Representation Through Humiliation


Bush's Press Conference (Now with PLANS!)

Time to Translate the Bushspeak!

(NOTE: Ahem... before we begin, I'd like to note that the use of the phrase "press conference" in the title of this post should not imply it was a constructive questioning of the President. Moreover, most "press conferences" these days are more akin to a "systematic feeding of propaganda to loyal lapdogs." I'm terribly sorry if the phrase "press conference" in any way filled you with false hope.)

(ALSO NOTE: The Bushspeak is in regular font with our translation/reply/snarky comment in bold.)

Bush: Good evening. Tonight I will discuss two vital priorities for the American people, and then I'd be glad to answer some of your questions.

Whew! And here we were, thinking you were just going to talk at us about how guzzling gas and bankrupting Social Security is good for us.

Millions of American families and small businesses are hurting because of higher gasoline prices. My administration is doing everything we can to make gasoline more affordable. In the near-term, we will continue to encourage oil producing nations to maximize their production. By, uh... bombing them.

Here at home, we'll protect consumers. There will be no price gouging at gas pumps in America. We must address the root causes that are driving up gas prices. Wouldn't that be you?

Over the past decade, America's energy consumption has been growing about 40 times faster than our energy production. That means we're relying more on energy produced abroad. To reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, we must take four key steps. Oh, this should be good. At least we'll be able to figure out whether or not he can actually count to four.

First, we must better use technology to become better conservers of energy. Do SUVs count as "technology?"

Secondly, we must find innovative and environmentally sensitive ways to make the most of our existing energy resources, including oil, natural gas, coal and safe, clean nuclear power. I'm sure he'll reveal somekind of plan as to how exactly we go about doing all this...

Third, we must develop promising new sources of energy, such as hydrogen, ethanol or biodiesel. Fourth, we must help growing energy consumers overseas, like China and India, apply new technologies to use energy more efficiently, and reduce global demand of fossil fuels. I applaud the House for passing a good energy bill. Now the Senate needs to act on this urgent priority. American consumers have waited long enough. Why, just lat week, I had to wait a full 20 minutes for the pizza guy to get here, we need to pick up the pace. To help reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, Congress needs to get an energy bill to my desk by this summer so I can sign it into law. You guys haven't given me anything to put my name on in quite a while. I'm out of practice.

President George W. Bush holds a press conference in the East Room Thursday, April 28, 2005. "Millions of American families and small businesses are hurting because of higher gasoline prices," said the President addressing many topics. "My administration is doing everything we can to make gasoline more affordable." White House photo by Paul Morse

"I swear! That fish had to be at least this big! It was crazy! Alright alright, back to gas price inflation..."

Congress also needs to address the challenges facing Social Security. I've traveled the country to talk with the American people. Through my travels, I've surmised everyone in this country adores me. They understand that Social Security is headed for serious financial trouble, and they expect their leaders in Washington to address the problem.

Social Security worked fine during the last century, but the math has changed. 2+2 will from this moment on equal 7. A generation of baby boomers is getting ready to retire. I happen to be one of them. Today there are about 40 million retirees receiving benefits; by the time all the baby boomers have retired, there will be more than 72 million retirees drawing Social Security benefits. Baby boomers will be living longer and collecting benefits over long retirements than previous generations. And Congress has ensured that their benefits will rise faster than the rate of inflation. Death to the baby boomers!

In other words, there's a lot of us getting ready to retire who will be living longer and receiving greater benefits than the previous generation. Is he slyly implying that he is ready to retire, or is this just my wishful thinking? And to compound the problem, there are fewer people paying into the system. In 1950, there were 16 workers for every beneficiary; today there are 3.3 workers for every beneficiary; soon there will be two workers for every beneficiary. To solve this problem, National Abstinece Day will be re-branded National Have A Baby Day.

These changes have put Social Security on the path to bankruptcy. When the baby boomers start retiring in three years, Social Security will start heading toward the red. Isn't it convenient that I will be out of office and utterly un-impeachable by the time what I'm saying will happen doesn't. In 2017, the system will start paying out more in benefits than it collects in payroll taxes. Every year after that the shortfall will get worse, and by 2041, Social Security will be bankrupt.

President George W. Bush holds a press conference in the East Room Thursday, April 28, 2005. "Social Security has provided a safety net that has provided dignity and peace of mind for millions of Americans in their retirement," said President Bush as he discussed many topics with reporters. "Yet there's a hole in the safety net because Congresses have made promises it cannot keep for a younger generation." White House photo by Paul Morse

G Dubs, preparing for his stage dive.

