August 12, 2004

George W. Bush: "Just Not That Concerned" with Bin Laden

Dan Froomkin writes:

The Unnamed Enemy ( Bush treats bin Laden a lot like those wizards in the Harry Potter books treat He Who Must Not Be Named. Since the beginning of 2003, in fact, Bush has mentioned bin Laden's name on only 10 occasions. And on six of those occasions it was because he was asked a direct question. In addition, there were four times when Bush was asked about bin Laden directly but was able to answer without mentioning bin Laden's name himself.

Not once during that period has he talked about bin Laden at any length, or said anything substantive. During the same period, for comparison purposes, Bush has mentioned former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on approximately 300 occasions.

The last time Bush spoke protractedly about bin Laden was at a March 2003 news conference. Bush was asked then by Kelly Wallace of CNN why he so rarely mentioned bin Laden, and whether bin Laden was, in fact, dead or alive. Bush's answer: "Well, deep in my heart, I know the man is on the run if he's alive at all. Who knows if he's hiding in some cave or not? We haven't heard from him in a long time. And the idea of focusing on one person is -- really indicates to me people don't understand the scope of the mission.

"Terror is bigger than one person. And he's just -- he's a person who's now been marginalized. His network is -- his host government has been destroyed. He's the ultimate parasite who found weakness, exploited it, and met his match. He is -- as I've mentioned in my speeches, I do mention the fact that this is a fellow who is willing to commit youngsters to their death, and he himself tries to hide -- if, in fact, he's hiding at all.

"So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you. . . . I truly am not that concerned about him."

I want to give money to a 527 that will run the tape of those last two paragraphs over and over again on TV. George W. Bush may not be "concerned" about the fact that Osama bin Laden is still alive, but the rest of us are very concerned indeed.

Posted by DeLong at August 12, 2004 11:56 AM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post

On a similar note, here's a theoretical transcript of me (after being hired by FOX News to replace Alan Colmes of HANNITY AND COLMES) interviewing an administration hack re: Porter Goss:

REED: Now, Mr. Administration Hack, I want to read you a quote, because I find it very disturbing and I want to get your reaction. Talking to filmmaker Michael Moore, Porter Goss, the man whom President Bush called "the right man" to head the CIA, said, quote, "I couldn't get a job with the CIA today. I am not qualified." Why is President Bush appointing someone to head our nation's main intelligence agency that is, by his own admission, not qualified?

HACK: Well, Brad, you can say whatever you want about Po...

REED: I'm not saying anything. He's saying it himself. He said, quote, "I am not qualified." So why is the President hiring someone to safeguard the American people who, in his own words, is not qualified?

HACK: Brad, if you take a look at Mr. Goss' record over the years, you will see a dedicated public servant who has great experience working in the intellig...

REED: You're not answering my question. Porter Goss, whom we're being told is "the right man" to head the CIA, says, quote, "I am not qualified" and I'm wondering why is the President hiring people who, by their own admission, are not qualified for the job?

HACK: Well, Brad, let's not focus on one quote, let's look at the man's lifelong dedication and...

REED: Let me read you something else. Later on in his conversation with Mr. Moore, Goss says of his inability to head the CIA, quote, "And I certainly don't have the technical skills, uh, as my children remind me every day, 'Dad you got to get better on your computer." Why would the President hire a man to safeguard Americans whose own children are more qualified to head the CIA than he is?

HACK: Well, I don't think that's fair, he was probably just joking around and...

REED: He was joking? He thinks the safety of the American people is funny? His own children, his own kin, tell him that in order to keep them safe that he has to improve his computer skills, and he thinks it's some kind of laughing matter? Look, I'm not here to give you a hard time. All I want to know is, why has the President appointed someone to run the CIA who, by his own admission says, quote, "I am not qualified" and whose children have better computer skills than he has?

Posted by: Brad Reed on August 12, 2004 12:14 PM


I second the 527 suggestion. Put me in for $50.

Posted by: MattB on August 12, 2004 12:17 PM


Bin Laden may have been "marginalized" within the heart of the Al-Qaeda organization, but he is still a potent symbol to those who are not privy to the inner workings of the most select leadership. His capture would be a potent symbol, regardless of whether it actually directly impacted that leadership. The fact that Bush can so summarily dismiss Bin Laden says a lot about Bush's lack of understanding about people. He is all about money and power, and has no concept of how people who don't have money and power feel about things. And let's face it, there are a lot more people without money and power than with, and they are the ones fighting against us, financed by the ones with money and power.

