Couric to Bush: "I'm really grateful. Thank you. Thank you"

The anchor "interviews" the president.

Published September 7, 2006 3:58PM (EDT)

And we thought ABC was the problem.

Katie Couric interviewed George W. Bush for CBS News Wednesday. What the president said was pretty much what you'd expect. What Couric said? Well, she started her interview by thanking the president for doing it -- "We really, really appreciate it," she gushed -- and things went downhill from there.

Instead of pursuing lines of questions, Couric simply mentioned broad subject areas or random criticisms and then sat back while Bush offered a "response." "You have said we can't cut and run on more than one occasion. We have to stay until we win. Otherwise, we'll be fighting the terrorists here at home on our own streets. So what do you mean exactly by that, Mr. President?" "Is this a civil war, Mr. President?" "What is the significance, Mr. President, of -- of your announcement regarding -- the masterminds [behind] 9/11? Can you explain that?"

At one point, Couric asked Bush why, if the war against terrorism is so important, he won't "mobilize the country" by calling for sacrifices, raise taxes to finance the war, reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil or send more troops to Iraq. It was a good question, but Couric didn't follow up when Bush gave a rambling nonanswer. Indeed, it was Bush who said, "The question is: Why aren't we winning?" Couric didn't push for an answer to that one, either.

And when she did get serious, Couric sometimes undercut her questions or helped Bush with the answers. On the way toward asking the president about charges that he's "inflexible," Couric told Bush that "people admire so much your ability to adhere to your principles" and made sure to note that "there will always be critics." When Bush said -- as he's said before -- that he regrets using harsh language like "Bring them on," Couric dismissed it as nothing more than proof of Bush's (practiced) authenticity. "You can take the boy out of Crawford, but you can't take Crawford out of the boy?" Even Bush had to admit that that was just "one way to look at it" -- and that it's possible that his words might actually have had consequences.

And so it went until this big finish:

Couric: I know you care so much about the soldiers in Iraq. And when we told some of them we had an opportunity to speak with you, almost all of them said, "Would you please ask the president of the United States when can we come home?"

Bush: Mmm. And the answer is when the mission is done. When your commanders decide you can. You know, it's interesting you said that. It's -- I get a little different response from the soldiers I meet, you know? I -- frankly, I've never had one say that. In fact, they've all said, "I'm honored to serve the country. I understand what we're doing. I'm proud to be a volunteer." And -- you know, I can't tell you how great the military is. It's -- it's such a proud -- group of people, dedicated to protecting this country and doing its duty.

Couric: Well, Mr. President, thank you so much for your time.

Bush: Good luck.

Couric: I'm really grateful. Thank you. Thank you.

By Tim Grieve

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

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George W. Bush Iraq War Katie Couric War Room