I was on a Jet Blue flight from JFK to San Francisco last night when I watched the president's press conference. This is the kind of thing that would send Thomas Friedman into open-mouthed ecstasy. I happened to notice during the flight that the Earth is, indeed, not flat.
Chris Matthews opened his remarks on the president's conference by saying Bush was in "good shape" and looked like he was in "great spirits." What is that? Other than patently false. The president looked by turns angry, peevish and volatile. He made some jokes that all bombed, except for the final one about wanting to stop before cutting into prime time television. He spoke so loudly at times, getting worked up, that he seemed to forget the microphones were there. I wonder what it was like as a press member sitting in the front row.
His answers were typically tangential and nonresponsive and he often resorted to the same talking points about "hard work," for instance, with respect to Iraq, that we've been hearing for more than a year now. Yet as he delivered these meaningless bromides with which everyone who's been paying attention to politics, let alone White House reporters, are by now painfully and numbingly familiar, he would at times drop his right eyebrow and smile as if he were making a novel point that he wanted to make sure all the naifs in the audience and across the nation would make pains to digest and understand.
On energy policy, the first point of the press conference, there was no new news, though it was nice that he at least payed lip service to "environmentally friendly" options and conservation (you take what you can get these days as an environmentalist). He promoted "safe, clean nuclear power." No other energy source got that kind of a modifier. Chances are, if you have to go out of your way to say something is safe and clean, it's not. Ask the people at Yucca Mountain.
On social security, he seemed to offer everything to everyone, without explaining how the F any of this stuff is going to be paid for. Now he appears to be saying that no one's benefits will ever go down AND we'll have voluntary personal accounts. The only concrete points he made for dealing with the fiscal side are a) payroll taxes will not go up and b) the Pozen plan to tie benefit increases to faster-rising wages for the low-income and to price increases for the more affluent.
But of course the motivation remains the same for the GOP: weaken social security incrementally until it can be safely exterminated. Go to Atrios and Josh Marshall for an educated take on what lies behind the president's all-things-for-all-people rhetoric.
Bush made only two solid points. First, he disagreed with the Tom DeLay faction about the motivation of Democrats in the filibuster show-down. Second, he had a decent explanation for Russia's decision to provide already-enriched uranium to Iran. Not that I necessarily agree with that latter point, but he explained the context surprisingly well.
As for Chris Matthews, not only is this guy a joke, but he is wholly incapable of enunciation. He's at like a 6th grade remedial level in speech. Why is this guy on the air?