Posted by: Carol on August 12, 2004 12:18 PM


I'm in for $50

Posted by: me on August 12, 2004 12:24 PM


I am definintly IN. How do we get the ball rolling on this.

Posted by: Gary on August 12, 2004 12:46 PM


So I am. How can we get the ball rolling on this. Would MoveOn do it. Some PLEASE DO IT. This needs to be DONE SOON AND FAST!!!!

Posted by: gary on August 12, 2004 12:48 PM


Sign me up please. I'll give my usual $20...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on August 12, 2004 12:52 PM


Don't worry. They're going to capture Bin Laden, most likely in October, but possibly right before the Republican convention. And then Bush will mention his name on every possible occasion.

Posted by: joe on August 12, 2004 12:53 PM


"Would MoveOn do it."

I just sent the URL to this page to their press office. Others can do this with other 527's. A bit of online activism for a noble cause cannot hurt...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on August 12, 2004 12:59 PM


"Terror is bigger than one person."

Unless that person is Saddam Hussein

Posted by: Septimus on August 12, 2004 01:29 PM


Wasn't Goss also the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee (and therefore an important part of the oversight of the CIA) during two of the worst intelligence failures in our history (9/11 and Iraqi WMD)?

Of course, in the latter case, the failure might not be a failure of intelligence as much as Bush's lack of it.

Posted by: Septimus on August 12, 2004 01:46 PM


Speaking of cellular "network(s)" and stuff that's "bigger than one person."

Should have called THIS piece "The Power of Cult":


"`Look at Hitler,' he said. `Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Bin Laden.'"

Jesus Plus Nothing

Jeffrey Sharlet
Harper's Magazine, March 2003



Well? Why WOULDN'T you be? Here's more:


Meet the "Family"


Posted by: Mike on August 12, 2004 01:57 PM


INTERVIEWER: [Y]ou come from intelligence. This is what you did, this is what you know.

REP. GOSS: Uh, that was, uh, 35 years ago.


REP. GOSS: It is true I was in CIA from approximately the late 50's to approximately the early 70's. And it's true I was a case officer, clandestine services office and yes I do understand the core mission of the business. I couldn't get a job with CIA today. I am not qualified. I don't have the language skills. I, you know, my language skills were romance languages and stuff. We're looking for Arabists today. I don't have the cultural background probably. And I certainly don't have the technical skills, uh, as my children remind me every day, "Dad you got to get better on your computer." Uh, so, the things that you need to have, I don't have.
-- Rep. Porter Goss, March 3, 2004, Washington, DC

which reminds me of this joke:

A man goes into a pet shop to buy a parrot. The shop owner points to three identical looking parrots on a perch and says:
"The parrot to the left costs 500 dollars".

"Why does the parrot cost so much?" the customer asks.

The owner says, "Well, it knows how to use a computer."

The customer asks about the next parrot and is told "That one costs 1,000 dollars because it can do everything the other parrot can do plus it knows how to use the UNIX operating system."

Naturally, the increasingly startled man asks about the third parrot and is told "That one costs 2,000 dollars."

Needless to say this begs the question "What can IT do?"

To which the owner replies "To be honest I have never seen it do a thing but the other two call him boss!"

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on August 12, 2004 02:02 PM


That just shows what an excellent puppeteer Karl Rove is. Downplay the role of ObL until the Pakistanis catch him. THEN pretend it was your singleminded focus all the way. I can already see the fourth spike on the Pollkatz chart.

Posted by: ogmb on August 12, 2004 02:38 PM


I have begun to wonder why *somebody* doesn't just run a series of ads that are just George Bush in his own words. The remarks that Brad mentions are one obvious ad. The "now watch this drive" quote made famous in Fahrenheit 9/11 is another. And the "Bring it on" quote of last summer would resonate particularly well if you had the names of the hundreds of casualties we have suffered since then scrolling in the background. That's 3 30-second ads (okay, the last one could run longer due to the death toll) that would cost nearly zero to produce from stock footage, would be almost impossible to counter-attack against, and would (I would hope) make everybody who sees them wince hard.

I think the 2000 election is more likely to turn on who among the weaker supporters of Bush can be convinced to stay home than it is on who Kerry can convince to pull the lever for them. So screw the fancy multi-sentence arguments about policy. Let W be W.

