Note: Just got back from the East Coast, hadn't had time to put my notes together in a post about the meeting.
A lot of people have asked how our meeting came to be. I have my suspicions, and, frankly, I think that the White House has some very "new media" savy people that convinced the President to meet with us.
All I know is that I was sitting with Steve Shippert (also blogs at the Tank), CJ from ASP and They Have Names, Mohammed from Iraq The Model, Mrs. Greyhawk from Mudville Gazette, Ward Carroll of Military.com, John Donovan of Castle Argghhh!, and NZ Bear from the Victory Caucus and the Truth Laid Bear. Aside from NZ and the President, I had met everyone at the table before.
The President walks in, unannounced, and shakes our hands. We are joined by the War Czar - LTG Doug Lute, Outgoing Spokesperson - Tony Snow, Incoming Spokesperson - Dana Perino, White House Communications Director - Kevin Sullivan,...the National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley, just checked in on the meeting but didn't stick around.
The President of the United States greeted each of us. He asked, "How are you doing, Matt?"
I mumbled something unintelligible about being "Good! And how are you, Sir?"...
We were seated in the Roosevelt Room and had a video conference hook up to Camp Victory where Bill Roggio and Bill Ardolino joined us. This is their view (me, Steve, George, and CJ, Mohammed, Ward)...courtesy of Bill Ardolino's
INDC In Iraq Journal:
This White House photo (below) is the President chastising the twin Bills for not wearing ties to a meeting that clearly had "Business Attire" stated on the invitation...then admitting that he wished he could run around in a t-shirt and not shave. Actually, the President has a pretty good sense of humor.
The President began with a talk about his speech the night before. First of all, the President owned the Surge strategy. Then, he also owned up to the fact that if he did a better job communicating about the war, military bloggers might not be needed. I was surprised that he said it. And he is correct.
Bill Roggio, appropriately, got the first shot at a question.
...With the current blurring of the lines between domestic politics and foreign policy, and the unwillingness of the American people to fight the current war, how do you get the American public to support the current and future conflicts?...
Click here to see the President's response.
Then, Bill Ardolino was next and asked about Anbar:
...What influence or leverage is being applied with the national Iraqi government to ensure that such assistance is delivered to the province?...
Bill blogged his question and the President's answer here.
The President talked about how Ambassador Crocker delivered a message to the Iranians that we would defend ourselves. On the media, he stated that he likes the media but said that he should be the target of the politicians and the media, not the soldiers. He was clearly frustrated that the our soldiers and General Petraeus were in the crosshairs.
Ward Carroll of Military.com asked about volunteerism.
...I started by telling President Bush that I had spent Tuesday morning watching the original 9-11 "Today Show" broadcast in real time and that the experience had left me, among other thoughts and emotions, wondering whether his petition to the nation had been strong enough in terms of calling citizens to duty...
You can read the answer here.
John Donovan mentioned his Congresswoman, talked about the war, and had an exchange with the President.
Me? I started by saying that PMI and Blackfive were sending bloggers to Iraq and embedding one that very day in the Phillipines. The President chuckled, said to LTG Lute, "Milbloggers in the Phillipines!" and then let me finish my question which was "In your opinion, where else can bloggers go to tell the stories that aren't getting told?" The President said that there were a lot of places in the fight that we couldn't go (Security, Mission Classification etc.) but he and LTG Lute did say, even encouraged us, to go to the Horn of Africa. So, maybe that'll be next (we have one more on the way to Iraq - today).
NZ talked about the Petition to support General Petraeus (versus the MoveOn.org types) and how much support it had generated. I think that even the President was surprised.
CJ from ASP, in an emotional exchange with the President, talked about the three good friends he lost in Iraq - one right in front of him. CJ saw some serious combat and it's included in the Blog of War. He wanted to make sure that they didn't die in vain.
One last thing, when the President talked about his father George HW Bush, he definitely got a tear in his eye. CJ noticed it too. I am an admirer of 41 - before, during, and after his Presidency (Airborne, Mr. President!) - and could tell that his son certainly admired him greatly, too.
Leaving the room. After an hour or so, the President said we needed to get moving because he had to be at the Marine OCS Commissioning Ceremony to talk to the new Lieutenants who signed up knowing full well that they'll be in combat soon. You should have seen the look in his eye when he said that...he was obviously feeling proud of them and responsible for them.
So, we walk into the Oval Office and take pictures with the President and shake hands with Tony Snow, Dana Perino, and Kevin Sullivan.
The President hands each of us a Presidential Coin. I say something to him and he grabs my arm and says "Thank you!" for the tenth time...and he departs.
The President walked out to Marine Corps One, met by an entourage of staffers and observed by the Press.
Eventually, we left the White House and went our separate ways...I posted this at Dulles while waiting for my flight to board.
The WashPo followed up with two pieces here and here. My post gets quoted because I typed it up at the airport before boarding a plane to Chicago...and, predictably, the left went nuts about this. Here's some email I have received. Just a taste 'cause some of it is not even R rated.
...you have been working furiously to sell his colonialism and war crimes in Iraq, and have likely been an active participant in the subjugation of the Iraqi people.
...you have shown that you are a traitor and a bootlicking scumbag who thrills at the suffering of soldiers and their families.
And now in order to get more hatemail, here's the shot sure to set the left off into a frenzy of keyboard threats and digital death wishes: