I watched most of the TV special tonight with Diane Sawyer and President Bush. It was painful for three reasons: 1) Sawyer cross-examined Bush on topics like the Iraq WMDs as if she was a prosecuting attorney and he was a criminal defendant. 2) The program frequently cut away from the interview to show video footage of Bush making a speech, or other images, almost all of which were designed to make the President look bad. 3) President Bush is a man of great integrity and sound judgment, but he is not especially glib or facile. He didn’t do a good job of responding to Sawyer’s cross-examination. The answers are there; he just didn’t give them. A little later on Fox News, Bill Bennett gave a virtuoso display of aggressive, effective verbal facility. Would that George Bush had that talent. But he doesn’t.
When I watch this kind of exchange, I long to take the President’s place. I imagine swatting questions from a marginal liberal like Diane Sawyer out of the park. I happen to be gifted with exceptional verbal facility. You think Bill Clinton was good? I’m better. But it didn’t take many years of experience to realize that glibness is a minor talent, like being good at video games or foosball. What counts is character, judgment, integrity. I think the American people recognize this. But I hope that the President’s campaign is smart enough to keep him out of this kind of situation between now and next November.
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