White House Briefing
February 28, 2003 6:58 AM   Subscribe

Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, had a difficult end to his press briefing [Real]. Skip forward to 29 minutes.
posted by Pretty_Generic (80 comments total)

 
Can you please summarize?

Some of us don't want Real's software on our computers.
posted by rocketman at 7:01 AM on February 28, 2003


Ditto - I'd love to know what happened to Ari but can't view the file. Is this in the news somewhere?
posted by vito90 at 7:02 AM on February 28, 2003


Suddenly, I feel like a gossip.
posted by rocketman at 7:04 AM on February 28, 2003


My Real's software, said unable to support, ?
posted by thomcatspike at 7:04 AM on February 28, 2003


I think everyone thought he said "You're saying that other nation's leaders are viable and that's not an acceptable proposition."

What I think he said was "You're saying that other nation's leaders are buyable...."
posted by jpoulos at 7:06 AM on February 28, 2003


From the K5 thread:

Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman, was laughed out of the daily briefing on Feb 25th. Members of the foreign press asked about US vote buying for its resolution before the UN Security Council on Iraq. Ari reacted in a offended manner, eliciting loud laughter from the entire press corps. Ari gets a somewhat miffed look on his face and makes a quick exit to continuing laughter and the press making snide remarks amongst themselves.
posted by waxpancake at 7:07 AM on February 28, 2003


That's hilarious. I'm surprised it took so long considering how many deceptive techniques this administration is using.
posted by edjo at 7:07 AM on February 28, 2003


A Mexican journalist asked about various things that the US is doing to ensure the Mexican Security Council vote, and Ari said "Think of the implications of what you are saying - you're saying that the leaders of other nations are buyable. And that is not an acceptable proposition." The journalists all cracked up, Ari grimaced painfully and ended the conference.

On preview: No, I don't think they misheard him. They just thought what he said was very, very funny.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:08 AM on February 28, 2003


As far as I could see, the end of his briefing was not at all especially difficult at all. There was a discussion of whether there would/should/might be qui-pro-quos paid to other nations for political support of US policies.

He disagreed, there were followup questions. That's it.

Nothing to see here...
posted by reality at 7:08 AM on February 28, 2003


rocketman - Here's a description of the press conference

woo woo woo woo woo woo woo woo woo woo woo woo
industrial strength disclaimer: this is currently ANECDOTAL, and open to interpretation (i.e. - volume of laughter, was Fleischer literally "laughed out" or was the press conference nearing a close anyway, etc.

Still, on the surface, it looks amazing. calling all Mefi media/press history gods - has there ever been a comparable precedent to this?

(from link above)

"Ari Gets Laughed Out of the White House Briefing Room

A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS

BuzzFlash Note: Although we didn't see this occur, we have received three separate reader accounts indicating that the White House press corps finally laughed at the absurdity of Ari Fleischer's lies, at least once.

The following is the account from one of our BuzzFlash e-mail reportersabout the White House news briefing on Tuesday, February 25:

* * *

ON CSPAN --- WH press conference with Ari ended just now. It's grim. Not much new but a reiteration of the "Saddam must disarm" and some hints that Saddam and other top Iraqi leaders might be assassinated if GW gives the executive decree.

Then one tidbit floated up. A reporter asked about a French report that says Bush is offering a bundle of concessions (and I think she actually said 'buying votes') to Mexico and Colombia, granting worker amnesty and so on. Ari tap-danced. Then she (the reporter) started to press the issue by saying "they (the French) are quoting two US State Dept. Diplomats that Bush intends to give work permits to Colombia and Mexico."

WOW. WOW.... Ari just drew himself up with imperious indignation and said something like "you're implying that the President is buying the votes of other nations and that's just not a consideration" or words to that effect.

And guess what happened? The whole press corps, normally sheep, broke out in laughter... sweet, derisive laughter. They kept on laughing as Ari turned on his heels and strode out. Sheesh."
posted by troutfishing at 7:09 AM on February 28, 2003


In response to a question about more nation-bribing (mexico, ethiopia, elsewhere), he says that "You're saying that other nation's leaders are buyable...."

