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Compare and Contrast

From President Bush's State of the Union address, 29 January 2002:

The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.
From an article in the Los Angeles Times, 5 March 2003:
The Bush administration has concluded that it probably cannot prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and is focusing on managing the geopolitical fallout, informed Capitol Hill sources said Tuesday.

In closed briefings and private conversations with members of Congress over the last several weeks, administration officials have indicated that they expect North Korea to begin reprocessing its plutonium stockpiles soon, perhaps within a few weeks, the sources said. Once reprocessing begins, North Korea will be able to produce enough plutonium for one nuclear weapon a month.

A Senate staff member who is privy to the briefings said the administration was "preparing people up here for a de facto, if not declared, North Korean nuclear state and saying that this is something we can deal with through isolation, sanctions, deterrence and national missile defense."

During his press conference last night, the following question was asked of the president:

If North Korea restarts their plutonium plant, will that change your thinking about how to handle this crisis, or are you resigned to North Korea becoming a nuclear power?
I'm not quoting the president's response because there was nothing quotable in it. He said nothing. The question made it easy for him to say nothing. I would have liked to see the following question asked instead:

Mr. President, in your State of the Union address in January of 2002, you labeled North Korea as part of an "axis of evil," then said, and I quote, "The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons." Last month, CIA Director Tenet testified before Congress that North Korea probably has one or two nuclear devices, as well as the ability to reach the west coast of the US with a ballistic missile. How do you reconcile the promise you made to the American people with your intelligence director's latest testimony?

Helen Thomas rightfully complains about the paucity of press conferences in the current administration. She should turn a critical eye on the White House press corps itself -- given the few chances they have to ask questions, it's imperative that their questions be good ones.


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