Bush bashes Democrats over 'disgusting' MoveOn ad
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Taking questions from reporters in the White House press room Thursday morning, President Bush seemed more eager to pile on a week-and-a-half's worth of Republican attacks on a MoveOn.org ad than he was to talk about issues with actual geopolitical impact.
At the tail end of his press conference, Bush gave an extended diatribe on the evils of a 10-day-old anti-war advertisement and took an opportunity to link Democrats to the attack on a top general.
The president called the group's full-page New York Times ad "disgusting," and he accused Democrats of caring more about the feelings of liberal activists than the US military.
"I felt like the ad was an attack not only on General Petraeus but on the U.S. military. And I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad," Bush said. "That leads me to come to this conclusion: that most Democrats are (more) afraid of irritating a left-wing group like MoveOn.org ... than they are of irritating the United States military. That was a sorry deal."
Eli Pariser, Executive Director of MoveOn.org's Political Action Committee, fired back at the president's comments.
"What's disgusting is that the president has more interest in political attacks than developing an exit strategy to get our troops out of Iraq and end this awful war," Pariser said after the press conference.
"The president has no credibility on Iraq: he lied repeatedly to the American people to get us into the war. Most Americans oppose the war and want us to get out. Right now, there are about 168,000 American soldiers in Iraq, caught in the crossfire of that country's unwinnable civil war, and the president has betrayed their trust and the trust of the American people."
Bush was responding to a question from the Washington Examiners' Bill Sammon, who the president refers to as "big stretch." Thursday's response from Bush was more partisan and intense than in response to a previous attempt by Sammon to get Bush to swipe at Democrats from the podium.
In December 2003, Sammon asked whether Bush would "agree or disagree" with the Republican National Committee's assessment that Howard Dean musing about Bush knowing in advance about 9/11 "borders on hate speech."
Bush would only say, "There's a time for politics, and I uh ... It's an absurd insinuation." That was four months before the White House finally released the infamous "Bin Laden Determined to Stike in US" warning delivered to Bush in August 2001.
Immediately before going off on MoveOn, Bush was asked about a controversial oil deal entered into by one of his closest political allies and intelligence advisers.
Hunt Oil Co., whose CEO Ray L. Hunt has expansive access to classified intelligence as a member of a presidential advisory board, has entered an oil contract with the semi-autonomous Kurdistan government in northern Iraq. Iraq�s oil minister has declared the deal illegal and observers say it could threaten Iraq's ability to establish a cohesive oil sharing law.
"I knew nothing about the deal," the president said of the deal orchestrated by Hunt, who raised $100,000 for the president's 2000 campaign and serves on his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Bush noted the US embassy also was concerned about the possibility the deal would block Iraq's adoption of a revenue-sharing law.
"If it undermines it, I'm concerned," Bush said.
The president tersely refused to comment on recent Israeli air strikes against Syria when asked about the tension and the possibility it would draw the US into a conflict between Israel and Iran.
"I'm not going to comment on the matter. Would you like another question?" Bush said in response to a question from NBC's David Gregory, who persisted in trying to get a response. "Saying I'm not going to comment on the matter, means I'm not going to comment on the matter. You're welcome to ask another question if you'd like to, on a different subject."
Later, Bush ducked a question over whether he believes North Korea is assisting the development of nuclear weapons in Iran or Syria, saying only, "We expect them (North Korea) not to be proliferating."
Asked about Iraq's move to expel private security contractors employed by Blackwater, Bush demurred saying that he was waiting until Iraqi Prime Minister comes to the United Nations meeting in New York next week to speak to him about allegations of abuses by Blackwater contractors. He said he was waiting to see the results of an independent commission investigating civilian deaths in Iraq.
"Evidently some innocent lives were lost, and my thoughts and prayers go out to the families," Bush said. "But I want to find out the facts about exactly what took place there in the theater and that's exactly what we're about to find out."
The following video is from MSNBC's broadcast of President Bush's press conference Thursday: