WASHINGTON - American President George Bush grimaced, sighed, rambled and chuckled under his breath on Tuesday, before saying he could not think of a single mistake he had made since the September 11 attacks.
Before the glare of live television cameras at his first prime time news conference in more than a year, the Republican president responded to many of the questions from reporters by repeating fairly stock phrases about freedom in Iraq and the historical impact of the September 11 attacks.
"I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it." President George W. Bush during a nationally televised news conference at the White House April 13, 2004. Before the glare of live television cameras at his first prime time news conference in more than a year, Bush responded to many of the questions from reporters by repeating fairly stock phrases about freedom in Iraq and the history-changing impact of the Sept. 11 attacks. (Larry Downing/Reuters)
But one question for which Bush was evidently not prepared invited him to name his biggest mistake since 9/11.
"I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it," Bush joked before taking a long pause.
"I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with answer, but it hadn't yet."
Then came a meandering soliloquy that wandered from an affirmation of his decisions to invade Afghanistan and Iraq to his firm belief that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and the discovery of mustard gas on a turkey farm in Libya.
"I don't want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't N you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one," Bush concluded.
His performance during the hour-long appearance in the ornate White House East Room, a venue reserved for large and formal occasions, featured the usual mix of misspoken words and grammatical conundrums for which the president is well known.
"This is a war against people who have no guilt in killing innocent people," he said in describing the gravity of the American government's war on terrorism.
By and large, the rare solo appearance before the White House press corps - Bush's 12th since taking office in early 2001 - appeared to go better than his February interview on NBC's Meet The Press which some conservatives criticised as unsure and bumbling.
On Tuesday, Bush smoothly delivered a 17-minute prepared statement about Iraq before fielding well over a dozen questions from reporters, some of whom were called upon in a preset order.
"I've got some must-calls," Bush said, while inviting a question from a reporter named on his list.
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