Bush needs to work on dealing with media

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 16, 2004

Tribune editorial staff

While President George W. Bush had little trouble delivering an acceptable speech to the American people Tuesday, he showed a sign of weakness in the open-question portion.

Bush delivered his message to the nation in the face of growing chaos in Iraq for damage control. The president sought to achieve two goals: to reassure the American people that his policies in Iraq are sound and that they are working; and to express his concern for the number of lives - U.S. troops and civilians - on the battlefield.

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Bush accomplished this mission only partly. We feel his comments on the sacrifice of soldiers and families were heartfelt and sincere, but when he opened the floor to media questions he stumbled a bit.

It was unsettling to watch President Bush fumble questions about his past mistakes. Asked to identify one during his Tuesday news conference, he couldn’t think of any.

When asked what he might have done differently in Iraq, Bush was visibly caught off guard. "I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes; I'm confident I have. … Maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one."

To Bush's credit, some of the questions that he had a tough time answering were out of line. First, asking him if he feared the situation in Iraq would cost him the presidency was pointless. This press conference was not about the upcoming presidential campaign.

Secondly, asking if he was planning to offer an apology for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was wrong. Obviously, the president is sorry it happened - as any president would be - but to place the blame on Bush is absurd. Sure, he could have demanded better intelligence, but chances are the attacks would have occurred no matter who was president at the time.

However, Bush needs to work on his delivery when dealing with the media. Several times he seemed visibly angered at the line of questioning, something that can be construed as a sign of weakness. If he wants to gain the confidence of the American people, he needs to be able to be strong enough to answer tough questions honestly.