Franklin Roosevelt did a wonderful thing when he created Social Security. The system has meant a lot for a lot of people. Social Security has provided a safety net that has provided dignity and peace of mind for millions of Americans in their retirement. Having said this, let's tear it apart at the seams. Yet there's a hole in the safety net because Congresses have made promises it cannot keep for a younger generation. From this we can surmise that everything is Congress's fault.

As we fix Social Security, some things won't change: Seniors and people with disabilities will get their checks; all Americans born before 1950 will receive the full benefits. As for all Americans born after 1950... can you say "shoe shine?"

Our duty to save Social Security begins with making the system permanently solvent, but our duty does not end there. Because it's a hard job. We also have a responsibility to improve Social Security, by directing extra help to those most in need and by making it a better deal for younger workers. Now, as Congress begins work on legislation, we must be guided by three goals. Again with the counting! What a show-off. First, millions of Americans depend on Social Security checks as a primary source of retirement income, so we must keep this promise to future retirees, as well. As a matter of fairness, I propose that future generations receive benefits equal to or greater than the benefits today's seniors get.

Secondly, I believe a reform system should protect those who depend on Social Security the most. So I propose a Social Security system in the future where benefits for low-income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off. By providing more generous benefits for low-income retirees, we'll make this commitment: If you work hard and pay into Social Security your entire life, you will not retire into poverty. This reform would solve most of the funding challenges facing Social Security. A variety of options are available to solve the rest of the problem, and I will work with Congress on any good-faith proposal that does not raise the payroll tax rate or harm our economy. I know we can find a solution to the financial problems of Social Security that is sensible, permanent, and fair. Translation: Yadda yadda yadda. (God I love campaign promises.)

Third, any reform of Social Security must replace the empty promises being made to younger workers with real assets, real money. I believe the best way to achieve this goal is to give younger workers the option, the opportunity if they so choose, of putting a portion of their payroll taxes into a voluntary personal retirement account. Because this money is saved and invested, younger workers would have the opportunity to receive a higher rate of return on their money than the current Social Security system can provide.

Alright, this is getting boring. Skip to the Q&A...

And now I'll be glad to answer some questions, starting with Terry Hunt.

Q Mr. President, a majority of Americans disapprove of your handling of Social Security, rising gas prices and the economy. Are you frustrated by that and by the fact that you're having trouble gaining traction on your agenda in a Republican-controlled Congress? Um, a majority of Americans don't really like you Mr Prez, does that bother you at all?

Bush: Look, we're asking people to do things that haven't been done for 20 years. We haven't addressed the Social Security problem since 1983. We haven't had an energy strategy in our country for decades. And so I'm not surprised that some are balking at doing hard work. But I have a duty as the President to define problems facing our nation and to call upon people to act. And we're just really getting started in the process. No, not really. I've gotten used to it.

President George W. Bush holds a press conference in the East Room Thursday, April 28, 2005. White House photo by Eric Draper

The tribal hunters snuck stealthily up to the great Wilderbeast, bust just as they were about to impale it with their long wooden spears, the Wilderbeast leapt upon them and ate them alive. They had misunderestimated him.

You asked about Social Security. For the past 60 days, I've traveled our country making it clear to people we have a problem. One they saw me, they knew we had a problem. That's the first step of any legislative process; is to explain to people the nature of the problem, and the American people understand we have a problem.

I've also spent time assuring seniors they'll get their check. That's a very important part of making sure we end up with a Social Security reform. I think if seniors feel like they're not going to get their check, obviously nothing is going to happen. To appease the seniors, we need to convince them we are in Dreamland. You will be made to dress up like unicorns and/or fairies. This procedure is essential to our masterplan, so pay attention.

And we're making progress there, too, Terry, as well. See, once the American people realize there's a problem, then they're going to start asking members of Congress from both parties, why aren't you doing something to fix it? And the senators will reply: "Right now we're somewhat preoccupied with making sure Tom DeLay stays out of trouble. And I am more than willing to sit down with people of both parties to listen to their ideas. Today, I advanced some ideas of moving the process along. And the legislative process is just getting started, and I'm optimistic we'll get something done. Surely, we'll get somethingdone, I mean c'mon...

Q Is the poll troubling? This question is hilarious all by itself. I'm just going to leave it alone.

Bush: Polls? You know, if a President tries to govern based upon polls, you're kind of like a dog chasing your tail. If a President governs without polls, isn't that kind of like an ostrich with his head in the ground? I don't think you can make good, sound decisions based upon polls. Who wants to govern according to what the people think? Polls are ridiculous. And I don't think the American people want a President who relies upon polls and focus groups to make decisions for the American people. The American people want to be left alone so they can watch NASCAR.

