The independent news organization of Duke University

There wolf. There castle.

Why are you talking that way?
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'I think the American people--I hope the American--I don"t think, let me--I hope the American people trust me.' --Washington, D.C., Dec. 18, 2002
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It"s difficult to trust someone that you don"t know.

A presidential press conference is the one time that the American public has the chance to see how competent its president really is. The chance to see him react to questions that he has not asked, the chance to hear him speak on his own, without the help of a written speech. The chance to see his mind work. The chance to see how the person that we have elected to make crucial decisions under pressure can handle the pressure.
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The president has a chance to talk to the American public, and the American public has a chance to get to know its president.
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Gone are the days of fireside chats with FDR. In his first term, President George W. Bush averaged about one press conference every three months--fewer than any president since the invention of the radio. His disdain for open communication with the media, and by extension with the American public, however, is certainly not because of a lack of conviction.
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'I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe--I believe what I believe is right.' --Rome, July 22, 2001
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But what is it that he believes?
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'See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don"t attack each other. Free nations don"t develop weapons of mass destruction.' --Milwaukee, Wis., Oct. 3, 2003
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Brilliant.
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Perhaps his problem with communication is in the communicating itself. Bush has never claimed to be an elegant speaker. Many Americans find him endearing because of this very fact--because he is unpolished, because he is 'one of us,' because he doesn"t talk down to anyone. He can"t.
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Maybe he struggles with literacy.
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'[T]he illiteracy level of our children are appalling.' --Washington, D.C., Jan. 23, 2004
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'You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test."" --Townsend, Tenn., Feb. 21, 2001
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Literacy and grammar, you might argue, are two separate things. And perhaps a point would have been scored in your court if the president had not stated clearly on numerous occasions that he does not read the things handed to him.
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'I glance at the headlines just to kind of get a flavor for what"s moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves.' --Washington, D.C., Sept. 21, 2003
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And then there"s always this:
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'One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures.' -- Jan. 3, 2000
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Perhaps the problem Bush has with press conferences is that he genuinely does not understand their general nature: that reporters should be able to ask questions and that he be required to answer them.
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'[A]s you know, these are open forums, you"re able to come and listen to what I have to say.' --Washington, D.C., Oct. 28, 2003
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W. has never been fully comfortable with the idea of answering questions. When directly asked about matters of foreign policy, intelligence, social security, Bush tends to allude to his hopes for 'achieving our objectives' without really detailing what those objectives are.
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'My views are one that speaks to freedom.'--Washington, D.C., Jan. 29, 2004
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There was one time, however, that our president gave a direct, clear, explicit answer.
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'My answer is: bring them on.' --Washington, D.C., July 3, 2003
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Bush has kept the number of presidential press conferences to a minimum because he knows that he is not good at them. He does not respond well under the pressure of the critical eye of the liberal media. He was embarrassed when a reporter unexpectedly asked him what his biggest mistake was. He answered that he hadn"t thought about it. He doesn"t really think.
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'I"m also not very analytical. You know I don"t spend a lot of time thinking about myself, about why I do things.' --aboard Air Force One, June 4, 2003
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Maybe if someone asks him that question again, he can say that he is embarrassed that he ever told Iraqi militants to bring it on. Because I"m embarrassed for him.
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Perhaps Bush"s problem with communicating to the American public is that he just doesn"t feel as though he needs to be held accountable for anything.
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'I"m the commander--see, I don"t need to explain--I do not need to explain why I say things. That"s the interesting thing about being president.' --as quoted in Bob Woodward"s Bush at War
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And it"s also hard to establish trust and open communication when he occasionally lets things slip that aren"t exactly true.
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'We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories.... And we"ll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven"t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they"re wrong, we found them.' --Washington, D.C., May 30, 2003
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Call it a failure of intelligence.
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With a Republican majority ready to bend over backwards for the president, a secretary of state that is basically his parrot, a new attorney general that could be, unbelievably, less concerned about the law than the last one, and possible Supreme Court nominations, the situation is only going to get worse. Conservative, Republican and Christian ideology will continue to solidify. Jeb will be elected. Term limits eliminated. A dynasty established.
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'There"s an old saying in Tennessee--I know it"s in Texas, probably in Tennessee--that says, fool me once, shame on-shame on you. Fool me-you can"t get fooled again.' --Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002
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We were fooled once. And then we managed to fool--we can"t get fooled--shame on--us?

Eric Vivier is a Trinity senior. His column appears every other Friday.

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