THE PRESIDENT: … I’m an optimistic person, is what I am. And I knew we were going to lose seats, I just didn’t know how many.
Q How could you not know that and not be out of touch?
THE PRESIDENT: You didn’t know it, either.
Q A lot of polls showed it.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there was a — I read those same polls, and I believe that — I thought when it was all said and done, the American people would understand the importance of taxes and the importance of security. But the people have spoken, and now it’s time for us to move on.
Looks like commenters to the last post were right — Bush said the people don’t understand the importance of taxes and the importance of security.
He’s insulting the intelligence of the voters.
All afternoon I’ve seen talking heads on television praise Bush for being willing to change direction in Iraq. But Jack Murtha is on MSNBC right now saying that he’s not hearing about a change in policy. I agree. Let’s go back to the transcript.
What Bush said:
The message yesterday was clear: The American people want their leaders in Washington to set aside partisan differences, conduct ourselves in an ethical manner, and work together to address the challenges facing our nation.
We live in historic times. The challenges and opportunities are plain for all to see: Will this country continue to strengthen our economy today and over the long run? Will we provide a first-class education for our children? And will we be prepared for the global challenges of the 21st century? Will we build upon the recent progress we’ve made in addressing our energy dependence by aggressively pursuing new technologies to break our addiction to foreign sources of energy? And most importantly, will this generation of leaders meet our obligation to protect the American people?
Translation: Bush is daring the Dems to just try to force him to change his policies on taxes, No Child Left Behind, globalization, energy, and Iraq.
I know there’s a lot of speculation on what the election means for the battle we’re waging in Iraq. I recognize that many Americans voted last night to register their displeasure with the lack of progress being made there. Yet I also believe most Americans and leaders here in Washington from both political parties understand we cannot accept defeat.
Translation: Bush is not even thinking about taking troops out of Iraq.
In the coming days and weeks, I and members of my national security team will meet with the members of both parties to brief them on latest developments and listen to their views about the way forward. We’ll also provide briefings to the new members of Congress so they can be fully informed as they prepare for their new responsibilities.
As we work with the new leaders in Congress, I’m also looking forward to hearing the views of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by Secretary James Baker and Congressman Lee Hamilton. This group is assessing the situation in Iraq and are expected to provide — and the group is expected to provide recommendations on a way forward. And I’m going to meet with them, I think, early next week.
Translation: Bush will go through the motions of listening to different points of view. And then he’ll decide to stay in Iraq.
The election has changed many things in Washington, but it has not changed my fundamental responsibility, and that is to protect the American people from attack. As the Commander-in-Chief, I take these responsibilities seriously.
Translation: I’m still in charge.
Amid this time of change, I have a message for those on the front lines. To our enemies: Do not be joyful. Do not confuse the workings of our democracy with a lack of will. Our nation is committed to bringing you to justice. Liberty and democracy are the source of America’s strength, and liberty and democracy will lift up the hopes and desires of those you are trying to destroy.
To the people of Iraq: Do not be fearful. As you take the difficult steps toward democracy and peace, America is going to stand with you. We know you want a better way of life, and now is the time to seize it.
To our brave men and women in uniform: Don’t be doubtful. America will always support you. Our nation is blessed to have men and women who volunteer to serve, and are willing to risk their own lives for the safety of our fellow citizens.
Translation: They’ll have to waterboard me to get me to agree to a withdrawal from Iraq.
When I first came to Washington nearly six years ago, I was hopeful I could help change the tone here in the capital. As governor of Texas, I had successfully worked with both Democrats and Republicans to find common-sense solutions to the problems facing our state. While we made some progress on changing the tone, I’m disappointed we haven’t made more.
Translation: The President is a sociopath.
I’m confident that we can work together. I’m confident we can overcome the temptation to divide this country between red and blue. The issues before us are bigger than that and we are bigger than that. By putting this election and partisanship behind us, we can launch a new era of cooperation and make these next two years productive ones for the American people.
