Yale professors and students, reacting to last night’s prime time presidential news conference, said they were surprised at how well President George W. Bush responded to journalists’ questions, but maintained the U.S. is still not in a political position to go to war.
Bush, providing a litany of Iraqi transgressions, said his administration was in the “final stages of diplomacy” and that Iraq’s “willful charade” of evasion and deceit must end — by war if necessary. Yale professors said the rare press briefing, which comes a day before the Security Council hears testimony on Iraq’s compliance with U.N. resolutions, was surprising in gesture but predictable in content.
“I don’t think we learned anything new,” history professor John Gaddis said. “Bush had one message: we will bring about regime change in Iraq. He was clear in his objectives.”
Bush usually allows his press secretary, Ari Fleischer, to speak for him, but diplomat-in-residence Charles Hill said the recent actions of some European nations called for the President himself to respond.
“The press conference was a necessity after the French broke diplomatic good manners with their press conference [Wednesday],” Hill said. “They went public, so President Bush had to go public too. Each side has stated their positions and will [now] go into intensive negotiations at the U.N.”
Hill said the U.S. has not yet decided to go to war and is still considering how it can address some of the major concerns voiced by European nations. In particular, Hill said one should watch how France interacts diplomatically with the U.S.
“If the French work with the U.S., we should see a U.N. resolution that will add two or three weeks to the process,” Hill said. “It will add some time.”
Otherwise, the U.S. will lead its own coalition of partners, Hill said.
Student reaction demonstrated the same cautious tone undergirding professors’ statements this past week.
“Throughout the entire briefing, Bush was being evasive and assuming he has the full support of American people,” Sarahi Uribe ’06 said. “You would think we learned from our history not to impose our regime on other regimes.”
Jeffrey Goodman ’06 was similarly critical of Bush’s statements last night.
“He made very broad claims and threw in words like ‘disarmament,'” he said.
Though reactions to the content of the Bush’s message were mixed, both students and professors said they were impressed by the president’s demeanor.
“I was struck that he’s equally clear when he’s speaking extemporaneously as when he is reading from a prepared speech,” Gaddis said. “So the idea that he can’t respond spontaneously to questions was disproved by this tonight.”