Social Security is a big issue, and it's an issue that we must address now. You see, the longer we wait, the more expensive the solution is going to be for a younger generation of Americans. The Social Security trustees have estimated that every year we wait to solve the problem, to fix the hole in the safety net for younger Americans costs about $600 billion. And so my message to Congress is -- to Congress is, let's do our duty. Sounds like a plan. Let's come together to get this issue solved.Righty-o then.


Q Your top military officer, General Richard Myers, says the Iraqi insurgency is as strong now as it was a year ago. Why is that the case? And why haven't we been more successful in limiting the violence?

Bush: I think he went on to say we're winning, if I recall. For his sake, he'd better have told you we were winning. But nevertheless, there are still some in Iraq who aren't happy with democracy. Such as the ones being killed in its name. They want to go back to the old days of tyranny and darkness, torture chambers and mass graves. I believe we're making really good progress in Iraq, because the Iraqi people are beginning to see the benefits of a free society. They're beginning -- they saw a government formed today.

Yadda yadda yadda, 'terrorism is bad' yadda yadda. Next question.

Gregory. David Gregory.

Q Thank you, sir. Mr. President, recently the head of the Family Research Council said that judicial filibusters are an attack against people of faith. And I wonder whether you believe that, in fact, that is what is nominating [sic] Democrats who oppose your judicial choices? And I wonder what you think generally about the role that faith is playing, how it's being used in our political debates right now?

Bush: I think people are opposing my nominees because they don't like the judicial philosophy of the people I've nominated. I can't imagine why, though. Some would like to see judges legislate from the bench. That's not my view of the proper role of a judge. The real proper role of the judge is to agree with me.

Speaking about judges, I certainly hope my nominees get an up or down vote on the floor of the Senate. They deserve an up or down vote. I think for the sake of fairness, these good people I've nominated should get a vote. And I'm hoping that will be the case as time goes on.Cos my nominees are real good nominees. I like em, my nominees. That's why I picked em. Cos I like em.

The role of religion in our society? I view religion as a personal matter.In fact it's so personal, that we might need to let it influence our government so everyone can see how personal it really is. I think a person ought to be judged on how he or she lives his life, or lives her life. And that's how I've tried to live my life, through example. Faith-based is an important part of my life, individually, but I don't -- I don't ascribe a person's opposing my nominations to an issue of faith. I'd like to think that my malapropisms and mad bombing schemes will influence the next generation. As long as you believe what I believe, you don't neccesarily need to ascribe to it, I'm pretty sure that costs extra.

Q Do you think that's an inappropriate statement? And what I asked is --

Bush: No, I just don't agree with it. I don't really know what you asked, but if you embarass me on national television it will be the last mistake of your career.

Q You don't agree with it.

Bush: No, I think people oppose my nominees because -- because of judicial philosophy. Drop it, please.

Q Sorry, I asked you what you think of the ways faith is being used in our political debates, not just in society -- YOu do remember the question right?

Bush: No, I know you asked me that. No, not really. Well, I can only speak to myself, (we wish you only spoke to yourself) and I am mindful that people in political office should not say to somebody, you're not equally American if you don't happen to agree with my view of religion. [It becomes painfully obvious that the man isnot very good at digging himself out of holes.] As I said, I think faith is a personal issue, and I get great strength from my faith. But I don't condemn somebody in the political process because they may not agree with me on religion.

The great thing about America, David, is that you should be allowed to worship any way you want, and if you choose not to worship, you're equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship. And if you choose to worship, you're equally American if you're a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim. That's the wonderful thing about our country, and that's the way it should be.


Q Good evening, Mr. President. Several times we've asked you or your aides what you could do about the high price of gasoline, and very often the answer has come back, Congress needs to pass the energy bill. Can you explain for us how, if it were passed, soon after it were introduced, the energy bill would have an effect on the current record price of oil that we're seeing out there?

Bush: John, actually I said in my opening statement that the best way to affect the current price of gasoline is to encourage producing nations to put more crude oil on the market. John, actually I have no idea what the hell I'm saying. That's the most effective way, because the price of crude oil determines, in large measure, the price of gasoline. The feed stock for gasoline is crude oil, and when crude oil goes up the price of gasoline goes up. There are other factors, by the way, that cause the price of gasoline to go up, but the main factor is the price of crude oil. And if we can get nations that have got some excess capacity to put crude on the market, the increased supply, hopefully, will meet increased demand, and therefore, take the pressure off price.

Yadda yadda yadda "crude oil is expensive, and we are broke" Yadda yadda. Next question.


