is a difference, however, between voice and advocacy. That's one traditional journalism ideal we fully embrace. There is more need than ever for reporting that presents the news fairly, not through an ideological prism. One of the most distressing features of public life recently has been the demise of shared facts. Warring partisans -- many of whom take their news from sources that cater to and amplify their existing opinions -- live in separate zones of reality. In such a climate, every news story is viewed as either weapon or shield in a nonstop ideological war. Our answer to this will be journalism that insists on the primacy of facts over ideology."

But such is the beauty of "mission statements." Once made, they are easily ignored. Here now is Politico's interview with Bush, which clearly shows Politico and Bush reside in a separate zone of reality all their own.

Interview with President Bush

[First nine questions solely devoted to fawning over Bush and asking about his daughter's wedding.]
Q Mr. President, the one thing we don't see in here is a computer, and we know that >you went cold turkey off email for security reasons>. What are you looking forward to when you finally get your computer back?
(Security reasons? According to Bush in Oct. 2006: "I tend not to email or — not only tend not to email, I don’t email, because of the different record requests that can happen to a president. I don’t want to receive emails because, you know, there’s no telling what somebody’s email may — it would show up as, you know, a part of some kind of a story, and I wouldn’t be able to say, `Well, I didn’t read the email.’ `But I sent it to your address, how can you say you didn’t?’ So, in other words, I’m very cautious about emailing.")
THE PRESIDENT: Emailing to my buddies. I can remember as governor I stayed in touch with all kinds of people around the country, firing off emails at all times of the day to stay in touch with my pals. One of the things that I will have ended my public service time with is a group of friends, a lot of friends. And I want to stay in touch with them and there's no better way to communicate with them than through email.
(All the "e-mails fired off to his buddies" were purged from the system, mind you. From the Star-Telegram - which no longer carries the story on its site: "The Texas e-mail policy was issued in 1999 while Bush was governor. The written directive states that e-mail 'messages and attachments that have been opened will automatically be deleted after seven (7) calendar days.'")

Q Mr. President, we know you're a man of intense faith. And I wonder, what was a moment in this room over the past eight years when you needed that most?

THE PRESIDENT: Michael, I'd say daily. I mean, part of the faith walk is to understand your weaknesses and is to constantly try to embetter yourself and get closer to the Lord. And that's a daily occurrence. Obviously there's been some tough moments in here. When you know that somebody lost their loved one as a result of a decision that I made, that's a tough moment. If you're a faithful person you try to empathize with the suffering that that person is going through. On the other hand, there is a knowledge that the good Lord can comfort during these moments of grief. And that's what I ask for in my prayer.

The Oval Office is a place where there's been, obviously, a lot of amazing experiences over a seven-and-a-half year period. My presidency is one where I've had to make some very tough decisions. I guess some presidencies are kind of — were real smooth, there were no real big issues. Well, that's not the way mine is.
(Translation: God makes me feel embetter about my widespread murder. Also, Presidenting was a breeze until I took over.)

Q Consequential. That's what you want —

THE PRESIDENT: Consequential — if that's how it turns out to be, that's a good word, because I didn't want to come to Washington, D.C. and just hold the office for the sake of holding it. I wanted to come to Washington, D.C. and help be a transformative President. And I think history, when they look back, will say this is a fellow who knew how to make decisions, and made some tough ones, stood by them, wasn't driven by the latest opinion poll, but was driven by some core principles from which he would not deviate.
(Translation: History will judge me as a mindless ideologue.)

[Next four questions are meaningless softballs]

Q Mr. President, thank you very much for having us into the Roosevelt Room for the first online interview. In the spirit of the Internet, I wonder if we could ask a question from one of our users, Steve Bailey, of New York, who says: With oil at $126 a barrel, pushing up the price of everything -- even food -- what can your administration do to help people right now?
(Translation: We'd never ask about oil prices. But, you know, the proles are a curious bunch.)
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate Steven's concerns. With the price of gasoline going up, it's like a tax. I wish I could give Steven a quick answer. In other words, it took us a while to get to where we are -- very dependent on oil, and in a world in which demand is greater than oil. So my answer to Steven is that the best thing we can do is to increase supply, and to drill for oil and gas in environmentally friendly ways at home, and build more refineries. Steven probably doesn't know this, but we haven't built a new refinery since 1976, and if we're truly interested in relieving the pressure on our consumers, then we ought to have a very active domestic policy now.
(Translation: Has Steve not heard our talking points? TRUTH: No one has offered to build a refinery since 1976.)

[Four questions on oil and global warming with Bush making it clear that by doing nothing, he's been a true leader.}
Q Mr. President, turning to the biggest issue of all, Iraq. I wonder if you -- various people and various candidates talk about pulling out next year. If we were to pull out of Iraq next year, what's the worst that could happen, what's the doomsday scenario?
(We in the business call this "framing a question.")
THE PRESIDENT: Doomsday scenario of course is that extremists throughout the Middle East would be emboldened, which would eventually lead to another attack on the United States. …
(See how that works?)
… The biggest issue we face is -- it's bigger than Iraq -- it's this ideological struggle against cold-blooded killers who will kill people to achieve their political objectives.
(Yes, that is the biggest issue we face. Hopefully in November the cold-blooded killers will be far removed from U.S. policy making positions.)
Q Mr. President, I'm going to surprise you -- there's a question from a user, Bruce Becker, and he asks: Do you feel that you were misled on Iraq?
(Translation: Again, we'd never ask anything like this.)
THE PRESIDENT: I feel like -- I felt like there were weapons of mass destruction. You know, "mislead" is a strong word, it almost connotes some kind of intentional -- I don't think so, I think there was a -- not only our intelligence community, but intelligence communities all across the world shared the same assessment. And so I was disappointed to see how flawed our intelligence was.
(Misled: "to lead in a wrong direction or into a mistaken action or belief often by deliberate deceit." Someone was misled, and it sure wasn't the President.)
Q Mr. President, you haven't been golfing in recent years. Is that related to Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, it really is. I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the Commander-in-Chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be as -- to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.

