Conservative Columnists Meet With Bush at White House

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By: E&P Staff

Eight conservative columnists visited the White House yesterday to interview George W. Bush, and heard the president once again defend his Iraq War policies.

“(T)there are people out there that would like nothing more than to have another spectacular moment by killing the American people,” Bush told the columnists, according to a transcript posted on U.S. News & World Report magazine’s Web site. “And they’re coming. … That’s why we need to be on the offense all the time. Iraq is the central part of this global war right now.”

Columnists in attendance — according to Michael Barone of U.S. News and Creators Syndicate — included Barone, Tony Blankley of The Washington Times and Creators, Lawrence Kudlow of CNBC and Creators, Kathleen Parker and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post Writers Group, Daniel Henninger of The Wall Street Journal, Mark Steyn of the Chicago Sun-Times, and Byron York of National Review.

“Like many others who have been with Bush in the Oval Office, I have found him to be much more articulate and forceful in that setting than he often is in press conferences or in taking questions from traveling reporters,” said Barone, who noted that the president began the meeting with lengthy opening remarks before taking questions from the columnists.

“I know it looks grim right now,” Bush said in those opening remarks, “but it has looked grim before in this war on terror. … This stuff about ‘stay the course’ — stay the course means, we’re going to win. Stay the course does not mean that we’re not going to constantly change.”

Later, in answering a question from a columnist (the transcript didn’t identify which columnists asked which question), Bush alluded to the media. “This war is on the TV screen every night,” he said. “And I’m wise enough not to blame media for anything, but I also understand it’s created quite a headwind — the TV screens do.”

Another columnist asked: “Isn’t the problem that the American people were behind — solidly behind — this when you went in and you toppled the Taliban, when you go in and you topple Saddam. But when it just seems to be a kind of thankless semi-colonial policing defensive operation with no end — I mean, where is the offense in this?”

Part of Bush’s reply: “I share the same frustration you share.” But he didn’t answer the question directly.

Another columnist said even conservatives wonder if the U.S. is winning in Iraq, and asked: “How can you measure winning? The last couple of years there just doesn’t seem to be any signals or signs that we’re winning.”

Bush answered: “That is the significant disadvantage we have in this war because the enemy gets to define victory by killing people.”

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