The future's so bright

The president apologizes for his "shades" jokes, but how about answering the question?

Published June 15, 2006 1:35PM (EDT)

At his Rose Garden press conference Wednesday, George W. Bush mocked Los Angeles Times reporter Peter Wallsten for wearing sunglasses while addressing the president.

Bush: Yes, Peter. Are you going to ask that question with shades on?

Wallsten: I can take them off.

Bush: I'm interested in the shade look, seriously.

Wallsten: All right, I'll keep it, then.

Bush: For the viewers, there's no sun.

Wallsten: I guess it depends on your perspective.

Bush: Touché.

Wallsten is legally blind. As Think Progress reports, he has Stargardt's disease, a genetic disorder whose degenerative effect can be slowed by wearing sungalasses and avoiding bright light.

Bush has now called Wallsten to apologize. "He said, 'I needle you guys out of affection,'" Wallsten tells the Associated Press. "I said, 'I understand that, but I don't want you to treat me any differently because of this.'" Wallsten says he told the president to "needle away." Bush's response: "I will. Next time I'll just use a different needle."

Here's a different idea. Maybe Bush could make it up to Wallsten by, you know, answering the question he asked him when the "shades" jokes were over. Wallsten asked the president if, during the course of the Valerie Plame investigation, he "learned anything that you didn't know before about what was going on in your administration." "And," Wallsten asked, "do you have any work to do to rebuild credibility that might have been lost?"

Bush's response: "I think that -- first of all, the decision by the prosecutor speaks for itself. He had a full investigation. Karl Rove went in front of the grand jury like -- I don't -- a lot of times. More times than -- they took a hard look at his role. Secondly, as I told the other Peter, I'm going to tell you that there's an ongoing trial, it's a serious business. And I've made the comments I'm going to make about this incident, and I'm going to put this part of the situation behind us and move forward."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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