Welcome Back, Weasel Boy
Here's Scott at yesterday's gathering.... Let's watch as this naive reporter tries to get a straight answer out of McClellan on what would have been reasonable expectations for progress after almost three years in Iraq:
Q: Scott, in the document you all write, "It's not realistic to expect a fully functioning democracy able to defeat its enemies three years after Saddam is finally removed from power." Does that mean, then, that the administration now believes that it was unrealistic in its own expectations three years ago? Or, did, in fact, you always expect the war to be as intense as this point, three years later -- almost three years later, as it is?But that pesky reporter just kept on coming. It's almost as if he's implying that Scott didn't answer the question!
McClellan: Well, it's a time of war and Iraq is the central front in the global war on terrorism. And you have to be flexible and be able to adapt. That's what the President was emphasizing in his remarks, that as conditions have changed, we have adapted. We have a dynamic strategy that is in place. Our tactics are flexible and we adjust those tactics as needed. So I think that's one thing that is important to listen to, in terms of what the President said today in his remarks.
Now, in terms of the progress that's been made in just two-and-a-half years, I think that there's been real and tremendous progress that has been made on the ground in Iraq. And it's -- people should not ignore the progress that's been made. And we understand that people are seeing violent images on their screen. These are terrorists who are seeking to intimidate and spread chaos and shake our will. They want us to cut and run. The President made it very clear that we will never cut and run in the face of terrorism. We will continue to stay on the offensive and take the fight to them until we defeat them.
Q: But when you say here that it's not realistic, it seems to suggest that people had unrealistic expectations. And I'm trying to figure out what was the source of these unrealistic expectations? Was it something --Note to next White House Press Weasel, after they carry McClellan off in a straitjacket: If you get stuck, just say "cut and run," "arbitrary timetables," "central front in the war on terror" or the always-dependable "I can't comment on an ongoing investigation."
McClellan:: Well, look, I think that over the course of history, we're going to look back and look at the decisions that were made and the steps that were taken over the course of the time in Iraq. And we'll let history be the judge of those different aspects. But what's important is when you're at war, is that it's important to learn from your experiences and be able to adapt in order to prevail.
Q: And then the last question on this is, if it's not realistic to expect this in three years, when is it realistic to expect this?
McClellan: Well, you shouldn't have arbitrary timetables when you're talking about achieving victory when you're engaged in a war. The President made that very clear. It sends the wrong message to the enemy; it sends the wrong message to our troops.
The timetable should be based on conditions on the ground. It's a conditions-based withdrawal that we are pursuing. And that will be based on the commanders on the ground.
The fearless reporter tries one more time...
Q: But we're not setting an artificial timetable --My God.... If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: watching McClellan perform is like watching the greased-pig chase back at my hometown county fair in Nebraska. That slippery little guy just will not be caught.
McClellan:: And as the President said, it takes time and patience as you move forward on building a lasting democracy. And that's one of the goals that we're working to achieve, is help the Iraqi people put in place the institutions for a lasting democracy to emerge. And I think that if you compare it to the course of history, they have made real progress in a short amount of time.
Q: But when you say, it's not realistic, without setting an artificial timetable --
McClellan: Well, the political milestones that are in place, and the Iraqi people are meeting those political milestones time and time again. They are meeting those political milestones here in just a couple of weeks -- December 15th -- the Iraqi people will, again, go back to the polls, this time to choose a permanent representative government. And that will be a significant milestone in Iraq's future.
Q: You seem to suggest we know what's realistic, and I'm trying to explore what you think is --
McClellan: I'm not sure that that's accurate. But I'm glad you're reading through this. We encourage the American people to read through it. And I think you have to look at the whole document --
Q: -- suggests people who had any expectations of the war being in better shape today than it is, they're unrealistic. And I'm trying to see what is realistic.
McClellan: I think it would be wrong to have an expectation that you're going to have a lasting democracy in place in just two-and-a-half years. But it is realistic to -- well, I would say that the fact that the Iraqi people have made this progress in just two -- I'm sorry, able to defeat in just two-and-a-half years is something that is quite remarkable.
Were you were saying, able to defeat?
Q: No, I'm just saying there was -- the phrase says, it's not realistic to expect a fully functioning democracy able to defeat its enemies in three years. And I'm just trying to explore, then, what our expectations are. I think the public is looking for, maybe not necessarily a specific time table --
McClellan: Well, the expectations I think --
Q: -- but what should we find realistic --
McClellan: I think that's spelled out in the document, and people can go and read through that document. I mean, we can go and sit through and look through each different aspect of the document. I'll be glad to do that. It talks about the progress that's being made to meet some of the benchmarks that are in place for the political process.