You think the White House press corps has gotten over the perceived humiliation of standing around Crawford while the President was winging his way to Baghdad? Forget it. Whether these questions were the basis for news stories last night and in today's papers, this is how they spent a good portion of yesterday's daily White House press briefing. After going through the whole question of whether or not it was a British Airways plane that was in contact with the London Tower, I pick this up where they start in on Press Spokesman Scott McClellan on the question of whether the filing of a flight plan as a Gulfstream 5 was legal. Once that appears to go nowhere, they return to their favorite take on this story (themselves). Read the whole thing: it gives great insight, I think, on their perspective.
Q What are the legalities of filing a fraudulent flight plan?
MR. McCLELLAN: John, I think that the American people understand the security arrangements that are made in a circumstance like this. The American people understand the importance of not compromising security, not only for the President of the United States, but for those on board the plane, and those on the ground, as well. These are unusual circumstances. The President was pleased to go into Baghdad and pay tribute to our troops for their service and sacrifice, and show them that the American people stand fully behind them and support them in their efforts.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Dana.
Q Scott, totally different subject, but it is about the air --
MR. McCLELLAN: Are we off this subject?
Q Can I ask one quick follow-up?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, go ahead.
Q So the White House has no compunctions about having misled the American people on this trip?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, one, I was not there, but I've gone and gathered the facts. And I'm not sure that -- again, Colonel Tillman and the pilots on board the Air Force One --
Q Any facts surrounding --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- are people that relayed this information to White House staff. And for very good reason, they believed it was a British Airways flight, for the reason I stated.
Q No, I'm not talking about the --
MR. McCLELLAN: But now that we know more information, we made an attempt to get you all that information as quickly as possible. And that's what we always do.
Q I'm talking about having misled the public in thinking the President was at the ranch. In other words, that there's a level of trust that has been eroded.
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, I understand, and I appreciate the question you're asking. But I think that the American people fully understand the security arrangements that were made so that the President of the United States could go and thank our troops in person, on Thanksgiving, during a very special moment for them, while they were celebrating Thanksgiving Day.
Q Scott, is the White House planning --
MR. McCLELLAN: You have one more on this?
Q Yes, actually.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, go ahead. I'll come back to you, Dana.
Q So did the President then -- I mean, he made a decision that it was worth telling a white lie to accomplish this policy goal -- or a political goal.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know exactly what you're referring -- I don't think we viewed it that way. We kept the trip a secret because of the security demands. And I think the American people fully understand that.
Q He has decided that --
MR. McCLELLAN: I appreciate you asking the question, but I take exception with the premise of the question that you're asking. I strongly do, that the President of the United States -- that those security arrangements, and that the steps we went to, to make sure he could go there and that nobody's security would be compromised.
Q No, he decided all of that was worth it, all of the security arrangements and the cover story and everything, was worth it for this particular goal, which was --
MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely, his trip to go visit the troops in Baghdad on Thanksgiving was worth it. Absolutely.
Q Were there political considerations, too, that it would be a good -- it would help build support for the mission?
MR. McCLELLAN: He is the Commander-in-Chief. He has to make difficult decisions on behalf of the country and making the country and the world a better and safer place. And, as Commander-in-Chief, he took this responsibility very seriously, and he was pleased to go there and spend Thanksgiving dinner with some of our troops in Baghdad, and to express the gratitude of the nation for all that they're doing to make America more secure.
They keep talking about the President's credibility with "the American people," but I don't think that's what really has them still going on this story. The American people seem pretty ok with this supposed erosion in credibility, in fact. How long are they going to push this one?