At which point the press pool laughs at him. He pouts and storms off the stage like little lord fauntleroy.
posted by condour75 at 7:10 AM on February 28, 2003


Two journalists had been peppering him with questions about a French reporter's citation of two State Department sources who said that Mexico was being offered certain concessions in order to influence their Security Council vote on an Iraq measure. Fleischer kept saying that this wasn't about concessions, that this was a chance for governments to review the evidence and do what was right. After the fourth or fifth question he had dodged, he was getting obviously miffed, and ended with something like "governments can't be bought," and got laughed out of the room. Poor Ari.
posted by UKnowForKids at 7:12 AM on February 28, 2003


Here's the actual transcript:
MR. FLEISCHER: I haven't seen the story. And you already have the answer, about what this will be decided on. But think about the implications of what you're saying. You're saying that the leaders of other nations are buyable. And that is not an acceptable proposition. (Laughter.)

But it's not just laughter. It's howls of derisive laughter. From the press corps. Shecky Green would've killed for such a response.

But the video is much funnier than the transcript.
posted by cowboy_sally at 7:12 AM on February 28, 2003


OK, enough summaries already!
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:13 AM on February 28, 2003


Whoops. Sorry.
posted by cowboy_sally at 7:15 AM on February 28, 2003


From what I can see, every few seconds Ari and all the reporters are stopped as if by the hand of god while the word "rebuffering" appears hanging in the air, also by apparently supernatural means.
posted by Nothing at 7:16 AM on February 28, 2003


So the question is: is this story left/liberal spin? - If so, if popular Mefi opinion judges it to be, what of a "left/liberal spin" on the master of spin himself (some would say lies), golden tongued Ari Fleischer, exceptionally brilliant mouthpiece of the Bush Adminstration (his lies/spin quite often appall me, but - hey - the guy is very, very good. He's in a league with Tariq Aziz, although he probably hasn't had any personal enemies dropped into crocodile pits or vats of acid. Oh - confusing my Iraq party officials. Hussein is holding Aziz's family as ransom for his loyalty, I seem to remember...anyway but.....)

What was the laughter decibel level?

Has this ever happened before?

"The whole press corps, normally sheep, broke out in laughter... sweet, derisive laughter."

This could possibly be "re-spun" as "low, complicit, cynical laughter" concerning an implicit "in joke".

But I doubt it. popular Mefi opinion seems to be swaying towards Cowboy Sally's depiction of: howls of derisive laughter.

Calling Mefi far right opinion police! Calling Mefi opinion police! Calling Mefi opinion police! Calling Mefi far right opinion police! Damage control needed in sector 8 Spin Control required in sector 8....
posted by troutfishing at 7:27 AM on February 28, 2003


my all-time favorite (???) was ron zeigler, nixon's disinformation secretary. often unshaved, looking more like a low-level mafia hitman than a member of the presidential staff, ziegler was a transparent liar and a source of endless (then - outrage, now - amusement.) the man was incapable of concealing his contempt, no, outright hatred, for the press and his own job. my favorite all-time ziegler pronouncement pertained to a nixon statement intended to finally put watergate questions to rest in which nixon claimed he was 'laying it all out once and for all' or words to that effect. months later, when tapes revealed nixon had not 'laid it all out' and reporters confronted ziegler about it, ron's response was "that statement is no longer operative." i beleive there may have been laughter at that point, but the memory fades... no longer operative himself, ziegler died 18 days ago.
posted by quonsar at 7:29 AM on February 28, 2003


correct ziegler link: here.
posted by quonsar at 7:38 AM on February 28, 2003


You know, I've watched the video a number of times, and while there's a possibility that something might've happened off camera to inspire the laughter (like maybe Rip Taylor appeared in the back of the room, tossing big handfuls of confetti?), there's this fleeting look on Fleischer's face, just after he says the part about other nations being buyable, that says I just stepped in it, big time. And even after he excuses himself, the camera pans the room and people are still laughing about it and apparently riffing on it. But the sound quality doesn't allow me to judge what they're actually saying, so that's conjecture on my part.
posted by cowboy_sally at 7:41 AM on February 28, 2003


Ari gave an appropriatly dumb response to a dumb question and everyone laughed which gave him room to exit gracefully in a moment of humour. He didn't get laughed off the stage.
posted by stbalbach at 7:41 AM on February 28, 2003


Well, on the question of 'are they buyable?' (if anyone's interested) see

http://www.ips-dc.org/coalition.htm

"(Washington, DC, February 26, 2003). As U.S. officials intensify their arm-twisting offensive to gather support for a war on Iraq, the Institute for Policy Studies is releasing a new study today that examines the specific levers of U.S. military, economic, and political power.

