It was an impressive performance, but unless you watched it, you wouldn't know from the MSM reports. Already before the conference had begun the speculation had been rampant and we were confidently told by media mavens that the two leaders were going to announce troop withdrawals, probably significant British withdrawals. And already the chorus of criticism had begun. "The withdrawals are premature," a Time reporter [Jay Carney] declared. They are clearly a response to political pressure. This from a guy who for months now has been ginning up political pressure to force withdrawal.
Well the beltway pundits were wrong. We got from the two leaders a strong expression of their determination to persevere in Iraq, and to see the entire matter through to a satisfactory conclusion. There would be no troop withdrawals.
From Dubya --
With the emergence of this government, something fundamental changed in Iraq last weekend. While we can expect more violence in the days and weeks ahead, the terrorists are now fighting a free and constitutional government. They're at war with the people of Iraq, and the Iraqi people are determined to defeat this enemy, and so are Iraq's new leaders, and so are the United States and Great Britain.From Tony --
[W]hatever people's views about the wisdom of that decision [to invade Iraq], now that there is a democratic government in Iraq, elected by its people, and now they are confronted with those whose mission it is to destroy the hope of democracy, then our sense of mission should be equal to that and we should be determined to help them defeat this terrorism and violence.The question period was mostly inane, as it always is. Bush was asked when we would be drawing troops down. [When the commanders on the ground say we can] They were asked to comment on Kofi Annan's statement that the invasion was "probably illegal", which elicited from Bush this comment:
I'd like to see a United Nations that's effective, one that joins us in trying to rid the world of tyranny, one that is willing to advance human rights and human dignity at its core, one that's an unabashed organization -- is unabashed in their desire to spread freedom. That's what I'd like to see, because I believe that freedom will yield to peace. I also believe freedom is universal. I don't believe freedom is just a concept only for America or Great Britain. It's a universal concept. And it troubles me to know that there are people locked in tyrannical societies that suffer. And the United Nations ought to be clear about its desire to liberate people from the clutches of tyranny. That's what the United Nations ought to be doing, as far as I'm concerned.Nice sentiment. Bush was asked whether Treasury Secretary Snow would be fired. [No!]
Asked if they would retreat from their goals in the face of widespread political opposition, both leaders said "No!"
Why are they [the insurgents] resisting so hard, what is it about democracy they can't stand? Well, what they can't stand about democracy is this: Democracy is the exact opposite of what they believe. They believe they can impose their will, they believe there's no freedom of religion, they believe there's no women's rights. They have a -- they have a dark vision of the world, and that's why they're resisting so mightily.Tony, as always, was more eloquent:
So yes, I can understand why the American people are troubled by the war in Iraq. I understand that. But I also believe the sacrifice is worth it and is necessary, and I believe a free Iraq is not only going to make ourselves more secure, but it's going to serve as a powerful example in the Middle East.
[The Iraqi people] have gone out and voted despite terrorism, despite bloodshed, despite literally the prospect of death for exercising their democratic right.
So they have kept faith with the very democratic values that we say we believe in, and the people trying to wrest that democracy from them are opposed to absolutely everything we stand for and everything the Iraqi people stand for.
So what do we do in response to this? And the problem we have is very, very simple. A large part of the perspective with which we look at this is to see every act of terrorism in Iraq, every piece of ghastly carnage on our television screens, every tragic loss of our own forces -- we see that as a setback and as a failure when we should be seeing that as a renewed urgency for us to rise to the challenge of defeating these people who are committing this carnage. Because over these past three years, at every stage, the reason they have been fighting is not, as we can see, because Iraqi people don't believe in democracy, Iraqi people don't want liberty. It is precisely because they fear Iraqi people do want democracy, Iraqi people do want liberty.
And if the idea became implanted in the minds of people in the Arab and Muslim world that democracy was as much their right as our right, where do these terrorists go? What do they do? How do they recruit? How do they say, America is the evil Satan? How do they say the purpose of the West is to spoil your lands, wreck your religion, take your wealth? How can they say that? They can't say that.
So these people who are fighting us there know what is at stake. The question is, do we?
Good question -- do we?
Finally, Bush was asked about whether or not he had made mistakes. He answered that his language at the beginning of the fight was needlessly provocative, and he regretted that Abu Ghraib had happened. Blair said that de-Baathification could have been done differently and that the determination of the opposition had been underestimated.
All in all, it was a rather substantive encounter -- a stirring affirmation of their intention to stay the course and to win through to victory and a better world, but guess what the talking points for the MSM were?
That's right -- "Bush Admits Mistakes!!!!!" A second line of discussion -- "They looked tired, beaten down, like losers." See what I mean about the MSM?