Q So am I reading correctly that the energy bill would not have had an effect on today's high gasoline --

Bush: Well, it would have 10 years ago. That's exactly what I've been saying to the American people -- 10 years ago if we'd had an energy strategy, we would be able to diversify away from foreign dependence. If we go back in time and pass an energy bill, everything will be just dandy. And -- but we haven't done that. And now we find ourselves in the fix we're in. It's taken us a while to get there, and it's going to take us a while to get out. Hopefully, additional crude oil on the market from countries with some spare capacity will help relieve the price for the American consumers.


Q Mr. President, your State Department has reported that terrorist attacks around the world are at an all-time high. If we're winning the war on terrorism, as you say, how do you explain that more people are dying in terrorist attacks on your watch than ever before?

Bush: Well, we've made the decision to defeat the terrorists abroad so we don't have to face them here at home. And when you engage the terrorists abroad, it causes activity and action. And we're relentless. Trans: We're stubborn. We, the -- America --DON'T FORGET POLAND!-- and our coalition partners (who happen to be rapidly diminishing in number). We understand the stakes, and they're very high because there are people still out there that would like to do harm to the American people.

Yadda yadda yadda "we're making progress" yadda yadda. Next question.

Q So in the near-term you think there will be more attacks and more people dying?

Bush: I'm not going to predict that.Wouldn't be hilarious if he said yes, though? In the near-term I can only tell you one thing: we will stay on the offense; we'll be relentless (read: stubborn); we'll be smart about how we go after the terrorists; we'll use our friends and allies to go after the terrorists; we will find them where they hide and bring them to justice. I seem to remember you saying this somewhere before... perhaps preceeding the phrase "dead or alive"?

Let me finish with the TV people first. They're the only ones with power, you know. Suzanne. You're not a TV person, Ed -- I know you'd like to be, but -- (laughter.)

Q You'd be surprised. (Laughter.)

Bush It's a tough industry to get into.

Q Mr. President, it was four years ago when you fist met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. You said you looked into his eyes and you saw his soul. You'll also be meeting with the Russian leader in about a week or so. What kind of romantic remark do you intend to make this time? What do you think of Putin now that he has expressed a willingness to supply weapons to outlaw regimes, specifically his recent comments that he said he would provide short-range missiles to Syria and nuclear components to Iran?

Bush: We have -- first, just on a broader -- kind of in a broader sense, I had a long talk with Vladimir there in Slovakia about democracy and about the importance of democracy. Democracy tends to be important by nature, doesn't it? And as you remember, at the press conference -- or if you weren't there, somebody will remember -- he stood up and said he strongly supports democracy. I take him for his word.

I -- and we'll continue to work. Condi just -- Condi Rice, our Secretary of State, No, the other Condi just came back and she briefed me that she had a very good discussion with Vladimir about the merits of democracy, about the need to listen to the people and have a government that's responsive.

Yadda yadda yadda "Russians are our friends" yadda yadda. Next question.


Q Mr. President, have you asked your ambassador to the U.N., Ambassador John Bolton, about allegations that he acted improperly to subordinates? Do you feel that these allegations warrant your personal intervention? And if they're true, do you feel that they should disqualify him from holding the post, sir? Trans: C'mon man, Bolton's kind of an ass, you gotta admit...

THE PRESIDENT: Well, John Bolton has been asked the questions about -- about how he handles his business by members of the United States Senate. He's been asked a lot of questions and he's given very good answers. John Bolton is a seasoned diplomat. He's been serving our country for, I think, 20 years. He has been confirmed by the United States Senate four times. In other words, he's been up before the Senate before and they've analyzed his talents and his capabilities and they've confirmed him. Trans: He may be an ass, but he's a hard ass.

John Bolton is a blunt guy. Sometimes people say I'm a little too blunt.[half the nation keels over in laughter] John Bolton can get the job done at the United Nations. By bringing in a wrecking ball, perhaps. It seemed like to me it makes sense to put somebody who's capable, smart, served our country for 20 years, been confirmed by the United States Senate four times, and who isn't afraid to speak his mind in the post of the ambassador to the U.N. My only mistake in nominating Bolton was forgetting that he hates the U.N. Oops.

See, the U.N. needs reform. If you're interested in reforming the U.N., like I'm interested in reforming the U.N., it makes sense to put somebody who's skilled and who is not afraid to speak his mind at the United Nations. Putting an anti-U.N. cronie in the U.N. made sense at the time. Looking back... not so much.

Yadda yadda yadda "Bolton's a good guy." yadda yadda. Next question.

Stretch. You mind if I call you Stretch in front of --

Q I've been called worse.

Bush: Okay.

Q Getting back to Social Security for a moment, sir, would you consider it a success if Congress were to pass a piece of legislation that dealt with the long-term solvency problem, but did not include personal accounts?

