Bush is greeted with friendly questions

May 03, 2007|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- President Bush did not leave Washington yesterday. But for at least two hours he was transported to a different world, away from inquiries involving the credibility of top aides and questions about the war in Iraq.

The place was a hotel ballroom just a couple of blocks from the White House, where he took questions from supporters. It was not so much a grilling as a warming.

"What do you pray about?" one man asked. "And how we can we pray for you?" (Answer: "Wisdom and strength, and my family, is what I'd like for you to pray for.")

Speaking of receiving good news out of Iraq from relatives serving there, one woman asked the president, "I would like to know why and what can be done about we, the American people, receiving some of that information more from the media."

(Answer: "Information is moving - you know, nightly news is one way, of course, but it's also moving through the blogosphere, and through the Internets.")

Another attendee said, "What I wanted to bestow upon you is the fact of our appreciation of keeping my family and also the families of Americans safe for the past five years."

(OK, it was not a question per se, but Bush delivered an answer: "My attitude is, is that if the United States ever let up, it would embolden, it would send the wrong signal.")

The questions came from members of the Associated General Contractors of America, a trade group that is heavily Republican and has a political action committee that gives more to Republicans than to Democrats by a roughly 6-to-1 margin, according to an analysis by Politicalmoney line.com.

Bush spoke to the group at the Willard InterContinental hotel near the White House, talking about the war financing battle with Congress before taking questions.

Bush is hardly the first president to go before a friendly crowd during a challenging period. But he has done so several times in the past few weeks, even as some one-time allies express concerns about the White House creating the impression that the president is cloistered, hearing only supportive voices. It was just such an impression last year that helped lead White House aides to put him before more critical audiences.

Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, said, "Stay tuned," when asked whether Bush would be doing that again anytime soon.

She chided reporters in attendance at the session yesterday for "the rolling of the eyes and the smirking" during the questioning.

"What I observed was the looks of disbelief on some of the reporters' faces - and I've seen it before - that anyone in the United States supports the president or has a different opinion from what is read in the newspapers," Perino said. "People who have that feeling need to be validated and respected as well."

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