The study, entitled "Coalition of the Willing or Coalition of the Coerced?," looks at how this leverage applies to each current member of the UN Security Council. It also analyzes the power the U.S. government exerts over the broader group of countries that the Bush Administration has dubbed the "Coalition of the Willing." Although the Administration refuses to release a list of the members of this coalition, the authors compiled a list of 34 nations cited in press reports as supporters of the U.S. position on Iraq." ... [pdf is 13 pp.]

As for the laughter, sometimes the juxtaposition of White House claims and reality is just too amazing to keep a straight face.
posted by lathrop at 7:43 AM on February 28, 2003


Why can't we just savour a moment in which a government spokesman gets laughed at? Is that so wrong?
posted by adampsyche at 7:48 AM on February 28, 2003


Buying Turks support: $10 Billions and some million kurds

Granting benefits left and right : some billions

Getting some french cheese before it's banned: $20

Watching Ari as he gulps and thinks "Oh Shit what did I say?" : PRICELESS
posted by elpapacito at 7:50 AM on February 28, 2003


One of the journalists says "Laughed off the stage!" in the final shot.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:52 AM on February 28, 2003


although he probably hasn't had any personal enemies dropped into crocodile pits or vats of acid.

You underestimate him.
posted by jpoulos at 7:53 AM on February 28, 2003


Speaking of Ziegler, The Boston Globe had an article on him this Sunday.
posted by jmackin at 7:54 AM on February 28, 2003


he probably cried.
posted by lotsofno at 7:54 AM on February 28, 2003


Does anyone else vomit every time Fleischer steps up to the podium to spew his load of crap? I find him utterly contemptable because he is THE KING of spin. Better than 10 Clintons rolled into one.
posted by tgrundke at 8:00 AM on February 28, 2003


jmackin: thanks for that great ziegler link!
posted by quonsar at 8:02 AM on February 28, 2003


Ari should have just calmly explained how diplomatic concessions are to buying votes what dinner and a movie are to buying sex. It's not really prostitution, just sort of.
posted by dgaicun at 8:06 AM on February 28, 2003


I saw this on a CSPAN replay the other day, and I thought that what set off the laughter was someone making a crack about Turkey in response to Fleischer's final comment. It seems more plausible they would laugh at one of their own that way.
posted by beagle at 8:15 AM on February 28, 2003


I watched the conference live and my favorite parts were when Ari got caught up in the mislogic of the assassination ban to the effect that if Saddam was a legitimate "wartime" target for us, it would only follow that Bush would be a legitimate target for them, no?
Shortly after that he told Helen Thomas to go stand in the corner after she said or did something I didn't catch.

My impression was that the briefing was signaled as being at an end, and everyone in the room was laughing at how goofy the whole thing had been. With the flavor of the Emperor's tailor sticking round too long after the suspension of disbelief had evaporated.
posted by ahimsakid at 8:19 AM on February 28, 2003


Thanks for the Ziegler links; I was just about to dig up something on him. There doesn't seem to be much laughter in the WH Press Room, and the press didn't really laugh at Reagan's, Clinton's, or Bush 41's press secretaries, as far as I can recall. (Attacked, yes. Laughed, I don't think so.) But Ziegler definitely drew the most derisive laughter...and I think Ron Nessen got pounded a few times too.
posted by Vidiot at 8:21 AM on February 28, 2003


Hmm - "Better than 10 Clintons rolled into one." - there's a great joke in there, somewhere.......

jpoulos - maybe. He seems a little bit, to me, like a 30's era russian intellectual, Isaac Babel like, but meaner, turned Soviet Party commissar........but also someone who might have a very complex, doting but also slightly sadomasochistic relationship with a personal pet (probably a little dog) which has a nasty pissing problem (exacted as revenge for a lack of outings), so his apartment reeks of dog urine........Fleischer picks up the mutt, a scraggly terrier, shaking it and shouting "No...NO...Bad dog, BAD DOG". Trembling with fear, the dog then runs under the couch to hide and sulks, while Fleischer - wracked with guilt - goes off to conduct his press conference. When Fleischer comes home, the dog has pissed everywhere again because Ari forgot to walk him before that awfull press conference....how could he have said that? He NEVER slips up...must be that damn dog....in frustruation, he calls out for a whore, and pays her to let him beat her up a little.

