Thursday, October 13, 2005

Looks Like the American Public Needs a Root Canal

And, it's going to hurt. I had no idea the fun began right at the outset of Scotty McMessage McClellan's briefing today. No sifting needed. Here are some tasty morsels from today's session at the whitewashinghouse. Looks like more obfuscation by defering answers to others:
Q Scott, why did the administration feel it was necessary to coach the soldiers that the President talked to this morning in Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, I don't know what you're suggesting.

Q Well, they discussed the questions ahead of time. They were told exactly what the President would ask, and they were coached, in terms of who would answer what question, and how they would pass the microphone.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, are you suggesting that what our troops were saying was not sincere, or what they said was not their own thoughts?

Q Nothing at all. I'm just asking why it was necessary to coach them.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of the event earlier today, the event was set up to highlight an important milestone in Iraq's history, and to give the President an opportunity to, once again, express our appreciation for all that our troops are doing when it comes to defending freedom, and their courage and their sacrifice. And this is a satellite feed, as you are aware, and there are always technological challenges involved when you're talking with troops on a satellite feed like this. And I think that we worked very closely with the Department of Defense to coordinate this event. And I think all they were doing was talking to the troops and letting them know what to expect.

Q But we asked you specifically this morning if there would be any screening of questions or if they were being told in any way what they should say or do, and you indicated no.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's what the question was earlier today. I think the question earlier today was asking if they could ask whatever they want, and I said, of course, the President was -- and you saw --

Q And I asked if they were pre-screened.

MR. McCLELLAN: You saw earlier today the President was trying to engage in a back-and-forth with the troops. And I think it was very powerful what Lieutenant Murphy was saying at the end of that conversation, when he was talking about what was going on in January, how the American troops and coalition forces were in the lead when it came to providing security for the upcoming election, an election where more than eight million Iraqis showed up and voted. It was a great success. And he talked about how this time, when we had the preparations for the upcoming referendum this Saturday, you have Iraqi forces that are in the lead, and the Iraqi forces are the ones that are doing the planning and preparing and taking the lead to provide for their own security as they get ready to cast their ballots again.

Q But I also asked this morning, were they being told by their commanders what to say or what to do, and you indicated, no. Was there any prescreening of --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not aware of any such -- any such activities that were being undertaken. We coordinated closely with the Department of Defense. You can ask if there was any additional things that they did. But we work very closely with them to coordinate these events, and the troops can ask the President whatever they want. They've always been welcome to do that...

...Q All right. Let me get back to the President's encounter with the troops, if I can. You said that the choreography of this was because of a technological challenge involved in the satellite feed. Well, what does that mean?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm just saying that there -- you have delays and things like that when you have a satellite feed, and so, obviously, there's going to be some coordination going on when you're setting up an event like this.

Q So the choreography --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you're missing the broader point of what this event was about. And what this event was about was to highlight an important milestone in the history of Iraq: that is the upcoming referendum. The Iraqi people are going to be able to freely express themselves this weekend, once again, as they cast their vote for the constitution that was drafted by their elected leadership. And that was the point of the event. It was also an opportunity for the President to continue expressing the appreciation of the entire nation for the courage and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. We're greatly appreciative for all that they're doing. And these were troops that are on the ground in Iraq. They know firsthand what is going on.

And so the President wanted to talk about some important topics that are very important to all Americans, and that is the security situation in Iraq, as well as the upcoming referendum that the Iraqi people will be participating in this weekend. In fact, today, my understanding is that some of the Iraqi citizens that are in hospitals began casting their ballots already.

Q So you're saying this was not a staged conversation for PR purposes?

MR. McCLELLAN: This is an event where there's coordination that goes on and we work closely with the Department of Defense. They worked to pull together some troops for the President to visit with and highlight important topics that are going on right now on the ground in Iraq. The President is going to continue speaking out about what we're working to achieve in Iraq and he's going to continue talking about the vital mission that we're working to achieve there. The stakes are high in Iraq. This is right up there at the top of our list of priorities. As the President said in the remarks, his most solemn duty and the most solemn duty of our men and women in uniform, like those he was talking to, is the safety and security of the American people. I just don't know if some are suggesting that what our troops were saying was not their own thoughts, because it clearly was.

Q Now, we all saw the event, so without getting into what the President said and what the troops said, can you just talk specifically to the choreography? Did the soldiers know what questions they would be asking? Did they --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I really can't, because we coordinate this with the Department of Defense, and you might want to direct questions to the Department of Defense, because when we do these events -- we appreciate all the help that they provide -- the Department of Defense takes the lead in terms of pulling some troops together so that we can do events like this.

Q So you, personally, do not know if those soldiers rehearsed their answers before they were on air, live?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, my understanding is that someone from the Department of Defense was talking to them ahead of time. But I don't know -- I was with the President, so --

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