White House Briefing: Why President Embraces 9/11, Shuns Sheehan

By: E&P Staff

Responding this week to growing public unrest about Iraq, and declining personal approval ratings, President Bush has revived an earlier strategy of linking the current war to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Today, a White House spokesman went even further, responding to the inevitable press questioning about the president’s view of war protestor Cindy Sheehan’s return to Texas by focusing on 9/11.

The spokesman, Trent Duffy, at a press briefing in Texas, also refused to be pinned down on whether the president had decided to rule out meeting with Sheehan again. And he said the president wasn’t worried about the Iraqis putting off a vote on their new constitution because they are continuing to “work very hard” on it, and drew attention to how long it took America to finish its own constitution.

Here is much of the transcript:

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Q Does the President feel that over the last couple of days he’s made an effective and convincing case that Cindy Sheehan is misguided in her feelings about the war and what should happen to the troops?

MR. DUFFY: Well, first of all, the President has spoken continuously about the way he approaches this war, following September 11th, 2001. On September 14th, 2001, he stood at the National Cathedral and told all of America that this was going to be a very long and difficult war, and that there were going to be some very trying moments; but that because of what happened on 9/11, that we had to view the world in a different way.

The bipartisan 9/11 commission wrote all about this in chapter two. The name of that chapter is called, “The Foundation of the New Terrorism.” And the bipartisan commission members wrote about the U.S. reaction to terrorist acts overseas in the years leading up to 9/11. They reached a fundamental conclusion: When America takes a single step backwards in the face of terrorism overseas, it brings the terrorists 50 steps closer to our own shores. We saw that after the result of embassy bombings of American embassies overseas, after the U.S.S. Cole was bombed, after Beirut, after Somalia.

The President reiterated that on Tuesday. He empathizes with Ms. Sheehan and those who have lost loved ones. He said Tuesday, again, that they do not represent the view of all mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and children. But we certainly empathize with Ms. Sheehan and those who oppose the war. The President feels fundamentally differently. He’ll continue to talk about why it’s necessary to win this war. And I might point that the American Legion, at their national convention on Tuesday, overwhelmingly passed a resolution in support of the President’s approach to the war on terror.

Q Trent, when the President was asked on Tuesday if he will meet with Cindy Sheehan, he didn’t really give a direct answer. Can you say that there are no plans for him, that he has decided he won’t meet with her again?

MR. DUFFY: He said he met with Ms. Sheehan; he did. If there’s anything to announce on the President’s schedule, we’ll let you know. I mean, again, he’s met with close to 300 families and close to 1,000 family members of those who have lost a loved one in this conflict. He believes it’s one of his most important and solemn responsibilities, and he has chosen to make those meetings private. And he believes that that’s just the appropriate way to go about that.

Q Well, once again you’re leaving it open whether or not he’ll meet with her. Is that what you’re trying to do, or can you just say the President has decided he doesn’t see a point in meeting with her again?

MR. DUFFY: I think the President addressed that directly. You know how we deal with things like the President’s future schedule, which is that we don’t announce it prior to it coming up. So if there are any announcements, we’ll let you know. The President was asked on a number of occasions about this, he’s answered it directly, and I don’t have anything more to add.

Q Do you have any more of a readout on the meetings the President had with families yesterday? You told us a little bit about it, but do you know if any of them directly voiced any concern about how the war is progressing to Mr. Bush or the First Lady directly?

MR. DUFFY: From those I talked with, I certainly didn’t pick up anything along those lines. Obviously, you saw the reaction in the hall at the public event by the National Guard, which, many of you have written about, has undergone great challenge in this conflict. And I think we all witnessed the kind of support that the National Guard and Reserve members and the family members there were expressing.

Q Beyond sharing, you know, consolation and the emotion, do you know if he has ever been directly challenged by a family member in any of the 300-some meetings?

MR. DUFFY: There are different views expressed, there’s no question about it. As the President said on Tuesday, most of those he meets with express support for going forward in the way and the manner in which the President has laid out. But there are those who have different views. And the President spoke to that directly after his meeting with his foreign policy team and he appreciates that. That’s also part of his responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief.

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