Posted by: Jonathan King on August 12, 2004 02:41 PM


Jonathan King-
Yes, an ad tallying the number of troops killed after Bush told the insurgents to "bring 'em on" would be effective. Really, really, really nasty and mean, but effective.

Posted by: Brad Reed on August 12, 2004 02:58 PM


"Really, really, really nasty and mean, but effective."

By Democratic standards, you must mean ;-) Don't forget that the Republicans ran an add comparing Kerry to Hitler not so long ago...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on August 12, 2004 03:07 PM


Or, the names of the casualties scrolling against the backdrop of the Flight-Suit-Boy air craft carrier photo op with the "Mission Accomplished" banner proudly displayed in the background.

Posted by: Dubblblind on August 12, 2004 03:11 PM


I would preceed this ad by stating what we know about W's "service" in the National Guard, in a nutshell. Just to make sure that Joe in Middle America understands that this man would never put himself in arms' way for his country (nor for anything else for that matter.)

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on August 12, 2004 03:21 PM


Jean Philippe-
Thing is, while it's fun to talk about this stuff, I feel really... dirty. I think to myself, "Is this what it's come down to? Airing the nastiest, most personal advertisement we can?"

But then I hear Hannity talking about John Kerry burning down villages, and I don't feel so bad about it...

Posted by: Brad Reed on August 12, 2004 03:29 PM


Does anyone have a theory *why* GWB won't talk about OBL? I mean, I can think of a few totally wacky conspiracy type theories myself, but can anyone explain this based on ordinary political calculation, ideological bias or public-spirited policy?

Posted by: Gareth on August 12, 2004 04:47 PM


I want to give to the 527 that will take the Arthur Anderson video in which Cheney chortles about its creative accounting practices, and meld it into an ad featuring Enron, Kenny Boy, WorldCom, decimated retirements, etc.

Posted by: Bob H on August 12, 2004 05:24 PM


I think the fear about playing the "Where's OBL?" angle is that if they do produce him in October it will make it just that much more of a victory for them. But playing specifically on Bush's lack of concern works in our favor whether they eventually catch him or not.

Posted by: modus potus on August 12, 2004 05:37 PM


The idea for the ad is great. Count me in.

There needs to be a crawl or a voice over saying that "it is too late to contain the damage he has done. the cancer is spread across the globe".

The New York Times is reporting that al-Qaeda is regenerating itself, bringing in new leaders. That would not have happened if we had caught him earlier.
The headline: new generation of leaders is emerging for Al Qaeda

Posted by: masaccio on August 12, 2004 06:10 PM


That's assuming, of course, Osama IS still alive. So far the only evidence we have is a bunch of fuzzy-sounding vocal tape recordings which the CIA says are too vague to get good voiceprints from. We haven't seen a single videotape of him since 2001 -- which, in my book, means either that he's crippled (by the US attack or his kidney disease) and bedridden, or that he's dead and al-Zawahiri has rustled up somebody to do a good imitation of his voice.

Unfortunately, it doesn't make any difference. If he IS dead, there's no question that al-Zawahiri (who was always the brains of the outfit anyway) is now in charge and has access to the same money as Bin Laden.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on August 12, 2004 06:43 PM


I have long contended that the reason Bush doesn't mention him much is because he was bagged long ago -- before March 17, 2003. I think he was nabbed by the Pakistanis, which then allowed Bush to switch military operations to Iraq.

I think, too, that the latest spate of press releases heralding the capture of "high level" al Qaeda operatives is building up to the "capture" of bin Laden -- all to demonstrate that "all our hard work since September 11 is finally paying dividends."

I wish that somebody would take a poll that asks, "If Osama bin Laden were captured today, would it affect the way you'd vote on November 2.?"

Posted by: patrick on August 12, 2004 08:44 PM


I read somewhere, shortly after Saddam was captured, that the fruits on the palm trees in the background showed that he had actually been captured several months earlier.

Posted by: Brian Boru on August 12, 2004 09:52 PM


"Does anyone have a theory *why* GWB won't talk about OBL? I mean, I can think of a few totally wacky conspiracy type theories myself, but can anyone explain this based on ordinary political calculation, ideological bias or public-spirited policy?"

Apparently not. Maybe it's time to give consideration to the "wacky conspiracy theories" since they seem to be the only game in town.

