Where was JFK when we really — REALLY — needed him?
What else to ask after President George W. Bush’s annual prime time press conference? Unless it’s why do any at all?
Once again, neither the press nor the president distinguished themselves at a press conference. From network preeners to NPR wieners, too many queries were typical gotcha questions aimed at eliciting a headline-grabbing mea culpa from Bush on what happened — or didn’t happen — right before 9/11. What they prompted were some mea, gulp, uhs .
All the president’s handlers — well, Karl Rove and Karen Hughes — knew he would get this post-Richard Clarke barrage. At least, they could have provided him with a cheat sheet that read:
“I was expecting this question, especially in the aftermath of certain 9/11 Commission testimony. And I’ll be glad to answer it. ONCE.
“As president I take full responsibility for EVERYTHING that happens on my watch. I have ultimate accountability. Our capacity to gather, share and act on intelligence fell far short of ferreting out the most despicably cruel atrocity ever perpetrated on this country. As my national security advisor, Condoleeza Rice, and others have told the 9/11 Commission, although war had been declared on us, we were not on a ‘war footing.’ There were institutional walls and barriers and even statutes that precluded the best possible readiness. We know now what we didn’t know then. We always do.
“More importantly, we’re changing that unacceptable culture as quickly as possible. But I’m not going to play the blame game. As I said, it’s my watch.
“A day doesn’t go by that I don’t grieve for the innocent lives lost on Sept. 11. And a day doesn’t go by that I don’t grow more determined to do everything humanly possible to keep this country as safe as possible from those who would attack us.
“Does someone have a different question?”