Local Man Makes Good

Bush Tries to Think on His Feet, and the Thought Escapes Him

Last month, after the G-8 summit off the Georgia coast, aides to George W. Bush, the most closely handled president of the modern era, decided to allow him to hold a (rare) press conference, at which he once again proved that in a jam, he's no Mos Def—he's the least deft. There ain't even brain power there to light the naked bulb in Saddam's cell.

The following exchange happened toward the end of the press conference and is from the official White House transcript, except for the bracketed comments, of course:

[Bush's staff had no doubt told him that to start winding down the session, he was to call on a particular local reporter for a puffball question, thereby stopping reporters from continuing to hammer at the WMD issue and other Iraq questions. But unfortunately for Bush, he couldn't remember who he was supposed to call on.]

Bush: Is any local press here, at all, by the way? Any local? OK. [Bush points to a reporter.]

Question: Mr. President, a year ago in Evian [site of a previous economic summit], there was an expectation that in the ensuing months, weapons such as chemical or biological weapons would be found in Iraq. I wonder if you can share with the American people your conclusions, based on what you've learned over the past 15 months, sir, as to whether those weapons were—existed and they were hidden, were they destroyed, were they somehow spirited out of the country, or perhaps they weren't there before the war, and whether you had a chance to share this with your G-8 partners.

Bush: Right, no—Bob, it's a good question. I don't know—I haven't reached a final conclusion yet because the inspectors—inspection teams aren't back yet. I do know that Saddam Hussein had the capacity to make weapons. I do know he's a dangerous person. I know he used weapons against his own people and against the neighborhood. But we'll wait until Charlie gets back with the final report, and then I'll be glad to report.

[Then Bush spots the right guy, the one his staffers told him to call on. But Dubya hesitates . . . What's his name?! What in tarnation is the name of that local man they told me to call on?!]

Bush: Local man, thanks.

Question: Mr. President, Sonny Dixon, WTOC in Savannah. I'm a native of this region, by the way. Stating the obvious, begging the indulgence of these fine people, this has been a terrific undertaking for our region of the country. We appreciate your words regarding hospitality. But in terms of logistics, facilities, and security, your observations on this G-8 summit.

Bush: Thank you. First, I want to thank the local citizens for putting up with all the security. I was riding my bike down the road in Sea Island, and a lady was just driving along the road, very happy, and the next thing she knows, some friendly agents were heading right in her way. (Laughter.) And she, of course, pulled over, and I zoomed by. I felt like stopping to tell her, thanks, I apologize for the inconvenience. I also had the honor of going by and thanking the—the local, state, and federal folks who provided the security at the airport over there on St. Simons Island. The cooperation was fantastic. The local sheriffs and police chiefs need to be commended, and so do their people, for working so well with the state and federal people.

It—look, this is—we made the right choice to come down here for this summit. The people were just spectacular. And I'll tell you, I generally don't put words in a foreign leader's mouth, but today, Jacques Chirac said the food was great. (Laughter.) And so, of course, I told the chefs. And they recognize that it's a heck of a lot better to hear the food is great from Jacques Chirac than George W. Bush. (Laughter.) But it's really good. Thank you for asking that, because it's been a spectacular success, primarily because the people are so wonderful down here.

[Mission accomplished. Thanks again, local man.]


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