Monday, April 12, 2004

The 64 Trillion Dollar Question

From the transcript of yesterday's "Meet the Press," during which Tim Russert put an important question to Iraqi Ambassador Paul Bremer:

MR. RUSSERT: June 30: You're going to turn the keys over to the Iraqis. Who do you turn them over to?

AMB. BREMER: Well, that's a good question....

To which, later in the same program, columnist David Broder responded:

MR. DAVID BRODER: Well, it's been a terrible week or 10 days for this country and therefore for the administration. But I think compounding it has been the fact that of all moments, the president chose this moment to disappear. At a time when the country really needs to hear from a president, from its president, and the world needs to hear from the president, he's gone silent on us, and it's inexplicable to me....

Tim, what strikes me about this [memo release] is that the two White House officials who briefed reporters yesterday when this was released were asked: What did the president do when he got this memo? And they said, "Well, we can't discuss the president's response." That's stunning to me because it fits into what I'm afraid has been a pattern of passivity on the part of President Bush in dealing with this whole question of terrorism, a pattern that continues even today when we don't know where the president is in his thinking about what's happening now in Iraq, what's happening with the 9-11 Commission. The country needs a president at moments like this....

And the calendar works against the president at this point on Iraq because he is insisting on that June 30 hand-over date. And when you asked Ambassador Bremer, "To whom are you going to hand power," his response was, "That's a good question, Tim." That is not a good answer. And when we do not know -- and not only don't we in the press know, not only does Tim Russert not know, but we've had the leading members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Lugar and Senator Biden, say, "Nobody in the administration is talking to them about what we think will happen or what we want to happen in Iraq after June 30th."

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