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A few months ago, several pundits rapped the White House for its "Ask Bush" sessions, where "independent" citizens would recite the Republican talking points and have it entered into the record without rebuke from the President. This exchange in particular was singled out for scrutiny:

Q On behalf of Vietnam veterans -- and I served six tours over there -- we do support the President. I only have one concern, and that's on the Purple Heart, and that is, is that there are over 200,000 Vietnam vets that died from Agent Orange and were never -- no Purple Heart has ever been awarded to a Vietnam veteran because of Agent Orange because it's never been changed in the regulations. Yet, we've got a candidate for President out here with two self-inflicted scratches, and I take that as an insult.


THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that. Thank you. Thank you for your service. Six tours? Whew. That's a lot of tours.

Let's see, who've we got here? You got a question?

But despite the brouhaha, these carefully staged events appear to have continued unabated. I mean, take yesterday's Q&A session for example - maybe I'm just being cynical, but I have a hard time believing that these questions weren't planted and these answer weren't rehersed.
Q: My name is Trevor Wallenstein and I'm from Gerbil Junction, Iowa. John Kerry is a serial flip-flopper who married an heiress for her money, volunteered for Vietnam so he could fake some injuries and collect a few dubious medals in anticipation of a future presidential campaign, and only shows backbone when it comes to raising taxes. Do you like ice cream?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first let me begin by saying that, in my opinion, Iowa is the best State in the union, in a first place tie with all the other swing states. But to answer your question: yes, I love ice cream, all flavors. Except, heh, except for French vanilla, of course.

[Laughter, applause]

Okay, who's next?

Q: Mr. President, the overwhelmingly liberal media has implied that you might not be the sharpest picket in the fence. So let me ask you this: if two trains are on the same track 150 miles apart and traveling toward each other, with the first train travelling 60 miles per hour and the second train travelling 90 miles per hour, and a fly moving 120 miles per hour buzzes back and forth between the trains until they collide, how far will the fly travel in total?

THE PRESIDENT: Uh, well now. I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it.


But off the top of my head, I'd say -- let's see, 60 miles per hour and 90 miles per hour, with distance as rate multiplied by time ... carry the one -- I'd reckon that fly travels 120 miles in total.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. That's exactly right.

[Applause, cheers]

THE PRESIDENT: How about you.

Q: Mr. President, the people of America want a decisive leader who can decisively make decisive decisions and then decisively stick to their guns, regardless of the [air quotes] polls or [air quotes] facts. In light of that, I wanted to ask --


Q: -- how you plan, uh, what?

THE PRESIDENT: No. Whatever you are going to ask, my answer is 'no.'

Q: Well, I was just going to ask how you plan --

THE PRESIDENT: No! And that's final!

[Applause, cheers]

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, you there, the man in black.

Q: While your staggering intelligence and steely resolve are essential qualities for a leader, a commander-in-chief must also make thoughtful, well-reasoned decisions when faced with complex issues. To test you on this attribute, I have prepared these two goblets of wine, one of which contains deadly iocane powder. Can you tell me which one contains the poison?

THE PRESIDENT: Really, it's so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy's? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me. And iocane comes from Australia, as everyone knows, and Australia is entirely peopled with criminals, and criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. And you must have suspected I would have known the powder's origin, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

Q: You're trying to trick me into giving away something. It won't work.


[Applause, cheers]

THE PRESIDENT: Last question.

Q: Much of this campaign has been focused on events that took place over 30 years ago, so it seems only fair to ask: what was your guiding philosophy as a young man in the late 60s?

THE PRESIDENT: "Never get involved in a land war in Asia."

Posted on September 06, 2004 to Politics