: just my imagine running amok. I sure he's a nice, nice man with a sweet mother who cooks him chicken soup every other sunday.
posted by troutfishing at 8:21 AM on February 28, 2003


"Ari should have just calmly explained how diplomatic concessions are to buying votes what dinner and a movie are to buying sex. It's not really prostitution, just sort of.
posted by dgaicun at 8:06 AM PST on February 28"

dgaicun - You're good. I heard, through the grapevine, that there might be a job opening at the White House (depending on your clearance) for someone with your linguistic skills and knack for nimble spin.
posted by troutfishing at 8:25 AM on February 28, 2003


thank you. thank you.
posted by dgaicun at 8:33 AM on February 28, 2003


There were no "howls of derisive laughter" just some cynical sniggering by a bunch of overweight, overpaid (for the most part) hacks who are too worried about the safety of their own jobs to ask any really telling questions.

FYI, the IPS report into US arm-twisting tactics is discussed at #23928
posted by cbrody at 8:38 AM on February 28, 2003


I can't get the C-SPAN link to work, but the audio is on the Whitehouse site. The exchange takes place at the very end.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:43 AM on February 28, 2003


could some kind soul post just the relevant bit? hopefully in a non real-media format?
posted by signal at 8:45 AM on February 28, 2003


so, cbrody, what's the ideal weight and salary for a White House correspondent?
posted by Vidiot at 8:46 AM on February 28, 2003


cbrody, were we watching the same feed? The reporter (who happened to be rather slender, I might add) asked a series of fairly incendiary questions. Fleischer responded. *For some yet-to-be satisfyingly determined reason,* the press corps was overwhelmed with laughter. And it was pretty hearty, not the self-satisfied sniggling you describe.
posted by cowboy_sally at 8:57 AM on February 28, 2003


dgaicun - you're welcome.

cbrody - you forgot to add: "overweight, overpaid (for the most part) hacks "who couldn't investigate or report their way out of a paper bag if their lives depended on it or who, if they ever once possesed an iota of journalistic skill or integrity, have since devolved into cringing, shuffling, spineless - worm-like even - yes men presenting their prostrate buttucks ( for a jealous inspection of potential infidelity) to the power of the Imperial White House" "

All except for Helen Gordon, that is. Media Whores Online claims that she is currently the target of a Republican smear campaign. Go figure.

Bwahahahahaha Bwahahahahahaha
posted by troutfishing at 8:59 AM on February 28, 2003


a bunch of overweight, overpaid (for the most part) hacks

Feh. I don't listen to bald guys.
posted by jpoulos at 9:23 AM on February 28, 2003


yes, like someone has said before let's just savour a moment in which a government spokesman gets honestly laughed at.
posted by ruelle at 9:41 AM on February 28, 2003


You know it's bad when the mouthpiece keeps putting his foot in his mouth.
posted by joemeek at 9:41 AM on February 28, 2003


After Ziegler Fleischer exits, a reporter can be heard saying to the (slender, gorgeous, probably appropriately paid) reporter who had been questioning Ziegler Fleischer: "You pushed him a step too far." He says it, by the way, in an amused, slightly congratulatory way.
posted by Holden at 9:45 AM on February 28, 2003


if anyone finds the video link, please post ... how feischer can stand up there day in and day out and try to explain the idiocy of the bush administration day in and day out is beyond me.
posted by specialk420 at 10:08 AM on February 28, 2003


Vidiot: good question. 120 to 180lbs depending on height & sex, and $30 to $50k aae - no more I'd say.

jpoulus, it's clear Who's side you're on! At least I don't look like this or worse, this.
posted by cbrody at 10:22 AM on February 28, 2003


how feischer can stand up there day in and day out and try to explain the idiocy of the bush administration day in and day out is beyond me.

