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Monday, December 19, 2005

Term II: The President Strikes Back

It was excellent speech and a strong press conference, even with Bush's less than stellar public speaking skills.

Watch the Oval Office Address on Iraq here, transcript here. My favorite tidbits:

The terrorists do not merely object to American actions in Iraq and elsewhere -- they object to our deepest values and our way of life. And if we were not fighting them in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Southeast Asia and in other places, the terrorists would not be peaceful citizens -- they would be on the offense, and headed our way.

September 11th, 2001 required us to take every emerging threat to our country seriously, and it shattered the illusion that terrorists attack us only after we provoke them. On that day, we were not in Iraq, we were not in Afghanistan, but the terrorists attacked us anyway -- and killed nearly 3,000 men, women, and children in our own country.

My conviction comes down to this: we do not create terrorism by fighting the terrorists. We invite terrorism by ignoring them. And we will defeat the terrorists by capturing and killing them abroad, removing their safe havens and strengthening new allies like Iraq and Afghanistan in the fight we share.

Watch the Press Conference here, transcript here. My favorite tidbits:
Q Thank you, Mr. President. So many questions, so little time.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, keep your question short, then. (Laughter.)

Q Thank you, Mr. President. If you believe that present law needs to be faster, more agile concerning the surveillance of conversations from someone in the United States to someone outside the country --

THE PRESIDENT: Right.

Q -- why, in the four years since 9/11, has your administration not sought to get changes in the law instead of bypassing it, as some of your critics have said?

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that. First, I want to make clear to the people listening that this program is limited in nature to those that are known al Qaeda ties and/or affiliates. That's important. So it's a program that's limited, and you brought up something that I want to stress, and that is, is that these calls are not intercepted within the country. They are from outside the country to in the country, or vice versa. So in other words, this is not a -- if you're calling from Houston to L.A., that call is not monitored. And if there was ever any need to monitor, there would be a process to do that.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I wonder if you can tell us today, sir, what, if any, limits you believe there are or should be on the powers of a President during a war, at wartime? And if the global war on terror is going to last for decades, as has been forecast, does that mean that we're going to see, therefore, a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I disagree with your assertion of "unchecked power."

Q Well --

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on a second, please. There is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law, for starters. There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time, and on this program, to suggest there's unchecked power is not listening to what I'm telling you. I'm telling you, we have briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times. This is an awesome responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the American people, and I understand that, Peter. And we'll continue to work with the Congress, as well as people within our own administration, to constantly monitor programs such as the one I described to you, to make sure that we're protecting the civil liberties of the United States. To say "unchecked power" basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the President, which I strongly reject.

Q What limits do you --

THE PRESIDENT: I just described limits on this particular program, Peter. And that's what's important for the American people to understand. I am doing what you expect me to do, and at the same time, safeguarding the civil liberties of the country.

Q (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT: You see, I hope by now you've discovered something about me, that when I say we're not going to have artificial timetables of withdrawal, and/or try to get me out on a limb on what the troop levels will look like -- the answer to your question on troop levels is, it's conditions-based. We have an objective in Iraq, and as we meet those objectives, our commanders on the ground will determine the size of the troop levels. Nice try. End of your try.

THE PRESIDENT: It is inexcusable to say to the American people, we're going to be tough on terror, but take away the very tools necessary to help fight these people. And by the way, the [same] tools exist still to fight medical fraud, in some cases, or other -- drug dealers. But with the expiration of the Patriot Act, it prevents us from using them to fight the terrorists. Now, that is just unbelievable. And I'm going to continue talking about this issue and reminding the American people about the importance of the Patriot Act and how necessary it is for us in Washington, D.C. to do our job to protect you.

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