See update below.
Using soliders as props in a staged “conversation”: Disgusting.
Letting the rehearsal be videotaped: Idiotic.
Ask yourself: Would this stuff be happening if Karl Rove were still alive?
Update Glenn Reynolds seems to think that the “conversation” was no more staged than “Meet the Press.” Has he listened tothe tape?
Not only is it obvious that the soldiers are reciting set-piece speeches — note that when GWB interrupts one of them, she goes back to the beginning and recites it over in the same words — but Alison Barber, the deputy chief Pentagon flack who runs the prep session, gives special instructions about what to do “if he gives us a question that’s not something we’ve scripted,” treating that as an unexpected occurrence.
So when Scott McClellan was asked at the morning briefing whether the “conversation” had been scripted and said “No,” he was telling an untruth.
As for Glenn’s “Meet the Press” comparison, I’ve done my share of TV interview shows, and I’ve never done a rehearsal. That’s what “live and unrehearsed” means. The topic is known in advance, but never, in my experience, the questions.
Jason Steenwyck (to whom Glenn links approvingly) notes that “I have an agenda, distributed in advance, listing what I want to talk about when I hold a company level training meeting.” Right. Nothing wrong with that.
But today’s show wasn’t a training meeting or a morale-boosting effort for the troops. It was a political propaganda exercise aimed at the domestic audience. And it was staged.
That doesn’t mean that the soldiers at the meeting weren’t saying what they believed. But were they a random sample of the troops in Iraq, or were they chosen precisely because they believed what the President wanted his audience to hear? And were they free to speak their minds, or did they understand that not playing up to the Commander-in-Chief might have unfortunate consequences for their careers? And did they have “help” in composing those set-piece speeches? I don’t think those questions are very hard to answer.