Jay: [contemptuous] How do you sleep at night?
Rainier: On top of a pile of money with many beautiful ladies.
- A Star is Burns
posted by grum@work at 10:28 AM on February 28, 2003


troutfishing: It's a reference to how well Clinton was able to suspend disbelief and spin things in his favor. Come on - he was damned good at it. Fleischer seems to have it down to a complete science, however. Either way, it's scary.
posted by tgrundke at 10:34 AM on February 28, 2003


specialk420: the link in the original post is a video link, in RealVideo format. It worked for me.
posted by Songdog at 10:43 AM on February 28, 2003


For what it's worth, here's my interpretation. Fleischer seems to stumble through the delivery of his last comment. I would think that he regretted saying it as soon as he heard the words leave his lips. Without a doubt, the press folks immediately & in unison break out into loud laughter. We've all been in situations where something was funny and you were embarrassed to laugh about it. This was NOT one of those situations. And the speed at which Fleischer leaves the podium suggests to me that he knew he couldn't talk his way back out of what he had just said. And also, you can hear one of the reporters mock him immediately after he has left. (sarcastically) "Yeah, all nations' leaders are not buyable."

Anyway, that's how I interpreted the scene. I have made very similar foot-in-mouth type of mistakes (for example my first MeFi post), but then I am not a representative of the White House either. It was bound to happen sooner or later.
posted by Rattmouth at 11:01 AM on February 28, 2003


I _want_this to be about Fleischer getting laughed out of the room - but I'm not positive the video confirms it. Guess we'll just have to wait for a reporter who was there to comment on it - anyone know if Laurie Garrett was in the room?
posted by dhacker at 11:05 AM on February 28, 2003


anyone know if Laurie Garrett was in the room?

She sent me a private e-mail about it. Anyone got a site I could put it up on?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:07 AM on February 28, 2003


I got the private e-mail as well - but it was forwarded from her "friend" - I hope Laurie doesn't get pissed.
posted by dhacker at 11:16 AM on February 28, 2003


Laurie Garrett?
posted by Vidiot at 11:23 AM on February 28, 2003


Yeah I got that private email too but she said I was the only one :(
posted by stbalbach at 11:35 AM on February 28, 2003


Laurie Garrett.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:35 AM on February 28, 2003


Note: Add "Laurie Garrett" to list of MeFi in-jokes on the FAQ... The warning to be careful what you write in an e-mail could be labelled "Garrett's Law"... Or is it too similar a name to Godwin? Hey, nobody's compared Fleisher to Joseph Goebbels yet...
posted by wendell at 11:46 AM on February 28, 2003


I was on vacation when that thread happened...but it's amazing.

I'm googling around for a really interesting analysis of Ari Fleischer's spin techniques, but can't find it (searching for "Ari Fleischer lies" brings up what can be expected.)
posted by Vidiot at 12:08 PM on February 28, 2003


It's not really prostitution, just sort of.

Masturbation is your idea of a cheap night in, isn't it, dgaicun?
posted by riviera at 12:22 PM on February 28, 2003


thanks songdog. it was toast earlier.
posted by specialk420 at 12:24 PM on February 28, 2003


The exchange I commented on is transcribed here.
posted by ahimsakid at 12:30 PM on February 28, 2003


Aha! Here is the interesting New Republic article about Fleischer's tactics. (Found on MeFi, natch.)
posted by Vidiot at 1:07 PM on February 28, 2003


or, taking a completely different tack.


what if they were laughing because ari was making fun of the reporter...i.e. WITH him and not AT him. that was my first take of the incident. like, he's saying "you must be dumb, how did you even get in here" and the press corps is laughing with him.


i don't think they were laughing AT him at all.
posted by taumeson at 1:23 PM on February 28, 2003


I agree with taumeson's analysis. The laughs were not disparaging, they were in sympathy, which is why I called them sniggerings above.
posted by cbrody at 2:11 PM on February 28, 2003


It's clear to me from watching that video that Ari said something dumb, got laughed at, and quickly ended the press conference. Most people commenting on this thread seem to agree.

