President George W. Bush ended a joint press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi by calling on FOX News Channel White House correspondent Wendell Goler. While other reporters had challenged Bush on his Iraq policy, Goler's question echoed the president's anti-Kerry campaign message from the previous day.
At a September 22 Bush-Cheney '04 rally in Philadelphia, Bush accused Senator John Kerry of "demoralizing Iraqis and U.S. troops by sending 'mixed signals' about the war in Iraq," The Washington Post reported. During the September 23 Rose Garden press conference, Goler asked Bush if he thought "the mixed messages you say John Kerry sends ... have a negative effect on the effort in Iraq?"
From the press conference:
GOLER: Thank you, sir. Mr. President, in the past couple of days you have been talking about the consequences of the mixed messages you say John Kerry sends. I want to ask you, sir, do you mean immediate consequences, not just if the senator is elected? Do you mean that the messages being sent now have a negative effect on the effort in Iraq? And does making the war in Iraq a part of a campaign also have consequences on the situation there, sir?
Goler's question stood in stark contrast to questions from other broadcast journalists, each of whom challenged the president on his Iraq policy and the discrepancy between the administration's positive assertions about the war effort and recent reports contradicting that view. CBS News chief White House correspondent John Roberts asked Bush if he was "understating the case" by claiming there were only "a handful of people who were willing to kill to try to disrupt the process"; ABC News White House correspondent Terry Moran asked if "the real voices of the Iraqi people themselves contradict the rosy scenarios you're painting here today"; and NBC News White House correspondent David Gregory asked: "[T]here are beheadings regularly, the insurgent violence continues, and there are no weapons of mass destruction. My question is: Can you understand that Americans may not believe you when you say that America is actually safer today?"