Bush: I feel strongly that there needs to be voluntary personal savings accounts as a part of the Social Security system. I mean, it's got to be a part of a comprehensive package. [We fall asleep] The reason I feel strongly about that is that we've got a lot of debt out there, a lot of unfunded liabilities, and our workers need to be able to earn a better rate of return on our money to help deal with that debt.

Secondly, I like the idea of giving someone ownership. I mean, why should ownership be confined only to rich people? Why should people not be allowed to own and manage their own assets who aren't the, you know, the so-called investor class? I think everybody ought to be given that right. As a matter of fact, Congress felt so strongly that people ought to be able to own and manage their own accounts, they set one up for--- [We wake up and realize this is all an elaborate cop-out. Next question.]


Q Mr. President, in your question -- your answer before about Iraq, you set no benchmarks for us to understand when it is the troops may be able to --

Bush: In Iraq? Iraq? Are we still over there? Maaaan!

Q In Iraq, yes -- about when troops may be able to come back.

Bush: Right. Aw jeez.

Q Based on what you've learned now in two years of fighting the insurgency and trying to train the Iraqi security forces, can you say that within the next year you think you could have very substantial American withdrawal of troops?

Bush: David, I know there's a temptation to try to get me to lay out a timetable, and as you know, during the campaign and -- I'll reiterate it -- I don't think it's wise for me to set out a timetable. That would require me to tell the truth. All that will do is cause an enemy to adjust. Instead of continuing to wail into our troops who are disheartenedby a lack of a timetable. So my answer is, as soon as possible. And "as soon as possible" depends upon the Iraqis being able to fight and do the job.

I had a good video conference recently with General Casey and General Petreaus -- General Casey is in charge of the theater; General Petreaus, as you know, is in charge of training -- and they we're upbeat about what they're seeing with the Iraqi troops. One of the questions I like to ask is, are they able to recruit. In other words, you hear -- you see these killers will target recruiting stations, and I've always wondered whether or not that has had an effect on the ability for the Iraqis to draw their fellow citizens into the armed forces. Recruitment is high. It's amazing, isn't it, that people want to serve, they want their country to be free? It's amazing what people will do for a couple thousand a year, isn't it?

The other question that -- one of the other issues that is important is the equipping issue, and the equipment is now moving quite well. We've moved from "hillbilly armor" to "white trash armor". It's a step in the right direction. In other words, troops are becoming equipped.

Yadda yadda yadda "Try on these rose-colored glasses ,they work wonderfully!" Yadda yadda.

Go ahead; I can see you've got a follow-up right there on the tip of your tongue.

Q Do you feel that the number of troops that you've kept there is limiting your options elsewhere in the world? Just today you had the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency say that he was now concerned that the North Koreans, for example, could put a weapon, a nuclear weapon on a missile that could reach Japan or beyond. Do you feel, as you are confronting these problems, the number of troops you've left tied up in Iraq is limiting your options to go beyond the diplomatic solutions that you described for North Korea and Iran?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I appreciate that question. No. You. Don't.The person to ask that to, the person I ask that to, at least, is to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, my top military advisor. I say, do you feel that we've limited our capacity to deal with other problems because of our troop levels in Iraq? And the answer is, no, he doesn't feel we're limited. He feels like we've got plenty of capacity.

You mentioned the Korean Peninsula. We've got good capacity in Korea. We traded troops for new equipment, as you know; we brought some troop -- our troop levels down in South Korea, but replaced those troops with more capacity. Let me talk about North Korea, if you don't mind. Is that your question?

Q Go right ahead. (Laughter.)

Bush: I'm surprised you didn't ask it. (Laughter.)

Look, Kim Jong-Il is a dangerous person. He's as man who starves his people. He's got huge concentration camps. And, as David accurately noted, there is concern about his capacity to deliver a nuclear weapon. Whereas our ability to deliver thousands of nuclear weapons, not concerning in the least. We don't know if he can or not, but I think it's best when you're dealing with a tyrant like Kim Jong-Il to assume he can. Which is why we assume everyone's got WMDs, because it's just best to do that kind of thing while risking the lives of thousands and thousands of people.

That's why I've decided that the best way to deal with this diplomatically is to bring more leverage to the situation by including other countries. Oh goody! Another Coalition of the Willing! Call up Poland! It used to be that it was just America dealing with North Korea. And when Kim Jong-Il would make a move that would scare people, everybody would say, America, go fix it. What are we, the global police or something? I felt it -- it didn't work. In other words, the bilateral approach didn't work. The man said he was going to do something and he didn't do it, for starters. Tends to be a common trait in politicians.

