BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Teleconference

(Please pass this blog on to one new person today. Thanks)

Begging you to lock in today - and to READ. A lotta stuff, I know, but it's "Manufacturing Consent, 101."

Here we go.

By now, you've heard the big news. You may have even seen it:

Bush Teleconference With Soldiers Staged

For some reason, the press has decided to pull back the curtain.

"He's just a weird little man in striped pants!"

Maybe they're sick of the staged photo-ops:
WASHINGTON - It was billed as a CONVERSATION with U.S. troops, but the QUESTIONS President Bush asked on a teleconference call Thursday were CHOREOGRAPHED TO MATCH HIS GOALS FOR THE WAR IN IRAQ and Saturday's vote on a new Iraqi constitution.

"This is an important time," Allison Barber, deputy assistant defense secretary, said, COACHING THE SOLDIERS. "The president is looking forward to having just a conversation with you."
Now, you'll remember this little moment from yesterday's early morning White House Press gaggle with Scott "My Scotty"McClellan:
QUESTION: How were (the soldiers) selected, and are their comments to the president pre-screened, any questions or anything...


QUESTION: Not at all?

MCCLELLAN: This is a back-and-forth.
Obviously not.

(We'll come back to "Scotty" in a bit.)
Barber said the president was interested in three topics: the overall security situation in Iraq, security preparations for the weekend vote and efforts to train Iraqi troops.

As she spoke in Washington, a live shot of 10 soldiers from the Army's 42nd Infantry Division and one Iraqi soldier was beamed into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building from Tikrit — the birthplace of former Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein.

"I'm going to ask somebody to grab those two water bottles against the wall and move them out of the camera shot for me," Barber said.

A brief REHEARSAL ensued.

"OK, so let's just walk through this," Barber said. "Captain Kennedy, you answer the first question and you hand the mike to whom?"

"Captain Smith," Kennedy said.

"Captain. Smith? You take the mike and you hand it to whom?" she asked.

"Captain Kennedy," the soldier replied.

And so it went.

"If the question comes up about PARTNERING — how often do we train with the Iraqi military — who does he go to?" Barber asked.

"That's going to go to Captain Pratt," one of the soldiers said.
Got that?

Here's part of the actual transcript - so you can see how it went down. The order should be Kennedy, Smith, Pratt.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you some questions, Captain, if you don't mind.

One of the, you know, questions I have is about the pre-election operations, about what you've been doing, and what are the -- WHAT'S YOUR STRATEGY, and how do you think it's going for -- to make sure the people have a chance to vote.

By the way, you're in Tikrit, as I understand it, as well. It's kind of an interesting place to be. It's Saddam's old stomping grounds.

CAPTAIN KENNEDY: Good morning, Mr. President, from Tikrit. I'm Captain Brent Kennedy. To my right is Sergeant Major Akeel from the 5th Iraqi Army Division. We're working together here with the Iraqis in Task Force Liberty for the upcoming referendum. We're surging an operation, called Operation Saratoga, that includes the securing of over 1,250 polling sites. We're working right alongside with the Iraqis as they lead the way in securing these sites.

THE PRESIDENT: That's good. And so, like -- I mean, and so the vote is in less than 48 hours -- or about 48 hours, I guess. And so how do you -- how would -- are you confident? I mean, HOW DO YOU FEEL THE FIELD OPERATIONS ARE GOING?

CAPTAIN KENNEDY: Mr. President, I'm going to field that question to CAPTAIN SMITH.
Right on schedule. Enter Captain Smith.
THE PRESIDENT: I didn't want to give you -- I didn't want to throw you a hardball there, Captain.

CAPTAIN SMITH: Morning, Mr. President. I'm Captain Dave Smith from Grand Rapids , Michigan. I'm representing the 3rd Brigade Combat Team here in -- headquartered in Baqubah.


CAPTAIN SMITH: I work directly with the Iraqi army. I am responsible for coordinating all their security responses in our area of operations.

Sir, our Iraqi partners have been conducting battalion and Brigade-size operations since April. They have been planning and coordinating with other Iraqi security forces, such as the Iraqi police and local government agencies, preparing for this referendum. Sir, we as coalition forces, WE HAVE TAKEN A SUPPORTING ROLE only as they prepare to execute this referendum.

