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Baier Can't Call A Bush Lie A Lie

Reported by Judy - November 8, 2006 -

In George Bush's election post-mortem news conference Wednesday, Bush admitted to having misled reporters about the future of Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense last week. But in a wrap-up of the news conference afterwards, Fox News reporter Bret Baier glossed over Bush's dishonesty to the press and hence, to the public.

During the news conference, which preempted most of the "Live Desk," Bush said in response to a question that he had not told the truth when three reporters asked him whether Rumsfeld (or Vice President Dick Cheney) twas leaving.

"My answer was no, they are going to stay on and the reason why is that I didn’t want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of the campaign, so the only way to answer that question and get you on to another question was to give you that answer," Bush admitted.

"The truth of the matter of this, as well, I mean, that’s one reason I gave the answer. The other why is I hadn’t had a chance to visit with Bob Gates yet and I hadn’t had my final conversation with Don Rumsfeld yet at that point. I had been talking with Don Rumsfeld over a period of time about fresh perspective, he likes to call it fresh eyes. He himself understands that Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.”

Bush said the timing of Rumsfeld's departure had nothing to do with the election results, which he described as a "thumpin'," and said the decision was not made until Tuesday, before the election results were known.

"My point to you is win or lose, Bob Gates was going to become the nominee," Bush said.

Yet later in the press conference, Bush denied knowing last week that Rumsfeld would be leaving.

"No, I did not. No, I didn’t know that at the time," Bush said. "The other thing I did know as well is that kind of question, a wise question by a seasoned reporter, is the kind of question that causes one to either inject major military decisions at the end of a campaign or not, and I had made the decision I was not going to be talking about hypothetical troop levels or changes in command structure coming down the stretch and I’ll tell you why I made that decision. I made that decision because I think it sends a bad signal to the troops if they think the commander in chief is constantly adjusting tactics and decisions based upon politics. And I think it’s important that in a time of war, that to extent possible, we leave politics out of the major decisions being made. It was the right decision to make. Secondly, I hadn’t visited with Bob Gates."

In her segue from the news conference to an interview with Fox News political analyst Bill Kristol, MacCallum avoided the flip-flop accusation, which leaps so easily to the tongue of a Fox News journalist when describing Democratic course changes, saying only that Bush "didn't want to show his hand."

Even Kristol admitted that Bush had deceived the public about his intentions regarding Rumsfeld. He told MacCallum: "I think he had been planning to make the change. I just thought that he felt, as he said, it was inappropriate to say it a week before the election, and he had to, of course, settle on who the successor was going to be. He probably wishes he might have said something like I have full confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld and not said he’s going to serve out the next two years, but I’ve been in politics, and you don’t answer every question exactly the way you might want to.”

Baier also skirted the fact that Bush lied to the public about his intentions, noting that the Bush admitted the decision "was in the making" when he spoke to the reporters last week. "So you saw a lot of questions here in the news conference about his thinking, the president defending that, saying he didn’t want to insert that issue into the final days of this campaign, considering it was such a large issue that’s going to affect the military and the way forward in Iraq," Baier said.

In his lead-in to the news conference, Baier also had said that Rumsfeld's departure was "unexpected," even though Kristol had predicted it several hours earlier on Fox News. Maybe Baier was too dense to have seen it coming, but obviously other reporters had seen it as a possibility.

Bush showed himself to be dishonest again when he admitted that he did not believe his own rhetoric about Democrats being weak on national security, as when he said last week that the terrorists would win if Democrats won the elections Tuesday.

“But I believe the Democrats want to work together to win this aspect of the war on terror," Bush said Wednesday, adding that he may disagree with them on tactics. "I truly believe that Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid care just about as much, they care about the security of this country like I do. No leader in Washington is going to walk away from protecting the country. We have different views on how to do that, but their spirit is such that they want to protect America. That’s what I believe.”

Bush also said: “Our troops are wonderintg whether or not they’re going to get the support they need after this election. Democrats are going to support our troops just like Republicans will.”

Had a Democrat displayed as much dishonesty, Fox News journalists would have tied their tongues in knots saying "flip-flopper." When it's Bush changing course, and lying about it, they portray it as some act of statemanship.

Furthermore, as my colleague Chrish has just pointed out, this is no the first time Bush has lied about Cabinet personnel channges. She points to a Media Matters post that notes:

"In May, Bush similarly claimed that then-Treasury Secretary John Snow was 'doing a fine job' and had given no 'indication' that he would resign that position, even though it had already been determined that Snow was, in fact, leaving the administration and Hank Paulson had already been offered the job and accepted it, as the weblog Think Progress noted at the time."