The Heart of the Matter

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Friday, December 8, 2006; 12:50 PM

Long live the British press!

In contrast to the small-bore questions that American reporters posed to President Bush yesterday about his Iraq policy, two British journalists cut right to the central issue of the president's credibility.

In his joint press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush spoke of embarking on a "new course" in Iraq -- even as he effectively rejected all the major recommendations of the scathing bipartisan Iraq Study Group report.

American reporters dutifully but fruitlessly tried to get Bush to explain what he meant. Their colleagues from across the pond took a different tack.

Why, the two Brits asked Bush in slightly different ways, given your track record on Iraq, should we believe you now?

Not surprisingly, Bush failed to provide a persuasive answer.

Here's the transcript of the press conference.

First off was Nick Robinson of the BBC: "Mr. President, the Iraq Study Group described the situation in Iraq as 'grave and deteriorating'. You said that the increase in attacks is 'unsettling'. That won't convince many people that you're [not] still in denial about how bad things are in Iraq, and question your sincerity about changing course."

Bush's response was at first testy, then jokey, then righteously indignant.

"It's bad in Iraq. Does that help?" Bush snapped. Then he chuckled.

"Q: Why did it take others to say it before you've been willing to acknowledge for the world --

"PRESIDENT BUSH: In all due respect, I've been saying it a lot. I understand how tough it is. And I've been telling the American people how tough it is. And they know how tough it is. And the fundamental question is, do we have a plan to achieve our objective. Are we willing to change as the enemy has changed? And what the Baker-Hamilton study has done is it shows good ideas as to how to go forward. What our Pentagon is doing is figuring out ways to go forward, all aiming to achieve our objective.

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