Administration Coached Troops On What To Say To Bush, Then Lied About It
President Bush's teleconference Thursday with U.S. troops in Tikrit, tied to Saturday's vote on the new Iraqi constitution, was far from spontaneous.
It turns out that the teleconference was actually the latest example of the Bush Administration pre-screening questioners to create an event as staged as a Broadway show. As with other "town hall" meetings here in the U.S., it's clear the Bush Administration only wants to feign reality -- just in case the real thing proves to be too difficult.
How do we know about the "Tikrit deceit"? Because reporters caught the administration in the act.
Allison Barber, deputy assistant to the Secretary of Defense for internal communication, in a tape that aired on CNN, is seen discussing with troops questions that had been "drilled through today."
Worse, no one apparently told White House spokesman Scott McClellan that Barber had been caught on tape. Or more likely, McClellan knew, but chose to create one of those famous "alternate universes" during a second press briefing that day, when he continued to insist no pre-screening had occurred.
Let's take you step-by-step through the "Tikrit deceit":
STEP ONE: Lie at the White House press briefing.
Q: How were they selected, and are their comments to the president pre-screened, any questions or anything...
Q: Not at all?
MCCLELLAN: This is a back-and-forth.
-- Official pool report, Oct. 13
McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, I don't know what you're suggesting.
Q Well, they discussed the questions ahead of time. They were told exactly what the President would ask, and they were coached, in terms of who would answer what question, and how they would pass the microphone.
McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, are you suggesting that what our troops were saying was not sincere, or what they said was not their own thoughts?
Q Nothing at all. I'm just asking why it was necessary to coach them.
McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of the event earlier today, the event was set up to highlight an important milestone in Iraq's history, and to give the President an opportunity to, once again, express our appreciation for all that our troops are doing when it comes to defending freedom, and their courage and their sacrifice. And this is a satellite feed, as you are aware, and there are always technological challenges involved when you're talking with troops on a satellite feed like this. And I think that we worked very closely with the Department of Defense to coordinate this event. And I think all they were doing was talking to the troops and letting them know what to expect.
Q But we asked you specifically this morning if there would be any screening of questions or if they were being told in any way what they should say or do, and you indicated no.
McCLELLAN: I don't think that's what the question was earlier today. I think the question earlier today was asking if they could ask whatever they want, and I said, of course, the President was -- and you saw --
Q And I asked if they were pre-screened.
McCLELLAN: You saw earlier today the President was trying to engage in a back-and-forth with the troops. And I think it was very powerful what Lieutenant Murphy was saying at the end of that conversation, when he was talking about what was going on in January, how the American troops and coalition forces were in the lead when it came to providing security for the upcoming election, an election where more than eight million Iraqis showed up and voted. It was a great success.
And he talked about how this time, when we had the preparations for the upcoming referendum this Saturday, you have Iraqi forces that are in the lead, and the Iraqi forces are the ones that are doing the planning and preparing and taking the lead to provide for their own security as they get ready to cast their ballots again.
Q But I also asked this morning, were they being told by their commanders what to say or what to do, and you indicated, no. Was there any prescreening of --
McCLELLAN: I'm not aware of any such -- any such activities that were being undertaken. We coordinated closely with the Department of Defense. You can ask if there was any additional things that they did. But we work very closely with them to coordinate these events, and the troops can ask the President whatever they want. They've always been welcome to do that.
"President Bush will be in Rochester, N.Y., for an upcoming event and has called on WIPP for help," said the memo to New York-area members, which was leaked to the Los Angeles Times for a May 20 story.