Below is the verbatim transcript of George W. Bush’s first press conference after the election. With one exception. In a Photoshop-like way, I have inserted a kick-ass reporter who asks questions no one else does. But this revised transcript does not include the answers to these questions. My imagination only goes so far.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Yesterday I pledged to reach out to the whole nation, and today I’m proving that I’m willing to reach out to everybody by including the White House press corps.
Very funny, Mr. President. Can you tell us why you have had far fewer press conferences than any president since Woodrow Wilson and the advent of the modern press conference? Your father, for instance, held 83 press conferences when he was president. As of this past June, you had held only 14. Are you afraid of coming before the media? Do you believe you have no obligation to do so? Is message control more important for you than the free flow of information?
This week the voters of America set the direction of our nation for the next four years. I’m honored by the support of my fellow citizens, and I’m ready for the job.
What do you say about the fact that 49 percent of the electorate did not accept your leadership, your agenda, your issues, your priorities? Does that concern you? If the war in Iraq was so necessary, why does half the nation not see it that way? And are you concerned about all the reports of trouble that occurred with electronic voting on Election Day? Will you support establishing an independent, nonpartisan commission to set effective and national standards for voting and for verfiying vote counts?
We are fighting a continuing war on terror, and every American has a stake in the outcome of this war. Republicans, Democrats and independents all love our country, and together we’ll protect the American people.
That’s very interesting. Didn’t you and Dick Cheney say during the campaign that John Kerry and liberal Democrats could not be trusted to do what is necessary to protect this nation? If they love our country, why is that?
We will preserve — we will persevere until the enemy is defeated. We will stay strong and resolute. We have a duty, a solemn duty to protect the American people, and we will.
Can you please define the enemy, Mr. President? Is it al Qaeda? Is it Ba’athist remnants in Iraq? Or insurgents who oppose the US presence there? Are we at war with anyone who uses terrorists methods anywhere? And can you tell us what you have done recently to defeat al Qaeda? During the campaign you said that you have captured or killed 75 percent of the al Qaeda leadership. But The Washington Post uncovered classified information showing that this was an exaggeration and that the US has neutralized no more than half of the top 30 al Qaeda targets. Can you explain your use of the 75 percent figure?