Ask the White House: BTC News asks our readers to chime in

UPDATE: We’ve chosen and submitted six questions from among those suggested here and via email. We hope to have the opportunity to do this again, so please continue to leave suggestions should you have any. I’ve asked Dave Almacy, the White House spokesman who agreed to answer your questions, when we can expect to receive the answers and I’ll pass that along as soon as he lets me know. We’ll announce the questions and answers in a separate post.

Note: this item has been retitled and extensively revised. To see the original version, click here.

If you’ve ever watched a White House press briefing, you’ve probably felt the sensation of drowning in tepid gruel. It can be an extremely frustrating experience and it led me to try, in the wake of the Guckert/Gannon scandal, to place my own unfettered correspondent in the briefing room. In early 2005, I managed to pester the White House press office into providing BTC News contributor — now BTC News White House correspondent — Eric Brewer with semi-regular access to the White House press briefings held by then-press secretary Scott McClellan.

Eric has done a great job under difficult circumstances (you can read his dispatches from the press room here) with both McClellan and Tony Snow, but he’s only one guy, he has a real job and he can’t be there every day. So I asked our press office contact, who is now an official spokesman, if he would field questions submitted by our readers. He agreed to do that on the record, and I’m here to ask you to ask the White House the questions institutional reporters should ask but don’t.

You can leave your questions in the comments on this post. We don’t censor comments so you’re of course free to say and ask anything you like, but keep in mind that we won’t be passing along any profanities.

Also keep in mind that the spokesman’s two-fold job is to place whatever information he provides in the most positive light, and to directly or indirectly avoid answering questions to which the answers might reflect poorly on the administration. The interlocutor’s job is to find a way around that. Our goal has always been to ask fact-based questions that are worded in a way that makes non-answers or non-denials significant, as when Eric invited Scott McClellan to repudiate the Downing Street Memos and Scott wouldn’t do it. Those are the kinds of solid questions we’ll be looking for from readers.

In some ways the process is reminiscent of Kremlin-watching in the glory days of the Cold War: you can often learn as much or more from what isn’t said as from what is, and there’s always hope for an occasional glitch in the fog machine. That last is unlikely since the Q&A in this instance will be via unspontaneous email, but the format also offers us all the opportunity to craft air-tight questions.

I’ve posted the call for questions elsewhere, and gotten feedback to the tune of “what’s the point? They won’t answer.” But the point is to get the questions on the record, whether they’re substantively answered or not, and to disseminate the responses or lack of them. It’s an opportunity for people who aren’t members of the journalistic tribe to put vital questions to the people who run the country. And because BTC News is a Google News source, you have the opportunity to ask questions that will be seen by people who would otherwise not be exposed to them.

We think that’s a worthy cause, and I hope you’ll participate to whatever extent you can. There are a lot of good questions floating around out there, and it’s time some of them got used.

This is a liberal blog, and the majority of our readers are liberals, but we’re open to questions from any point on the political arc so long as they’re substantive and articulate.

Give it a shot: the results might surprise us all.

NOTE: Please provide a first name and hometown, and your country if other than the US. If you would like to use your full name but don’t wish to post it here, you may send your questions to “” without the quotation marks.

120 thoughts on “Ask the White House: BTC News asks our readers to chime in”

  1. In the opening remarks in Wednesday’s press conference, President Bush made two statements which I think need explaining.

    First: “Other developments were not encouraging, such as the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, the fact that we did not find stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and the continued loss of some of America’s finest sons and daughters.” Who, exactly, was discouraged that we did not find WMD’s, and why?

    Second: In the same opening statement, Mr. Bush said this: “We learned some key lessons from that early phase in the war. We saw how quickly Al Qaida and other extremist groups would come to Iraq to fight and try to drive us out. We overestimated the capability of the civil service in Iraq to continue to provide essential services to the Iraqi people.

    “We did not expect the Iraqi army, including the Republican Guard, to melt away in the way that it did in the face of advancing coalition forces.