To those of you who don't agree: Is there any one of you who is not a firm Bush supporter?
posted by salmacis at 2:22 PM on February 28, 2003


Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!

I guess if they were laughing "with" him that explains why he sprinted out of the room exactly when his "supporters" starting jeering their colleague. It also explains why one of the reporters actually says behind his rapidly disappearing back: laughed right off the stage!"

Hahahahahahahahahahaha!


(don´t worry I´m laughing "with" him too)
posted by sic at 2:37 PM on February 28, 2003


Ha ha! Of course you can buy Mexico! Hah ha ha ha!

Is anyone else disturbed by this in the way that it actually is disturbing, as opposed to simply exulting in it?

It seems like everyone is saying that of course Mexico's security council vote is buyable, and that's just fine and we should all be happy about it. What's up with that?

PS: Bush hater here. But not one who thinks hating Bush is more important than anything else in the world.
posted by rusty at 2:50 PM on February 28, 2003


Of course we are disturbed by it. But it's not just the "buying" of votes, it's also coercing a "coalition of the willing" to support an unjust war and then getting up in front of the toady press corp day after day, as Fleischer does, and keeping a straight face when he lies about how this country and that country "supports the US". Sure Turkey, a most expensive whore, loves the US for tens of billions of dollars, sure the UK loves the US, for untold riches when the booty is split up, sure Germany and France may come around if they respond to US threats of economic sanctions etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum. I mean dear God, this adminstration showed the world a grainy photograph with an arrow pointing at a building that could have been in Ohio and called it "proof" that Iraq was hoarding weapons of mass destruction! With a straight face! They know they were lying, Fleischer knows they are all lies, the press corp knows it too, anybody with an iota of analytical ability knows THAT THESE ARE LIES. But still the press listens to his BS day after day and dutifuly writes it up.

But I think this thread is more about how this tacit hypocrisy was punctured, if only for a split second, when Fleischer finally said something so ironic, as unintended as it was, that the press corp simply couldn't maintain the charade and busted up laughing. For that instant the mask fell and the whole stinking shit of it was exposed. The press corp laughed to fill just for that moment that huge empty space where their collective soul used to be, I´m laughing so as not to cry.
posted by sic at 3:40 PM on February 28, 2003


Well said, sic.
posted by Rattmouth at 3:46 PM on February 28, 2003


I've put up a Flash version of the final bit of the audio from the press briefing on my blog.
posted by gametone at 6:27 PM on February 28, 2003


sic: Everything you just said was a lie.

Look how easy it is to claim that. It don't mean a thing.
posted by rusty at 8:24 PM on February 28, 2003


rusty: When a room full of people laugh at you and you are so mortified that you instantly run out of there, that does mean something.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:54 PM on February 28, 2003


"For that instant the mask fell and the whole stinking shit of it was exposed. The press corp [who couldn't investigate or report their way out of a paper bag if their lives depended on it or who, if they ever once possesed an iota of journalistic skill or integrity, have since devolved into cringing, shuffling, spineless - worm-like even - yes men presenting their prostrate buttucks ( for a jealous inspection of potential infidelity) to the power of the Imperial White House"] laughed to fill just for that moment that huge empty space where their collective soul used to be, I´m laughing so as not to cry."........ (sic)

Wow - my 2nd great (found) quotable quote of the evening!

*stashes quotable quote for later use.....*

sic - I pasted my caustic "press corps are whores" tidbit into your briliant quote to produce a "FrankenWhore-journalist soul expose". Please indulge me.
posted by troutfishing at 9:58 PM on February 28, 2003




Troutfishing,

no need for indulgence because I take it as the supreme complement: thank you!

Rusty, you are as coherent as the Bush adminstration, I´m sure you are trying to make a point, I just don´t know what it is

salud.
posted by sic at 7:37 AM on March 1, 2003


Rusty made perfect sense. He was saying how easy it is to call others' claims lies....and illustrating it by calling sic's post a lie.
posted by Vidiot at 8:07 AM on March 1, 2003


PressGaggle excerpts all the fun parts of daily briefings so you don't have to! (via Kottke remainders)
posted by VulcanMike at 2:46 PM on March 4, 2003


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