White House under siege: Will pointed questions burst Bush bubble?
White House Press Secretary Dana Perino fled from the briefing room on Wednesday after just eleven minutes, leaving more than one reporter frustrated and unable to ask a question. Although this was my fourth visit in a row in which Dana or her deputy Tony Fratto have refused to call on me (I went in Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of last week as well), yesterday was the first time that other reporters were left hanging too.
I'm not sure why this time was different. Maybe she was rattled by Helen Thomas, who asked, more or less, the question I wasn't permitted to ask the previous Wednesday and Friday:
Q The President has said publicly several times, in two consecutive news conferences a few months ago, and you have said over and over again, we do not torture. Now he has admitted that he did sign off on torture, he did know about it. So how do you reconcile this credibility gap?
MS. PERINO: Helen, you're taking liberties with what the President said. The United States has not, is not torturing any detainees in the global war on terror. And General Hayden, amongst others, has spoken on Capitol Hill fully in this regard, and it is -- I'll leave it where it is. The President is accurate in saying what he said.
...Q You're denying, in this room, that we torture and we have tortured?
MS. PERINO: Yes, I am denying that.
Helen then turned in her seat, looked at her colleagues, shook her head in disgust, and asked sadly: "Where is everybody? For God's sakes!"
I was waving my hand, but I'm ashamed that at that point I didn't jump in with my version of the question:
"The President admitted that he knew about and approved of meetings at which Vice President Cheney and other top national security officials authorized the waterboarding of prisoners. Senator John McCain has said that waterboarding is torture. Is Senator McCain wrong?"
The other question I wanted to ask today was about the Pentagon's use of TV military analysts as sock puppets. My unasked question:
"The NY Times has described a Pentagon propaganda operation that provided talking points and extraordinary access to supposedly independent TV military analysts in exchange for positive coverage, while withdrawing that access from critics. Are those appropriate activities for a governmental agency?"
I'm working up my nerve. Maybe next time instead of raising my hand like a good little boy, I'll just shout it out.
The preceding article was a White House report from Eric Brewer, who will periodically attend White House press briefings for Raw Story. Brewer is also a contributor at BTC News. He was the first person to ask about the Downing Street memo at a White House briefing.