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President Bush's press conference Tuesday night provided him a critical opportunity to reassure Americans that his national security plans are on track. Instead, he offered a disjointed defense of past actions and no clear vision for what lies ahead for American citizens and our military forces. Newspaper editorial boards across America are asking critical questions about the president's ability to level with the public about past mistakes and are demanding more details about his current policies.

Concord, N.H. – Concord Monitor
April 15, 2004

"In fact, when asked, Bush could not bring himself to name a single mistake he'd made as president. That was a mistake. Americans do not expect their presidents to be infallible, but they do like them, on occasion, to appear humble."

Charleston, W. Va. – Charleston Gazette
April 15, 2004

"During most of his press conference, he seemed to be answering questions by casting about for the proper rehearsed response. He rarely responded directly to the toughest questions, falling back on generalizations that repeated stock phrases.

"This rare press conference, obviously called to try to quell the nation's fears as Bush's Iraq war spins out of control, showed an unsophisticated leader stubbornly defending a senseless set of policies.

"President Bush does not give the impression of an intelligent leader genuinely pondering and analyzing serious choices, but of a well-rehearsed schoolchild parroting patriotic clichés. At least, he didn't display his former cocky smirk and 'bring 'em on' swagger."

Erie, Pa. – Erie Times News
April 15, 2004

"An hour after his perplexing prime-time news conference began Tuesday evening, President Bush was asked what lessons he could identify from events following the 9/11 attacks. The inference here was clearly the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the global war on terrorism. The president shook his head and with a baffled look on his face, came up with absolutely nothing. A reassuring moment this was not.

"Indeed, President Bush's news conference created more questions than it answered. If President Bush intended to reassure the American people that he had a handle on events in Iraq, he failed. No, the president seemed confused, scripted and alarmingly clueless.

"Yes, the president is right: America must stay the course in Iraq. But what course is that? Based on President Bush's performance, it doesn't seem like the administration knows what it's doing."

Pittsburgh, Pa. – Pittsburgh Post Gazette
pril 15, 2004

"The format of the press conference, with no follow-on questions, did not lend itself to particularly rigorous pursuit of issues. Nor did the Washington press corps cover itself with glory in its approach to Mr. Bush. Some questions he just didn't answer, such as why he and Vice President Dick Cheney have to appear together in their closed appearance before the 9/11 commission.

"Although Mr. Bush's statement of his positions on these important issues can only be seen as extremely useful, it was also possible to come away from the presentation with tough questions and real disquietude based on the apparent gap between what he said and what is reality.

Buffalo, N.Y. – Buffalo News
April 15, 2004

"The president missed a chance to admit his administration's missteps in more than general terms. More important, he failed to adequately focus on the future, perhaps because he still is too concerned with the failed theories of the past.

"For example, while Bush reiterated that the United States would cede sovereignty on June 30, he couldn't say to whom. He doesn't know. Even more troubling, he still hangs on to the discredited claim that Iraq has hidden weapons of mass destruction.

"This week he had an opportunity – not well seized – to emphasize rebuilding Iraq and what steps were being contemplated to achieve that goal. Instead the country got an unconvincing rehash of discredited motives for this war, namely the search for weapons of mass destruction and invading Iraq as part of the war on terror."

Detroit, Mich. – Detroit Free Press
April 14, 2004

"It was well past time Tuesday for President George W. Bush to engage in an unscripted give and take with the nation's news media. With so much going on, the 'war president' should be offering more answers instead of delivering prepared speeches and waving off shouted questions.

"Unfortunately, much of the president's prime-time rhetoric was the same historic indictment of Saddam Hussein's ills that Bush offered before going to war. Too many questions have been raised since for pat responses. If Bush wants the mantle of 'war president' he adopted in a televised interview earlier this year, he needs to be more forthcoming with the American people about how he plans to win the war, not just say that it will be won."

Dallas, Texas – Dallas Morning News
April 15, 2004

"But no White House should get to the point where it can't admit mistakes. Perhaps presidents don't confess them publicly during a campaign. But, heavens, at least acknowledge them behind closed doors – for the good of the country. Lyndon Johnson became so obsessed with his Vietnam course that he couldn't entertain another vision. The nation can't afford that kind of stubbornness again.

"Whether it's about fighting terrorism or carrying out a domestic policy, a president always should re-examine his assumptions. And if they need amending, amend them. Mr. Bush especially should understand that point. Ever since he entered politics, he has preached personal accountability. The same principle applies to political figures. That was the point of those questions Tuesday night. And the White House would be wise not to ignore it."

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessean
April 15, 2004

"Because the president so rarely opens himself to this kind of questioning, his scripted answers were all the more disappointing. Some of Mr. Bush's answers didn't fit the questions asked. And while he initially gave a sobering account of the recent news in Iraq, President Bush fell into his familiar rhetoric recounting the evils of Saddam Hussein and the dangers of terrorism. The American public did not need an hour in prime time to be reminded of either.

"Mr. Bush is right that the United States can't walk away. But as long as U.S. troops remain in Iraq, the president will owe the American people more direct answers than they received Tuesday night."

Clarion, Miss. – Clarion Ledger
April 15, 2004

"The news conference itself was notable for a president holding the record for the fewest since the advent of television. It was the first since December, and reflects that recent war activity is prompting him to seek to give his account on the conduct of the war in Iraq.

"The public wanted answers and Bush gave them… but the wrong ones. His resolve is unquestioned, but how? We support the troops, too. But what's the strategy? Iraq could be the democracy Bush envisions, but it appears on the brink of civil war, our forces facing even 'friendly' Shiites who stand to gain the most from freedom.

"Providing political spin in the face of such real challenges is deadlier to U.S. resolve than the insurgents. It's one thing to 'stay the course.' But what's the course? The president should seek to continue to explain the plan and the exit strategy to the American people."

Louisville, Ky. – The Courier Journal
April 15, 2004

"President Bush's prime-time press conference Tuesday night – more accurately, it was a speech followed by a handful of questions – was aimed at reassuring an anxious nation with a demonstration of presidential resolve and competence. Unfortunately, the President's remarks were more unsettling in this regard than the long silence that preceded them.

"Mr. Bush's bottom line appeared to be that he can be trusted to see the Iraq adventure through to a successful conclusion, but he offered a vague picture of what such an outcome would be or of how he plans to achieve it. For the most part, he resorted to a rehash of old arguments and slogans, some of them embarrassingly at variance with what has actually transpired.

"Of course, as always with this administration, there was a refusal to acknowledge mistakes. Moreover, the President, who appeared uneasy and at times had difficulty expressing himself, did little to project himself as a leader who could assert authority and retake the initiative in a post-war period that has proven far more difficult and bloody than he had anticipated."

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