Whopper of the night

Bush in 2003:
“I truly am not that concerned about him.”
Bush tonight:
“I don’t think I ever said I’m not worried about Osama bin Laden.”

From tonight’s transcript:

KERRY: When the president had an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, he took his focus off of them, outsourced the job to Afghan warlords, and Osama bin Laden escaped.

Six months after he said Osama bin Laden must be caught dead or alive, this president was asked, “Where is Osama bin Laden?”

He said, “I don’t know. I don’t really think about him very much. I’m not that concerned.”

We need a president who stays deadly focused on the real war on terror.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. President?

BUSH: Gosh, I just don’t think I ever said I’m not worried about Osama bin Laden. It’s kind of one of those exaggerations.

Right.

But here’s what Bush actually said in 2003:

Q: Mr. President, in your speeches now, you rarely talk or mention Osama bin Laden. Why is that? […]

BUSH: … I don’t know where he is. Nor — you know, I just don’t spend that much time on him really, to be honest with you […]

Q: Do you believe the threat that bin Laden posed won’t truly be eliminated until he is found either dead of alive?

BUSH: As I say, we hadn’t heard much from him. And I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s at the center of any command structure. And, you know, again, I don’t know where he is.

I’ll repeat what I said: I truly am not that concerned about him.

“I truly am not that concerned about him.”

“I don’t think I ever said I’m not worried about Osama bin Laden.”

Well, somebody was “exaggerating.” But it wasn’t John F. Kerry.

Is there videotape of the press conference where Bush said he didn’t care about ObL? (Update: Yep.) If so, the combination of that with tonight’s exchange could make a devastating spot for some enterprising 527.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com