President Bush speaks to Master
Sgt. Corine Lombardo and other troops from the U.S. 42nd Infantry Division
on duty in Tikrit, Iraq, via video teleconference from the White House
complex in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2005.
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 before Bush arrived. "The president
is looking forward to having just a conversation with you."
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
"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.
"And then if we're going to talk a little bit about the folks in Tikrit
the hometown and how they're handling the political process, who are we going
to give that to?" she asked.
Before he took questions, Bush thanked the soldiers for serving and reassured
them that the U.S. would not pull out of Iraq until the mission was complete.
"So long as I'm the president, we're never going to back down, we're never
going to give in, we'll never accept anything less than total victory,"
From Crooks and Liars
Video of "talk rehearsal"