Q&E with Tim Russert

by on February 9th, 2004

Here is the first exchange from Sunday’s Meet the Press interview with President Bush:

Tim Russert: On Friday, you announced a committee, commission to look into intelligence failures regarding the Iraq war and our entire intelligence community. You have been reluctant to do that for some time. Why?

President Bush: Well, first let me kind of step back and talk about intelligence in general, if I might. Intelligence is a vital part of fighting and winning the war against the terrorists. It is because the war against terrorists is a war against individuals who hide in caves in remote parts of the world, individuals who have these kind of shadowy networks, individuals who deal with rogue nations. So, we need a good intelligence system. We need really good intelligence.

So, the commission I set up is to obviously analyze what went right or what went wrong with the Iraqi intelligence. It was kind of lessons learned. But it’s really set up to make sure the intelligence services provide as good a product as possible for future presidents as well. This is just a part of analyzing where we are on the war against terror.

There is a lot of investigations going on about the intelligence service, particularly in the Congress, and that’s good as well. The Congress has got the capacity to look at the intelligence gathering without giving away state secrets, and I look forward to all the investigations and looks.

Again, I repeat to you, the capacity to have good intelligence means that a president can make good calls about fighting this war on terror.

Let’s review: Russert’s question was about Bush’s reluctance–why was Bush reluctant to do what he has now finally done? (And note well the arguably false assumption nested within even that question.)

Bush’s response: (1) “step back” and talk about intelligence in general, (2) describe the current commission, (3) assure all that he supports extant investigations, and (4) reaffirm the need for good intelligence.

Strike the answer as nonresponsive, and note that Russert posed no follow-up whatsoever.

This pattern of Question and Evasion (and/or outright deception) more or less continues throughout the interview.

And Russert let Bush get away with it the whole way through.

For more analysis of the interview, see Mark Kleiman. See also the Daily Howler.

UPDATE: Part II of Daily Howler’s “Meet the Prez” review here.

Tadlow Windsor II