(AFP/Paul J. Richards)
"Don't say these aren't times of joy and then make fun of some dudes seersucker suit. It'll bite you in the ass. Might make 'em ask hard qweschen"
"These aren't joyous times," Bush said, reflecting on the situation in Iraq. "These are challenging times. And they're difficult times. And they're straining the -- the psyche of our country. I understand that."
And yet Bush found plenty of time to poke fun at members of the press corps.
The prime object of his teasing was seersucker-clad Cox News Service reporter Ken Herman, who has covered Bush since they both worked in Texas.
But Herman returned the favor with a grilling:
"A lot of the consequences you mentioned for pulling out seem like maybe they never would have been there if we hadn't gone in. How do you square all of that?" Herman asked, when his turn came around.
Bush: "I square it because imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein, who had the capacity to make a weapon of mass destruction, who was paying suiciders to kill innocent life, who had relations with Zarqawi. Imagine what the world would be like with him in power. The idea is to try to help change the Middle East. . . .
"You know, I've heard this theory about, you know, everything was just fine until we arrived and -- you know, the stir-up-the-hornet's- nest theory. It just doesn't hold water, as far as I'm concerned. The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East. They were. . . . "
Herman: "What did Iraq have to do with that?"
Bush: "What did Iraq have to do with what?"
Herman: "The attacks upon the World Trade Center?"
Bush: "Nothing. Except for it's part of -- and nobody's ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a -- Iraq -- the lesson of September the 11th is: Take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. . . .
"I fully believe it was the right decision to remove Saddam Hussein, and I fully believe the world is better off without him. Now the question is: How do we succeed in Iraq?"