Translation: It’s my way or the highway.
That’s how I heard it. If you disagree, speak up.
Now, for the questions from the press:
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Does the departure of Don Rumsfeld signal a new direction in Iraq? A solid majority of Americans said yesterday that they wanted some American troops, if not all, withdrawn from Iraq. Did you hear that call, and will you heed it?
THE PRESIDENT: Terry, I’d like our troops to come home, too, but I want them to come home with victory, and that is a country that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself. And I can understand Americans saying, come home. But I don’t know if they said come home and leave behind an Iraq that could end up being a safe haven for al Qaeda. I don’t believe they said that. And so, I’m committed to victory. I’m committed to helping this country so that we can come home.
Now, first part about —
Q A new direction.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, new direction. Well, there’s certainly going to be new leadership at the Pentagon. And as I mentioned in my comments, that Secretary Rumsfeld and I agree that sometimes it’s necessary to have a fresh perspective, and Bob Gates will bring a fresh perspective. He’ll also bring great managerial experience.
And he is — I had a good talk with him on Sunday in Crawford. I hadn’t — it took me a while to be able to sit down and visit with him, and I did, and I found him to be of like mind. He understands we’re in a global war against these terrorists. He understands that defeat is not an option in Iraq. And I believe it’s important that there be a fresh perspective, and so does Secretary Rumsfeld.
I don’t know how much more plainly he could say that he’s not going to change policy in Iraq. He’ll make some tactical tweaks, but no more.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You said you’re interested in changing the tone, and committed to changing the tone in Washington. Just a few days before this election, in Texas, you said that Democrats, no matter how they put it, their approach to Iraq comes down to terrorists win, America loses. What has changed today, number one? Number two, is this administration prepared to deal with the level of oversight and investigation that is possibly going to come from one chamber or two in Congress?
THE PRESIDENT: What’s changed today is the election is over, and the Democrats won. And now we’re going to work together for two years to accomplish big objectives for the country. And secondly, the Democrats are going to have to make up their mind about how they’re going to conduct their affairs.
Arrogant as ever, ain’t he?
Q Mr. President, thank you. You acknowledged that this is a message election on the war in Iraq. And so the American public today, having voted, will want to know what you mean in terms of “course correction on Iraq.” And particularly in light of this fact, that last week the Vice President pointed out that you and he aren’t running for anything anymore, and that it’s “full speed ahead on Iraqi.” So which is it? Are you listening to the voters, or are you listening to the Vice President? And what does that mean?
THE PRESIDENT: David, I believe Iraq had a lot to do with the election, but I believe there was other factors, as well. People want their Congress — congressmen to be honest and ethical. So in some races, that was the primary factor. There were different factors that determined the outcome of different races, but no question, Iraq was on people’s minds. And as you have just learned, I am making a change at the Secretary of Defense to bring a fresh perspective as to how to achieve something I think most Americans want, which is a victory.
We will work with members of Congress; we will work with the Baker-Hamilton Commission. My point is, is that while we have been adjusting, we will continue to adjust to achieve the objective. And I believe that’s what the American people want.
Somehow it seeped in their conscious that my attitude was just simply “stay the course.” “Stay the course” means, let’s get the job done, but it doesn’t mean staying stuck on a strategy or tactics that may not be working. So perhaps I need to do a better job of explaining that we’re constantly adjusting. And so there’s fresh perspective — so what the American people hear today is we’re constantly looking for fresh perspective.
But what’s also important for the American people to understand is that if we were to leave before the job is done, the country becomes more at risk. That’s what the Vice President was saying — he said, if the job is not complete, al Qaeda will have safe haven from which to launch attacks. These radicals and extremists have made it clear, they want to topple moderate governments to spread their ideology. They believe that it’s just a matter of time before we leave so they can implement their strategies. We’re just not going to let them do that. We’re going to help this government become a government that can defend, govern, and sustain itself, and an ally in the war on terror.