So I felt a better approach would be to include people in the neighborhood, (we just need people from our neighborhood to fend off this group of folks.) into a consortium to deal with him. And it's particularly important to have China involved. China has got a lot of influence in North Korea. We went down to Crawford with Jiang Zemin, and it was there that Jiang Zemin and I issued a statement saying that we would work for a nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula.

And so when Kim Jong-Il announced the other day about his nuclear intentions and weapons, it certainly caught the attention of the Chinese because they had laid out a policy that was contradicted by Kim Jong-Il, and it's helpful to have the Chinese leadership now involved with him. It's more -- it's better to have more than one voice sending the same message to Kim Jong-Il. The best way to deal with this issue diplomatically is to have five other (oops, Canada backed out. So I guess it's only...)-- four other nations beside ourselves dealing with him. And we'll continue to do so.

Finally, as you know, I have instructed Secretary Rumsfeld -- and I work with Congress (Uh, I'm the President. It's what I do.)-- Secretary Rumsfeld has worked with Congress to set up a missile defense system. And we're in the process of getting that missile defense system up and running. One of the reasons why I thought it was important to have a missile defense system is for precisely the reason that you brought up, that perhaps Kim Jong-Il has got the capacity to launch a weapon, and wouldn't it be nice to be able to shoot it down. I think it'd be real nice if we could do that. And so we've got a comprehensive strategy in dealing with him.

Ed, yes.

Q Mr. President, good evening.

Bush: Yes. Well, actually, it's a little chilly out, and it drizzled a little earlier, my suit was late coming back from the cleaners... oh, but go ahead.

Q Sir, you've talked all around the country about the poisonous partisan atmosphere here in Washington. I wonder why do you think that is? And do you personally bear any responsibility in having contributed to this atmosphere?

THE PRESIDENT: "Partisan atmosphere," you say? If I have anythng to say about it, we won't have any atmosphere at all in a couple'a years. I'm sure there are some people that don't like me. Some? You know, Ed, I don't know. I've thought long and hard about it. (read: "all of five minutes") I was -- I've been disappointed. I felt that people could work -- work together in good faith. It's just a lot of politics in the town. I don't know why that is, it's only the capital of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! It's kind of a zero-sum attitude. We can't -- we can't cooperate with so-and-so because it may make their party look good, and vice-versa.

Although having said that, we did have some success in the education bill. Without making anyone look good. We certainly came together as a country after September the 11th. Um yea, tends to happen after the largest terrorist attack in American history... I appreciate the strong bipartisan support for supporting our troops in harm's way. Just where I left em! There's been a lot of instances of bipartisanship, but when you bring a tough issue up like Social Security, it -- sometimes people divide into camps.

I'm proud of my party. Our party has been the party of ideas. Screw the bipartisan atitude, U.S. 'Publican Party Rules! We said, here's a problem, and here's some ideas as to how to fix it. And as I've explained to some people, I don't want to politicize this issue -- people say, you didn't need to bring this up, Mr. President, it may cost you politically. I don't think so. Politically speaking, I'm already broke, so what the hell? I think the American people appreciate somebody bringing up tough issues, particularly when they understand the stakes: the system goes broke in 2041. [cue "Jaws" theme]

In 2027, for those listening, (not many of us, at this point) we'll be obligated to pay $200 billion more dollars a year than we take in, in order to make sure the baby boomers get the benefits they've been promised. In other words, this is a serious problem, and the American people expect us to put our politics aside and get it done.

You know, I can't answer your question as to why. I'll continue to do my best. I've tried to make sure the dialogue is elevated. I don't believe I've resorted to name-calling here in Washington, D.C. ('Flip-flopper'... ahem, doesn't count.) I find that to not be productive. But I also understand the mind of the American people. They're wondering what's going on. They're wondering why we can't come together and get an energy bill, for example. They're wondering why we can't get Social Security done. And my pledge to the American people is, I'll continue to work hard to -- with people of both parties and share credit, and give people the benefit of the credit when we get something done.

Yes, sir.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Just to follow up on Ed's question, we like to remind you that you came to Washington hoping to change the tone, and yet, here we are, three months into your second term and you seem deadlocked with Democrats on issues like Bolton, DeLay, judges. Is there any danger that the atmosphere is becoming so poisoned, or that you're spending so much political capital that it could imperil your agenda items like Social Security, energy?

Bush: I don't think so, Bill. Yea, pretty much. I think when it's all said and done, we're going to get a lot done. Just not any time soon. I mean, after all, one of the issues that people have been working on for a long time is class-action lawsuit reform, and I signed that bill. An issue that people have been working on for a long time is bankruptcy law reform, and I signed that bill. Come to think of it, I sign a lot of bills for some reason... And the House got an energy bill out recently, and I talked to Senator Domenici the other day and he's upbeat about getting a bill out pretty quickly and get it to conference and get the issues resolved.

