And where is the yellowcake road? George Bush gave a speech in Kansas today to an audience full of tears of gratitude and hero-worship. I don't think he wore those ruby slippers today, but he did stay ninety minutes and answered a large number of very friendly and gentle questions.
He told us that he has the right to wiretap to his heart's content:
In his remarks, Bush said that allowing the National Security Agency to monitor the international phone calls and e-mails of Americans with suspected ties to terrorists can hardly be considered "domestic spying."
"It's what I would call a terrorist surveillance program," Bush said at Kansas State. "If they're making a phone call in the United States, it seems like to me we want to know why."
He said he "had all kinds of lawyers review the process" to ensure it didn't violate civil liberties or the law.
And he insisted that a recent Supreme Court decision backs his contention that he had the authority to order the program through a resolution Congress passed after the 2001 terrorist attacks that lets him use force in the anti-terror fight.
"I'm not a lawyer, but I can tell you what it means: It means Congress gave me the authority to use necessary force to protect the American people, but it didn't prescribe the tactics," Bush said.
And no, the questions from the audience were not pre-screened! Of course not! It just happened that they were almost all friendly ones:
The White House portrayed the freewheeling question-and-answer session before about 9,000 people in the school's basketball arena as an example of Bush's comfort with being challenged on any topic. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the questions were not prescreened although they turned out to be friendly.
But the event was not open to the public — and the chosen locale was in the heart of Bush-friendly territory in this reliably Republican state. About 6,000 tickets were distributed to students by the university and 800 went to soldiers from nearby Fort Riley who just returned from Iraq.
Potemkin was the guy who rode ahead of the Russian empress to build up stage villages so that Catherine the Great would not find out how the poor really lived. This has nothing to do with anything...
As the inimitable Wolcott says:
The questions were not only fluffy and inane (one even asked if he had seen Brokeback Mountain), but they were often prefaced by obsequious tribute. "Mr. President, as chairperson of the local horticulture society, I want thank you for your aggressive stance on terrorism and on keeping Americans safe." This is not how you stress the urgency of renewing the Patriot Act, neither does blathering about your exercise regimen and comparing your knees to bald tires. This media event was a fascimile version of the Social Security barnstorm tour, and you would have thought the White House would have learned its lesson from that zigzag trip to nowhere.
Where is Potemkin when you need him?