Q Mr. President, was there a particular moment or incident that brought you to that decision, or how did you come to that?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I remember when de Mello, who was at the U.N., got killed in Baghdad as a result of these murderers taking this good man's life. And I was playing golf -- I think I was in central Texas -- and they pulled me off the golf course and I said, it's just not worth it anymore to do.
(Translation: I'll take myriad vacations, hold a lavish wedding for my daughter, cut veterans' funds, and never go to a soldiers' funeral, but golfing is where I draw the line. Especially after a Brazilian diplomat dies.)
Q Mr. President, you're headed later today to the Middle East. The prospects for brokering peace between Israelis and Palestinians look bleak. I wonder what the best is you can hope for, and why should Americans back home care about your efforts over there?

THE PRESIDENT: It's a great question. Americans at home ought to care for the advance of free societies throughout the Middle East, after all, this is the center of anti-Americanism and hatred. …
(Now that's the way to kick off some peace talks)
In other words, the people that attacked us on 9/11 came from this part of the world. …
(Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Israel, wev.)
… By far the vast majority of people aren't haters, and by far the vast majority of people don't hate America …
(Translation: They all hate me.)
… But there are enough to be able to recruit if forms of government repress people. In other words, if there's hopelessness -- there's nothing more hopeless, by the way, than becoming a suicide bomber. And yet, these ideologues require hopeless situations.
(See "Shock Doctrine, The")

[Next nine questions are about baseball, American Idol, and who does a better impression of Bush, Dana Carvey or Will Ferrell]
Q Mr. President, I know you're not going to believe this transition, but the Congress and Democrats now have been in charge for the Capitol for 18 months. I wonder if you care to give them a grade.
(Translation: Does the slim Democratic majority in Congress suck? Or do they suck Hard?)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, one thing is for certain, Michael, that I've laid out a very aggressive agenda: a trade agreement with Colombia to help our economy continue to grow; making sure we got the tools necessary to protect our country from attack; supporting our troops in harm's way. And there hasn't been much action. And we got a housing crisis, and I proposed a reasonable set of reforms. And so I would call them stalled. I would call them, so far, good at verbiage and not so good at results.
(Translation: They suck hard, Michael. Things were much better when Republicans ran Congress and did everything I said without asking anything.)
Q Now, Mr. President, President Carter recently told Charlie Rose the next President could change America's image in 10 minutes. Here's what he said: "I think the next President could change the image of this country around the world in 10 minutes by making an inaugural speech that would start off and say, 'As long as I'm President we will never torture another prisoner, as long as I'm President we will never attack or invade another country unless our own security is directly threatened.'"

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, well, what he ought to be saying is, is that America doesn't torture. If the implication there is that we do now, then he's wrong. And you bet we're going to protect ourselves by the use of military force. What he really is implying is -- or some imply -- you can be popular; if you want to be popular in the Middle East just go blame Israel for every problem. That will make you popular. Or if you want to be popular in Europe, say you're going to join the International Criminal Court.

Popularity is fleeting, Michael. Principles are forever.
(Translation: Jimmy Carter is an anti-Semite. I think that answers your question that had nothing to do with Israel.)
Q Mr. President, I'm getting the hook here. If I can ask you one quick political question. You have a clear eye. I wonder if at this point you feel sorry for Senator Clinton.
(Wow. Just wow.)
Q Mr. President, as a final question -- and thank you so much for taking this time with us -- the scale of the disasters in China and Burma is amazing. I wonder how the United States can go about getting aid into those closed regimes.

THE PRESIDENT: I talked to Hu Jintao and if he -- I told him if he needs aid he's got it. Thus -- we'd get him some money, but thus far, he feels like he's in pretty good shape. And the relief -- and they've got a pretty good infrastructure in dealing with problems.

The place that really needs help is Burma. And Admiral Keating is there now. I told President Hu Jintao today, of China, if you get -- if you're in touch with the Burmese, tell them that we're genuine in our efforts to want to help. We've got some ships off the coast of Burma now, and so we'll see if Keating and Henrietta Fore, who runs AID, will get a better response from the government than we have gotten so far. We just want to make sure that the aid we give is given to the people -- that it's not squandered, not hoarded, but it actually gets to the suffering people ....
(And if we could find that $8 billion or so that disappeared from Iraq, we'd maybe give them some of that money, as well)
… We've been disappointed by the response. It's taken these people too long to move. It's almost as if they're in a state of denial. But we'll see. We're beginning to make some progress there in terms of getting our aid in.
(Translation: Hell, it only took us a week or so to get moving after Katrina.)


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