On this morning's Today show NBC's Matt Lauer pondered if anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan had caused a shift in President Bush's rhetoric and then threw the words of RINO Sen. Chuck Hagel in Dan Bartlett's face. Lauer also showed impatience when it came to setting a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal but at the same time worried that the administration might be rushing things with their deadlines on the Iraqi people.
Lauer opened Today at 7:00am with this teaser:
Lauer: "Then we're gonna see a new side of President Bush. On Monday for the first time the President specifically mentioned the number of U.S. troops who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is that a response to the protest at his Texas ranch? We'll talk to a top advisor to the President about that in a couple of minutes."
The following are all of the questions tossed at Bartlett.
Matt Lauer: "On Close Up this morning American forces in Iraq. As we reported on Monday President Bush told a veteran's group in Utah that America can't pull out before the mission is completed and he'll make his case again tomorrow in Idaho. Dan Bartlett is counselor to the President. Dan, good to see you, good morning."
Lauer: "Let's talk about what's happened in the last 24 hours. The Iraqis have once again failed to meet a deadline for a final draft of a constitution. A Sunni negotiator reacting to that said the following, quote, 'If it passes,' meaning the constitution in its current form, 'there will be an uprising in the streets. The constitution is full of landmines that will explode on Iraqis.' How worried is the President about this?"
Lauer: "These deadlines, though, Dan are our deadlines. And is it possible the Iraqi people are simply facing too many huge issues to move forward under those deadlines?"
Lauer: "Let's talk about the President on the road, getting support for the war in Iraq. He's got some problems it seems within his own party. Chuck Hagel the Republican on the Foreign Relations committee said this in the past couple of days, 'Stay the course is not a policy.' He went on to say, 'any measurement, any standard you apply to this, we're not winning.' What's your reaction to that, what's the President's reaction?"
Lauer: "The President, the President, Dan has said always that when the Iraqis can stand up, we can stand down. The Pentagon, though, has been loathe to give any sort of timetable, not even really giving specifics as to how the process of training the Iraqi soldiers is going. Does the President owe the American people more in terms of specifics on that?"
Lauer: "How much time? The Army Chief of Staff said that he's preparing for a scenario where we may have more than 100,000 troops in Iraq for about four years. Is that what the President's thinking?"
Lauer: "In his speech in Utah on Monday the President used a specific casualty figure for I believe the first time Dan. Was that in response to Ms. Sheehan's protest and the protest going on outside the ranch in Texas to say, 'You know you want a face to face meeting but your's is one story and I'm looking at the bigger picture?'"
Lauer: " Right."
Lauer: "Counselor to the President, Dan Bartlett. Dan, thanks for your time this morning."