Earlier today, President Bush held an “impromptu” public teleconference with a group of U.S. soldiers based in Tikrit, Iraq.
Pentagon communications aide Allison Barber “insisted the questions were not rehearsed. The military had been told ahead of time only about topics the president might want to talk about, not specific questions. ‘We just knew broad themes,’ Barber said.”
Yet reporters could clearly hear White House handlers, including Barber herself, prepping the troops for President Bush’s photo-op:
WH Pooler Geoff Earle of the New York Post writes of the teleconference: “The soldiers, nine U.S. men and one U.S. woman, plus an Iraqi, had been tipped off in advance about the questions in the highly scripted event. Allison Barber, deputy assistant to the Secretary of Defense for internal communication, could be heard asking one soldier before the start of the event, “Who are we going to give that to?”
Hotline (sub. req’d) has published this transcript of pool footage featuring a Bush aide “who was, in her own words, ‘scripting’ the soldiers shortly before their ‘conversation’ with Bush”:
WH aide: “Capt. Kennedy are you ready?” Kennedy: “I am ready, ma’am.” WH aide: “Okay this is for the money. We are going to time this and remember that if the president cuts it short, if he asks more questions, if you have the microphone and he follows up with a question to you, no matter who has it, Captain Pratt if you have the microphone and the president hears something and he wants more information, you just keep that microphone and talk to the president.” Kennedy: “Okay.” WH aide: “But if he gives us a question that is not something that we have scripted Captain Kennedy you are going to have the mic and that’s your chance to impress us all.” Kennedy: “Okay.” WH aide: “Which won’t be a problem for you.”
UPDATE: Reporter asks Scott McClellan: “How were they selected, and are their comments to the president pre-screened, any questions or anything…” McClellan responds, “No.”