Gag. Last week marked the first presidential press conference in more than a month. It was the day after Memorial Day and it was also Bush's first press conference since news of "the Downing Street memo" broke on May 5 in the London Observer.
In case you haven't heard, the memo summarizes a meeting between Britain's intelligence director and White House officials. It's dated July 23, 2002, and states "the intelligence and facts were being fixed" by the Bush administration—meaning the decision to invade Iraq had already been made. At that time, you might recall, Bush was telling the American people that no such decision had been made. The memo would seem to confirm he was lying. After all, the "fixed intelligence" turned out to be bogus talk of aluminum tubes and yellowcake uranium, two main reasons for attacking Iraq given in Bush's State of the Union address in January 2003 that have been discredited by State Department and CIA officials.
So guess how many reporters asked Bush about the Downing Street memo during his rare, one-hour press conference last week? Not one.
Puke. Then there is the sickening story of Pat Tillman. You know the basics. Several months after 9-11, Tillman gave up his million-dollar career as an NFL safety and enlisted to fight in Afghanistan where he was killed in April 2004. His memorial service was nationally televised and he was awarded a Silver Star.
But while Tillman was honored and his death mourned by Americans, it was being exploited by the Bush administration. Although the administration refused to release details of his death, an Army soldier told The Washington Post on May 23 that Tillman's bullet-riddled body armor and uniform were burned because "we knew at the time, based on taking pictures and walking around it, it was fratricide. ... So we weren't looking for proof or anything."
Back at the Rose Garden, it would have been a good time to ask the president: "Sir, The Washington Post recently quoted Mary Tillman, Pat Tillman's mother, as saying, ’The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting.' Sir, would you care to comment on that? And, Mr. President, did you know Tillman was killed by friendly fire when you honored him before an Arizona Cardinals game just prior to the 2004 election? And if not, why not?"
While more than two dozen questions were asked on topics such as "permanent tax cuts," Bush's policies concerning "a culture of life" and the arrest of a Russian oil tycoon, guess how many reporters asked about Pat Tillman? None.
"Maybe lying's not a big deal anymore," Tillman's dad told the Post. "Pat's dead, and this isn't going to bring him back. But these guys should have been held up to scrutiny, right up the chain of command, and no one has."
Flush. On April 24, 2004, news of the tragedy was plastered across the front page of the Albuquerque Journal, with the headline: "Tillman Gave up American Dream to Defend It." It was the pervasive national story of the day, all about heroism and patriotism, and no report indicated that he was killed by his own men. The photo of him in uniform, with his thick NFL neck, was powerful and I've never forgotten it. Out of curiosity, I searched "Pat Tillman" on the Journal's website last week to see what coverage it gave to the investigation into his death and the anger expressed by his parents. I searched all articles between May 23 and June 2 in the archive. I found nothing.