THE PRESIDENT: How are they doing? Give us an assessment. One of the things, Captain, that people in America want to know is, one, do the Iraqis want to fight, and are they capable of fighting. And maybe somebody can give us an appraisal.

CAPTAIN KENNEDY: Mr. President, I'm going to field that question to CAPTAIN PRATT.
And so it went.

It was painfully obvious - that the dudes were coached - and given Bushevik TALKING POINTS.

Like --
CAPTIAN PRATT: The Iraqi army and police services, along with coalition support, have conducted many and multiple exercises and rehearsals.

Blah blah blah.

It was impressive to me to see the cooperation and the communication that took place among the Iraqi forces. Along with the coalition's backing them, WE'LL HAVE A VERY SUCCESSFUL AND EFFECTIVE REFERENDUM VOTE.


CAPTAIN WILLIAMS: Sir, I was with my Iraqi counterpart in Tikrit, the city Tikrit last week, and he was going around, talking to the locals. And from what he told me that the locals told him, the Iraqi people are ready and eager to vote in this referendum.


SEARGENT LOMBARDO: I can tell you over the past 10 months we've seen a tremendous increase in the capabilities and the confidences of our Iraqi security force partners. We've been working side-by-side, training and equipping 18 Iraqi army battalions. Since we began our partnership, they have improved greatly, and they continue to develop and grow into sustainable forces.

Over the next month, we anticipate seeing at least one-third of those Iraqi forces conducting independent operations.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Lieutenant, thanks. It's been my honor. And, you know, I wish I could be there to see you face-to-face, to thank you personally.

It's probably a little early for me to go to Tikrit, but one of these days perhaps the situation will be such that I'll be able to get back to Iraq to not only thank our troops, but to thank those brave Iraqis who are standing strong in the face of these foreign fighters and these radicals that are trying to stop the march of freedom.

Now - you know I have zero beef with the soldiers who took part in this staged event. No one does. Those dudes were just doing THEIR JOB.

My with the White House...and their continued use of propaganda to MANUFACTURE CONSENT.

Which brings us back to yesterday's White House press conference.

Once again, the WH press corp WOKE UP and jumped all over Scott McClellan for lying about the teleconference.
Q: Scott, why did the administration feel it was necessary to coach the soldiers that the President talked to this morning in Iraq?


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.

MR. 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.

Right out of the gate -- McClellan is spinning.

Everyone knows the deal here -- but he's gonna push the idea that Bush was "having a conversation" with the soldiers becuase they were speaking "towards" each other.
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.

MR. 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.

MR. 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.
That was the point in the press conference where McClellan started to push "the point" of the teleconference.

And the point of the teleconference was to push White House talking points.

The talking points:

1. Last January's "election" in Iraq was a "huge success"

2. Big referendum this Saturday!

3. No, seriously, the Iraqi troops are involved in "providing their own security."

He pushed those points for the rest of the press conference, too.
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 --

MR. 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.


Q: All right. Let me get back to the President's encounter with the troops, if I can. You said that the choreography of this was because of a technological challenge involved in the satellite feed. Well, what does that mean?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm just saying that there -- you have delays and things like that when you have a satellite feed, and so, obviously, there's going to be some coordination going on when you're setting up an event like this.

Q: So the choreography --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you're missing the BROADER POINT of what this event was about. And what this event was about was to highlight an important milestone in the history of Iraq: THAT IS THE UPCOMING REFERENDUM.
Got that?

"You're missing the broader point because you're focusing on silly questions about whether or not this thing was staged! Who cares?! There's a referendum vote going down this weekend. Vote. Democracy? Hello?! Didn't you get the memo? We're making progress!"
MR. MCCLELLAN: The Iraqi people are going to be able to freely express themselves this weekend, once again, as they cast their vote for the constitution that was drafted by their elected leadership.


Q: So you're saying this was not a staged conversation for PR purposes?

MR. McCLELLAN: This is an event where there's coordination that goes on and we work closely with the Department of Defense. They worked to pull together some troops for the President to visit with and highlight important topics that are going on right now on the ground in Iraq.

The President is going to continue speaking out about what we're working to achieve in Iraq and he's going to continue talking about the vital mission that we're working to achieve there.

