I think the best way to characterize the President’s press conference was “on message.” You could have asked him about the merits of Coke vs. Pepsi, and you would have been informed that the issue is not cola preference, it is disarmament. I heard nothing new but I didn’t expect anything new; this was the obligatory have-at-me, lads press conference before the solo performance of the equally obligatory Oval Office speech. He didn’t seem to want to be there at all, and if I had to face some of these idiots I’d be hard-pressed to gin up enthusiasm for the event, either. Imagine that you’re in your office looking at satellite photos of oil wells Saddam has already set on fire, as well some chatter about sleeper-cells planning retaliatory embassy bombings in European capitals, and as you put the papers down to go face the press you know someone’s going to ask for a comment on Sen. Kennedy’s assertion that this is animated by a personal grudge against Saddam.

My favorite question came from Terry Moran - and whoever named him bought the wrong vowel.

“Thank you, sir. May I follow up on Jim Angle's question. In the past several weeks your policy on Iraq has generated opposition from the governments of France, Russia, China, Germany, Turkey, the Arab League and many other countries, NATO and the U.N., and drawn millions of ordinary citizens around the world into the streets in anti-war protests. May I ask, what went wrong that so many governments and peoples around the world now not only disagree with you very strongly but see the U.S. under your leadership as an arrogant power? “

Ideal response:

“Oh, many things went wrong, Terry. We failed to understand the extent to which the French are economically entwined with Iraq, and how this war would make their knees vibrate like orgasmic hummingbirds. While we realized the power of Anti-Americanism as a cudgel with which to beat the rest of Europe into accepting a Franco-German hegemony, we didn’t think they’d screw us this hard for short-term political gain. We misunderestimated Turkish protestations of support - although, as you no doubt noted from my earlier comments supporting their EU membership and lauding their role in NATO, we’re certainly not going to kick them in the nads in public like some of our allies have done to us. And while I agree that ordinary citizens have protested our government in foreign capitals, I’d ask you why American security should be determined by 26 year old Belgian college students, and I’d also note that these rallies have been organized by people who’d dance in the street if someone set off a tactical nuclear device in the lobby of the Monsanto corporate office. But more to the point, Terry, I’d ask: What went wrong in your education that you believe that the disapproval of China constitutes failure?”

Stirring rhetoric would have been nice, but stirring rhetoric frightens the Europeans, much as the sound of a newfangled motorcar makes the horses nervous.

Filled up the tank today. Gnat loves to go to the gas station - it’s the Lileks genes, it would seem.

“What does the gas say?” she asks.

“It says 'I’m good for cars but not for people!'”

“Not for peeple!” she sings, delighted. “What does the car say?”

“The car says 'I’m hungry, I need some gas!'”

Afterwards she asked what the car said now, and I replied that the car said “gulp gulp gulp, ahhhh, thank you!”

“Thank you!” she said, adding “how much did it cost to fill up, daddee? Because if it’s over twenty bucks for the first time in a long time you’re less inclined to go inside the station to get some high-profit items like soda or jerky, or buy a car wash ticket, right? And since the profit margin for gas on the retail level is constantly miniscule, and since high-profit items help repay the loans to the oil company that fronted you money for pumps, upgrades, canopies and the like - then aren’t these high oil prices hard on the individual stations, increasing their likelihood of defaulting on their loans from the company? Granted, they can take the hit from losing a station here or there, but might not this continual erosion of the consignee’s profit margin tempt them to switch to another brand who’d pay off the old loan, leading to market-share erosion? I mean, people think high gas prices are great for gas companies, but that’s a rather simplistic take. Isn’t this side-effect of high gas prices on the stations completely ignored by the press, which sees Big Oil as a monolithic octopus yanking all the levers with ingenious synchronization?”

“Yes, honey. Yes it is.”

Damn smart kid. She gets that from her grandfather, I’m sure.

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