The press conference Bush wanted to give.

The press conference Bush wanted to give.

The press conference Bush wanted to give.

Dubious and far-fetched ideas.
Nov. 8 2006 3:02 PM

Stay the Course

The press conference Bush wanted to give.

Press Conference by the President
The East Room

1:01 P.M. EDT

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

THE PRESIDENT: And now I'll be glad to answer some of your questions. Mike.

Q: Mr. President, about the Democrats' victory in yesterday's elections—

THE PRESIDENT: Now, wait a minute, Mike. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. I wouldn't be calling it a victory just yet.

Q: Well, sir, terminology aside, the Democrats have captured the House—

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THE PRESIDENT: See, that's what I mean. Getting ahead of ourselves. As though the enemy has already won.

Q: The enemy, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, not exactly the enemy. I just mean their sympathizers here at home. The enemy here. You know, the Democrats.

Q: Ah. OK. Well, to get back to the point, Sir, the Democrats did win the election—

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THE PRESIDENT: Define "win."

Q: Well, they won the House. And if the returns hold true in Virginia and Montana—

THE PRESIDENT: See, that's what I'm talking about. Just because the enemy has been able to make some progress doesn't mean you cut and run. Quite the contrary; we ought to do everything we can to help prevent them from making progress. And that is what our strategy is. Elaine.

Q: Mr. President, the AP has called Montana for your opponents. You're down several thousand votes in Virginia. You're down, what, a dozen seats, at least, in the House. Why fight on? What do you hope to achieve?

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THE PRESIDENT: This notion of cut and run, I just don't accept that, Elaine. Look, this is a conflict between a radical ideology that can't stand freedom, and moderate, reasonable people that hope to live in a peaceful society. I'm confident in our mission because I believe in the power of liberty. We have a plan for victory, and we will succeed. Jim.

Q: Sir, with all due respect, I'm confused. What exactly did you achieve in this election? Can you name a state where your party picked up seats in either the House or Senate?

THE PRESIDENT: Look, this is a hard fight, no question about it. But I believe that the strategy we have is going to work. We're building a Republican majority that can sustain itself, govern itself, and defend itself. I have great faith in our commanders on the ground to give the best advice about how to achieve victory. We're giving them the confidence necessary to come and make the right recommendations here in Washington, D.C. We'll give them the flexibility necessary to make the tactical changes to achieve victory. And so we've made changes, we'll continue to make changes. But we have the right strategy and the tactics necessary to achieve that goal. Terry.

Q: Mr. President, about the Senate race in Missouri.

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THE PRESIDENT: I'm glad you brought that up, Terry. Missouri is the central front in this war. It's going to take a long time, but I'm confident we will succeed there. And the reason I'm confident we'll succeed is because Missourians want to succeed. A defeat there—if we were to withdraw before the job is done, it would embolden extremists. The only way we lose in Missouri is if we leave before the job is done.

Q: But, Sir, your candidate there, Sen. Talent, has conceded.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have our differences with Sen. Talent from time to time. He's a good man. In this case, I just think he's wrong. We're confident we can achieve the mission there. Jessica.

Q: Mr. President, I'm not sure I understand your position here. The election's over.

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THE PRESIDENT: Look, I understand here in Washington, some people say it's over. I know that. They're just wrong in my opinion. The enemy still wants to strike us. The enemy still wants to achieve safe haven from which to plot and plan. And we must do everything we can to protect the American people, including questioning detainees, or listening to their phone calls from outside the country to inside the country.

Q: I'm sorry, Sir. Do you mean, listen to the Democrats' phone calls?

THE PRESIDENT: Only if one party is outside the country. Our lawyers have vetted this. David.

Q: Mr. President, how do you plan to deal with the Congress you'll be facing when your party vacates its majorities in the House and Senate next January? What issues and proposals will you put on the table?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm sorry, David, I just don't accept your premise. This notion of, you know, a fixed timetable of withdrawal—I can't accept that. That's defeat. Withdrawing on an artificial timetable means we lose. You can't leave until the job is done.

Q: Sir, it's in the Constitution. You have to leave office if you're voted out.

THE PRESIDENT: Dick, is that true?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: We're working on it, Mr. President. There'll be some changes to that in the conference report with regard to the new terrorist surveillance provisions. But for now, yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we'll get back to you on that, David. Listen, thank you all. See you on the campaign trail.