I'm pretty aware of what the issues might be that will hang up a conference, (uh, all the one's you suggest?) and I think we can get those issues resolved. We're more than willing to help out. So I do believe I'll get an energy bill by August.

There's a budget agreement, and I'm grateful for that. In other words, we are making progress. No question the Social Security issue is a big issue, but it's -- as I said before, we hadn't talked about this issue for 20 years. And they thought we had it fixed 20 years -- 22 years ago, for 75 years, and here we are, 22 years later (yea, you know what, there's a bunch of numbers involved, and I'm thinking of one of them, just can't figure out which) after the fix, talking about it again. And it's serious business. If you're a grandmother or a grandfather listening, you're going to get your check. But your grandchildren are going to have a heck of a price to bear if we don't get something done now.

You see, it's possible if nothing gets done that the payroll taxes will go up to some 18 percent. Imagine that for your children and grandchildren, living in a society where payroll taxes are up at 18 percent. Or there will be dramatic benefit cuts as time goes on. Now is the time to get it done. And my pledge to the American people is that I'm going to stay on this issue because I know it's important for you.


Q Yes, Mr. President. You had talked about North Korea and you mentioned that the six-party talks allow you to bring extra leverage to the table. But do you think they're working, given North Korea's continued threats and the continuing growth of their nuclear stockpile?

Q And how long do you let it go before you go to the U.N.?

Bush: No, I appreciate that question. One begins to realize he says this about all the questions he hates. I do think it's making a difference to have... YAWN! Next question.


Q Mr. President, under the law, how would you justify the practice of renditioning, where U.S. agents who brought terror suspects abroad, taking them to a third country for interrogation? And would you stand for it if foreign agents did that to an American here?

Bush: That's a hypothetical, Mark. We operate within the law and we send people to countries where they say they're not going to torture the people. And we... take them at their word? Somehow this looked better on paper...

But let me say something: the United States government has an obligation to protect the American people. It's in our country's interests to find those who would do harm to us and get them out of harm's way. And we will do so within the law, and we will do so in honoring our commitment not to torture people. And we expect the countries where we send somebody to, not to torture, as well. But you bet, when we find somebody who might do harm to the American people, we will detain them and ask others from their country of origin to detain them. It makes sense. The American people expect us to do that. We -- we still at war. Ugh, still?

One of my -- I've said this before to you, I'm going to say it again, one of my concerns after September the 11th is the farther away we got from September the 11th, the more relaxed we would all become and assume that there wasn't an enemy out there ready to hit us. But there is ALWAYS someone out to get us! BEWARE! And I just can't let the American people -- I'm not going to let them down by assuming that the enemy is not going to hit us again. We're going to do everything we can to protect us. And we've got guidelines. We've got law. But you bet, Mark, we're going to find people before they harm us.

John McKinnon.

Q Yes, sir. I'd just like to ask, simply, what's your view of the economy right now? First-quarter growth came in weaker than expected, there have been worries about inflation and lower spending by consumers. Are these basically just bumps in the road, in your opinion, or are they reasons for some real concern and could they affect your agenda on Social Security?

Bush: I appreciate that, John. I rest my case. I am concerned about the economy because our small business owners and families are paying higher prices-- Sigh, economy talk? Skip it.

Let's see here. Richard. (Laughter.) There is somebody with a bad throat back there. (Laughter.)

Q Mr. President, you've made No Child Left Behind a big part of your education agenda. The nation's largest teachers union has filed suit against it, saying it's woefully inadequately funded. What's your response to that? And do you think that No Child Left Behind is working?

Bush Yes, I think it's working. It's only educators and parents who say it's not working. And the reason why I think it's working is because we're measuring, and the measurement is showing progress toward teaching people how to read and write and add and subtract. I read somewhere that these type of things are important. Listen, the whole theory behind No Child Left Behind is this: if we're going to spend federal money, we expect the states to show us whether or not we're achieving simple objectives -- like literacy, literacy in math, the ability to read and write. And, yes, we're making progress. And I can say that with certainty because we're measuring, Richard.

Look, I'm a former governor, I believe states ought to control their own destiny when it comes to schools. They are by far the biggest funder of education, and it should remain that way. But we spend a lot of money here at the federal level and have increased the money we spend here quite dramatically at the federal level. And we changed the policy: instead of just spending money and hope for the best, we're now spending money and saying, measure.