The stakes are high in Iraq.

This is right up there at the top of our list of priorities. As the President said in the remarks, his most solemn duty and the most solemn duty of our men and women in uniform, like those he was talking to, is the safety and security of the American people.

I just don't know if some are suggesting that what our troops were saying was not their own thoughts, BECAUSE IT CLEARLY WAS.
He's really splitting hairs here.

Everyone knows that the soldiers were given White House (and Defense Department) talking points and then coached. Sure, they may have "agreed" with those talking points, but that doesn't make them "their thoughts."

Scott is basically saying that...because those soldiers were "carrying" those thoughts in their heads...they "were" their thoughts.

Which is technically "correct."

And now...I've confused myself.
Q: Now, we all saw the event, so without getting into what the President said and what the troops said, can you just talk specifically to the choreography? Did the soldiers know what questions they would be asking? Did they --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I really can't.

Because we coordinate this with the Department of Defense, and you might want to direct questions to the Department of Defense, because when we do these events -- we appreciate all the help that they provide -- the Department of Defense takes the lead in terms of pulling some troops together so that we can do events like this.

Q So you, personally, do not know if those soldiers rehearsed their answers before they were on air, live?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, my understanding is that someone from the Department of Defense was talking to them ahead of time.

But I don't know -- I was with the President, so --

Q Can you find out what the answer is?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think you might want to talk to the Department of Defense.
Producers on reality shows (and even game shows) do this stuff everyday.

They talk to "the talent" ahead of time.


Here's how it goes down:

PRODUCER: Okay. I'm gonna ask you guys some questions. Answer me as quickly as possible. I'm just looking for the first thing that pops into your head. Okay?

BACHELOR #1: 'Kay.

PRODUCER: Bachelor #1, complete this sentence. 'This might sound funny but...'"

BACHELOR #1: Uh...uh...USC is gonna crush Notre Dame this weekend.

PRODUCER: Oka. Okay, that's good. Good. You like football, right?

BACHELOR #1: Yeah.

PRODUCER: Okay. So I'm guessing that a fun date would for you would be a football game followed by a good dinner? That's paradise, right?

BACHELOR #1: Yeah. I guess.

PRODUCER: Okay. Great. So when the Bachelorette asks you to complete that sentence, why don't you say, 'I've got two tickets to paradise, pack your bags...we'll leave tonight." Okay?

BACHLEOR #1: What?

PRODUCER: Great. Here we go. "Bachelor #1, complete this sentence. 'This might sound funny but...'"

BACHELOR #1: Uh, I've got two tickets to paradise?

PRODUCER: Anything else?

BACHELOR #1: Um...

PRODUCER: "Pack your bags...we'll leave tonight." Don't forget that last part. Okay?

BACHELOR #1: Right. (then) Can I use the bathroom?

PRODUCER: Not yet.


Trust me: I know this to be the case. Personal experience, people.


Hey, don't forget. There's a BIG REFERENDUM this weekend.

"Happy days are here again!"
MCCLELLAN: (The teleconference) was also an opportunity for the President to continue expressing the appreciation of the entire nation for the courage and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

We're greatly appreciative for all that they're doing.

And these were troops that are on the ground in Iraq. They know firsthand what is going on.

And so the President wanted to talk about some important topics that are very important to all Americans, and that is the security situation in Iraq, as well as the upcoming referendum that the Iraqi people will be participating in this weekend.

In fact, today, my understanding is that some of the Iraqi citizens that are in hospitals began casting their ballots already.
"Get that picture!"

"Done and done, sir."

"But make sure the 'voter' has all his arms and legs."


More later...


  • Your account certainly sounds reasonable. But the fact of the matter is that a decision to go to war didn't have to be made when it was made. A simple decision tree would have shown that the risk simply was not worth the effort. The real risk was not and IS not WMD. The real risk is reinforcing an unstable middle east. AND reducing America's ability to leverage/pressure other issues throughout the world.

    The decision DID NOT have to happen when it did. Nothing material would have changed if the decision had been delayed, PERIOD. The administration/President had a lot of information, BUT that should not have changed the options on the table. If the information on WMD was convincing, it was and still is a very, very bad decision.

    john c

    By Blogger i_answer_to_john_most_of_the_time, at 2:15 PM  

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