Trying to Spin the Truth Away

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, August 17, 2006; 12:54 PM

Alarmed at a brief dribble of actual un-spun news from inside the White House, spokesman Tony Snow yesterday tried his darndest to discredit it.

The dribble emerged courtesy of four scholars invited to talk with President Bush about Iraq on Monday. None of them substantively disagreed with Bush's policies -- see my column yesterday, Bush Bubble Alive and Well -- but they did talk to New York Times reporters afterwards about where the president seemed to be coming from.

As a result, Thom Shanker and Mark Mazzetti wrote in the Times yesterday: "President Bush made clear in a private meeting this week that he was concerned about the lack of progress in Iraq and frustrated that the new Iraqi government -- and the Iraqi people -- had not shown greater public support for the American mission, participants in the meeting said Tuesday. . . .

"[T]he president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd."

A petulant, dissatisfied president is of course not part of the approved White House narrative on Iraq. As a result, Snow came out swinging at yesterday's press briefing .

"I have spoken with the notetaker in the meeting, I was in the meeting, I've talked to others in the meeting and I've talked to all four scholars today, and all, to a person, take exception to a verb or variations of that verb that appear a number of times at the top of the piece, which is that the President is 'frustrated,' " Snow said. "All the participants said that that did not reflect the meeting they attended."

Bush doesn't get frustrated, Snow said.

The president believes that "when you're facing a situation, you don't sit around and get frustrated. You figure out how to get the job done. And I've said it many times, and I'll say it because it's true: The president is somebody who's intensely practical about these things and not somebody who sits around and goes, ' Nnnnyoo! ' "

That last word, by the way, was the closest the White House transcribers could come to rendering the temper-tantrum-like sound Snow made. (You can listen for yourself, it comes at the 19:10 mark in this video .)

One reporter later asked: "If the president is not frustrated by the situation in Iraq, what is he?"

Snow replied: "Determined."

And that is the official White House position.

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