Again, how much more plainly can he say that he’s not changing policy? He’ll consider tactical changes, but that’s it.
I’m not sure what this was about:
THE PRESIDENT: … And so, Jim, look, I understand people don’t agree — didn’t agree with some of my decisions. I’m going to continue making decisions based upon what I think is right for the country. I’ve never been one to try to fashion the principles I believe or the decisions I make based upon trying to — kind of short-term popularity. I do understand where the people — the heart of the people. I understand they’re frustrated. I am, too, as I said the other day. I wish this had gone faster. So does Secretary Rumsfeld. But the reality is, is that it’s a tough fight, and we’re going to win the fight. And I truly believe the only way we won’t win is if we leave before the job is done.
Q May I follow, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: I know, terrible principle. I’m sorry.
Q Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: You think I’m nuts? (Laughter.) You think — you think my sensibility has left me as a result of working hard on the campaign trail, Gregory? (Laughter.)
Q But to follow, we were speaking about the war, and during the campaign, two very different viewpoints of the war came out. You spoke a lot, as Bret mentioned, about what you saw as the Democratic approach to the war, which you were greatly concerned about. Are you worried that you won’t be able to work with the Democrats, or do you feel like you have to prevail upon them your viewpoint?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think we’re going to have to work with them, but — just like I think we’re going to have to work with the Baker-Hamilton Commission. It’s very important that the people understand the consequences of failure. And I have vowed to the country that we’re not going to fail. We’re not going to leave before the job is done. And obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do with some members of Congress. I don’t know how many members of Congress said, get out right now — I mean, the candidates running for Congress in the Senate. I haven’t seen that chart. Some of the comments I read where they said, well, look, we just need a different approach to make sure we succeed; well, you can find common ground there.
Translation: “OK, so I’ll talk to the Democrats and the Baker Commission if I have to, but I only want to listen to suggestions about how my policy might become more glorious than it already is.”
See, if the goal is success, then we can work together. If the goal is, get out now regardless, then that’s going to be hard to work together. But I believe the Democrats want to work together to win this aspect of the war on terror.
I’m also looking forward to working with them to make sure that we institutionalize to the extent possible steps necessary to make sure future Presidents are capable of waging this war. Because Iraq is a part of the war on terror,
Translation: I’m going to bleep up the Middle East so much we won’t get out of Iraq until the 22nd century.
… and it’s — I think back to Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. Harry Truman began the Cold War, and Eisenhower, obviously, from a different party, continued it. And I would hope that would be the spirit that we’re able to work together. We may not agree with every tactic, but we should agree that this country needs to secure ourselves against an enemy that would like to strike us again.
Translation: We should agree that I’m right.
This enemy is not going away after my presidency.
And I look forward to working with them. And I truly believe that Congresswoman Pelosi and Harry Reid care just about as much — they care about the security of this country, like I do. They see — no leader in Washington is going to walk away from protecting the country. We have different views on how to do that, but their spirit is such that they want to protect America. That’s what I believe.
Just like I talked about the troops. I meant what I said. Look, the people that’s — are going to be looking at this election — the enemy is going to say, well, it must mean America is going to leave. And the answer is, no, that doesn’t — not what it means. Our troops are wondering whether or not they’re going to get the support they need after this election. Democrats are going to support our troops just like Republicans will. And the Iraqis have got to understand this election — as I said, don’t be fearful. In other words, don’t look at the results of the elections and say, oh, no, America is going to leave us before the job is complete. That’s not what’s going to happen, Jim.
How many more bleeping ways can he say, “I’m not changing the course”?
Several reporters questioned how Bush could pledge to stick by Rumsfeld last week and dump him this week. Bush’s answers basically boiled down to what I said last week was just politics, because of the election. But in another part of the questions he said “I’m still going to try to speak plainly about what I think are the important priorities of the country.” OK.