And some people don't like to measure. But if you don't measure, how do you know whether or not you've got a problem in a classroom? I believe it's best to measure early and correct problems early, before it's too late. That's why as a part of the No Child Left Behind Act we had money available for remedial education. In other words, we said we're going to measure, and when we detect someone who needs extra help, that person will get extra help.

But, absolutely, it's a good piece of legislation. I will do everything I can to prevent people from unwinding it, by the way.

Q What about the lawsuit? Which --

Bush: Well, I don't know about the lawsuit; I choose to ignore anything that so much as hints I am not perfect. I'm not a lawyer. But, you know, I'll ask my lawyers about the lawsuit. But I know some people are trying to unwind No Child Left Behind. I've heard some states say, well, we don't like it. Well, you know, my attitude about not liking it is this: If you teach a child to read and write, it shouldn't bother you whether you measure. That's all we're asking.

The system for too long had just shuffled children through and just hoped for the best. And guess what happened? We had people graduating from high school who were illiterate take me for example... -- and that's just not right in America. It wasn't working. And so I came to Washington and worked with both Republicans and Democrats -- this is a case where bipartisanship was really working well. And we said, look, we're going to spend more money at the federal level. But the federal government, what, spends about 7 percent of the total education budgets around the country.

Shameless defense of a policy that isn't working. Skip it.

Okay. Mr. Knox.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I want to make sure I understand your answer to Mike about North Korea. He asked you how long you were prepared to let the multiparty talks proceed, in the face of what might be a gathering threat from North Korea, and you said, how long -- I'm paraphrasing -- how long we let it go on is dependent on our consensus among ourselves --

Bush: Yes.

Q Did you mean to say that you will neither refer North Korea to the U.N. for sanctions, nor take military action unless you have the agreement of all the other partners abroad?

Bush: No, I didn't speak about military -- I'm speaking about diplomatically. And secondly, yes, we've got partners. This is a six-party talk; five of us on the side of convincing Kim Jong-Il to get rid of his nuclear weapons, and obviously, Kim Jong-il believes he ought to have some. And my point was that it is best -- if you have a group of people trying to achieve the same objective, it's best to work with those people, it's best to consult.

More N. Korea blather

Final question. Hutch. I don't want to cut into some of these TV shows that are getting ready to air. (Laughter.) For the sake of the economy. (Laughter.)

Q I wanted to ask you about your ideas -- Here we go...

Bush: Is that all right? Go ahead, Hutch. Sorry.

Q I wanted to ask you about your ideas on dealing with Social Security solvency problems. As I understand it -- I know you'll tell me if I'm wrong -- the benefits would be equal to what -- at least equal to what they are today, and then any increase in benefits would be indexed according to income, with lower-income people getting bigger increases. Two things on that: Today's benefits probably won't mean much somewhere down the road; and how far are you going to go with this means-based program? Are you talking about --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I appreciate that. The "appreciation" bit is definitely a dead giveaway for hatred.

Q -- where a rich person, say, Dick Cheney, wouldn't get much out of it?

THE PRESIDENT: OH NO HE DIDN'T! Now, wait a minute, don't get personal here, Hutch. You're on national TV; that's a cheap shot. First of all, in terms of the definition of who would get -- whose benefits would rise faster and whose wouldn't, that's going to be a part of the negotiation process with the United States Congress. There's a -- a Democrat economist had a very -- he put forth this idea and he had a level of -- I think 30 percent of the people would be considered to be in a lower-income scale. WHAM! AND BUSH IS DOWN FOR THE COUNT. HUTCH REALLY HIT HIM WHERE IT HURTS ON THAT ONE, BOB.

But this is to be negotiated. This is a part of the negotiation process. My job is to lay out an idea that I think will make the system more fair.

And the second question -- or the first question --

Q It's a means-based program where the real wealthy people might not get very much out of it.

Bush: It is -- that's right. I mean, obviously, it is means base when you're talking about lower-income versus wealthier income. The lower-income people's benefits would rise faster. And the whole goal would be to see to it that nobody retired in poverty. Somebody who has worked all their life and paid in the Social Security system would not retire into poverty. Extremely long cop-out ot follow. Skip it.


If you have a personal savings account, a voluntary personal savings account, and your -- and you die early, (Cos you see, there are early diers, late diers, and some people die just on time.) that's an asset you can leave to your spouse or to your children. That's an important thing for our fellow citizens to understand. The system today is not fair, particularly if the spouse has died early, and this will help remedy that.

Listen, thank you all for your interest. It's not common fopr a group of reporters to be interested in the news, so thanks for breaking trend and coming out tonight. God bless our country. And nobody else! Yeeehaw!

Phrase of the Night: "For the sake of fairness"

(Cross posted at BNN)