    “Despite these early setbacks, some very important progress was made in the midst of an incredibly violent period.”

    Please explain why Mr. Bush considers the “melting away” of an enemy army, something which may have saved hundreds of American lives, to have been a “setback.”

  2. What exactly does “job done” mean in Iraq? When will we know we have finished the job?

    Why did Mr. Bush allow Gen. Franks to say “we don’t do body counts”? Isn’t paying attention to the civilian deaths caused by our actions a significant part of showing the Iraqis that we are sincere about their well-being?

    How does Mr. Bush explain that the electricity supply in Baghdad is less today than four years ago, and that most of Iraq does not have adequate sewage systems? Does Mr. Bush think that the electrical supply, clean water, adequate sewage treatment and adequate heath care as the responsibility of the occupying forces? Why are we failing to provide these things for the Iraqi people?

  3. Does Mr. Bush realize that we started a war of aggression on Iraq in violation of the Nuremberg Principles?

    Did Mr. Bush really think there was nuclear WMDs in Iraq? How come a pediatric audiologist was able to figure out that this was not true in 2002 and he was not able to figure it out?

  4. How come no one got fired for missing 9/11?

    How come no one got fired for claiming there were WMDs in Iraq when there was none?

    How come no one got fired for messing up in Iraq “seven ways from Sunday” as Senator Graham has recently said?

  5. How come the US is building permanent bases in Iraq after the US Congress passed a law against this?

  6. My license plates for my car say “IMPEACH”. How does Mr. Bush feel about people driving around with IMPEACH on their license plates?

    * might be interesting to see how many such license plates are out there

  7. On October 25, 2006, Mr. Bush made the following statement:

    “I believe when you get attacked and somebody declares war on you, you fight back.”

    My question is: who in Iraq attacked us, and where and when, and who in Iraq declared war on the USA?

    repeat for Afghanistan

  8. What steps, if any, does this administration plan to take to actually reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in the United States within the next two years? Does the administration intend to take steps to meet the Kyoto target of reduction to 5% below 1990 levels by 2008-2012?

  9. You keep talking about victory in Iraq but you have never defined what you mean by victory so would you define victory for us?

    You keep mentioning social security and that you are going to fix it yet everything you have done so far has been a failure so my question would be why should we trust you to fix social security when it is so important to people?

    Considering the almost unparalleled corruption that now exists in congress in the last two years of ;your office would you implement election reform that eliminates the undue influence of giant corporations that is the base root of this corruption?

  10. Prior to invading Iraq, the U.S. ordered the UN weapons inspectors to leave Iraq. Since no WMD’s have been found in Iraq, does the President regret not allowing the weapons inspectors to finish their job, which might have spared the costs to U.S. troops, Iraqi citizens, and the stability of the country?

  11. 1) Since the U.S. military began torturing P.O.W.s to get improved information out of them, what sorts of helpful things have we learned?

    2) What sorts of accomplishments does President Bush hope to achieve in the last 2 years of his administration?

    3) How does Christian doctrine inform President Bush’s day-to-day activities?

  12. Mr. President, how many people will have to die in Iraq before you admit this “war of choice” was a mistake?

  13. The same argument could have been made for waterboarding in any previous war. One could just as easily say that each German soldier captured on the battlefield should be tortured to find out information about enemy forces in the name of saving lives. That is exactly the same argument given today. It was illegal then (Geneva conventions and all that) and it is still illegal, a war crime in fact.
    Q: Why is it deemed OK for the US to commit war crimes?

  14. Froomkin’s column today has a great set of questions (link below):

    “So we don’t torture — but what we mean by torture is classified.
    How can that possibly be acceptable to the American people?
    Here are some questions that should be asked of every White House official, until they answer:
    * How do you define torture?
    * Name some interrogation techniques that are clearly illegal. Name some that you consider legal.
    * Do you think it’s acceptable, for either domestic or international consumption, not to define what you mean by torture?
    * What sorts of interrogation techniques are and are not acceptable for use on our troops or intelligence agents?”


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