Brad, good, but the next move for the hack would be to talk about what a propagandist Moore is and how Richard Clarke said that flights did not take off during the shutdown (Clarke in fact directly said that they did), etc.

Posted by: Martin Bento on August 12, 2004 10:29 PM


Words, words, words.... What about action?

President Clinton didn't capture bin Laden when it would have been easy. President Bush has the US and many of our allies fighting an all-out war against bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Posted by: David on August 13, 2004 04:36 AM


Uh, wrong. Bush has many US forces fighting a war against *Iraq*. And has alienated a number of allies, and has helped Al Qaida immensely in their struggle.

It's action, true.

Posted by: Barry on August 13, 2004 05:00 AM


John Kerry requests Purple Heart for Moqtada al Sadr

Teheran Times ^ | 8/13/04 | Abu al Dimikrati

Abu al Dimikrati reporting from Detroit USA for the TEHERAN TIMES

Detroit USA (TT) – Speaking before a crowd of Arab Americans in this city’s enlightened East End district, Favored Infidel of Allah John Kerry demanded that Spawn of Satan George W. Bush press the Navy Department to issue a Purple Heart to Moqtada al Sadr for a heroic scratch he received from infidel American shrapnel in action in the holy city of Najaf.

FIOA Kerry explained to the raucous, cheering crowd of true believers how this was his first initiative in his Sensitive War on Terror. FIOA Kerry brilliantly explained -

“As soon as I take office, my Sensitive Warriors will be forcefully directed to conduct serious studies to find out why all the world’s true believers were so mad at America. Then I will craft a warlike but sensitive, powerful but wise apology to al Islamia before pushing a massive reparations bill through my Democrat controlled House and Senate. This is the one true way to make America safer.”

He went on blaming SOS Bush for this

“…terrible state of affairs we find ourselves in with the entire world mad at us.” He continued that “After apologizing and reparating al Islamia he would wisely but powerfully direct his Sensitive Warriors to start the same process with the French, Germans and Russians. This is my vision for a peaceful world where America is loved, not hated.”

In a later one on one interview he averred to me –

“When I grew up in France I was taught the beauty of the Holy Koran and I knew that someday I would save the enlightened people of al Islamia from the Satans of the West.”

I am happy to report that America will soon be on our side when FIOA John Kerry smashes SOS Bush in November, and to that end we must kill as many Americans and

Posted by: Adrian Spidle on August 13, 2004 06:58 AM


Here's the storyboard of the ad:

Open with a brief clip of Bush on the aircraft carrier giving his mission accomplished speech. Then fade to black. VO of Bush continues as the names of all the soldiers killed since major combat operations ended scroll on the black screen. End with Kerry's quote about asking a young man to be the last soldier to die for a mistake.

Stark, simple, and effective.

Posted by: Paul Karns on August 13, 2004 08:04 AM


I echo what others have recently posted...
Osama is probably in a dimly-lite cell for the past several months. In october- his sudden capture, what a surprise!

I believe that because Republicans politics is all about crushing you opponent in any way possible.
You cannot put anything past this administration when it comes to being enethical. Remember how important the propaganda machine is during a war, wether this century, or last century.

Posted by: Dave S on August 13, 2004 08:53 AM


If the 527 add gets going, it should also feature that awfull jingoistic country song "do you remember" with the line "and you tell me not to worry 'bout bin Laden...". Seeing that song used in an anti-Bush add would cause many a freeper head to explode.

Posted by: Kuas on August 13, 2004 08:57 AM


Regarding OBL. Please name one person, ever, who has made the switch from television personality to radio personality? OBL was forever on film until the Afghan incursion. Then "he" switched to radio. Wonder why? Can get audio tapes out but not video? Can't get the equipment? Please.

Posted by: Michael Murphy on August 13, 2004 11:32 AM


Posted by: jake on August 13, 2004 01:35 PM



I'll give $100 to any 527 that makes that ad.

Posted by: Bobby on August 13, 2004 01:59 PM


Old Bob Newhart routine, updated for Adrian Spidle's benefit...

There's a theory that if you put an infinite number of monkeys down at an infinite number of typewriters for an infinite length of time, they will eventually produce all of the Great Books.

Whatever they produce in the meantime apparently winds up as posts to this site by Adrian Spidle.

Posted by: Uncle Jeffy on August 13, 2004 02:54 PM


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