A truly frightening exchange occurred between Barack Obama and Helen Thomas at Obama’s first press conference on Monday. Here is the transcript excerpt:
All right. Helen? This is my inaugural moment here.
I’m really excited.
QUESTION: Mr. President, do you think that Pakistan and — are maintaining the safe havens in Afghanistan for these so-called terrorists? And, also, do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?
OBAMA: Well, I think that Pakistan — there is no doubt that, in the FATA region of Pakistan, in the mountainous regions along the border of Afghanistan, that there are safe havens where terrorists are operating. And one of the goals of Ambassador Holbrooke, as he is traveling throughout the region, is to deliver a message to Pakistan that they are endangered as much as we are by the continuation of those operations and that we’ve got to work in a regional fashion to root out those safe havens. It’s not acceptable for Pakistan or for us to have folks who, with impunity, will kill innocent men, women and children. And, you know, I — I believe that the new government of Pakistan and — and Mr. Zardari cares deeply about getting control of the situation. We want to be effective partners with them on that issue.
OBAMA: Well, Mr. Holbrooke is there, and that’s exactly why he’s being sent there, because I think that we have to make sure that Pakistan is a stalwart ally with us in battling this terrorist threat. With respect to nuclear weapons, you know, I don’t want to speculate. What I know is this: that if we see a nuclear arms race in a region as volatile as the Middle East, everybody will be in danger. And one of my goals is to prevent nuclear proliferation generally. I think that it’s important for the United States, in concert with Russia, to lead the way on this. And, you know, I’ve mentioned this in conversations with the Russian president, Mr. Medvedev, to let him know that it is important for us to restart the — the conversations about how we can start reducing our nuclear arsenals in an effective way so that …
OBAMA: … so that we then have the standing to go to other countries and start stitching back together the nonproliferation treaties that, frankly, have been weakened over the last several years. OK.
QUESTION: Why do you have to speculate on who has …
OBAMA: All right.
Sam Stein, Huffington Post. Where’s Sam? Here. Go ahead.
This may well be one of the most horrifying excerpts from a press-conference transcript in U.S. presidential history. It’s hard to know where to begin in documenting the carnage.
First, in the middle of one of the great economic crises the country has experienced, at his very first press conference, and just before being asked about Islamic terrorism and nuclear weapons, Obama is joking like a schoolboy.
Second, Obama states: “It’s not acceptable for Pakistan or for us to have folks who, with impunity, will kill innocent men, women and children.” For us? Perhaps by this bizarre statement Obama meant not only Pakistan but any country assisting terrorists must be opposed by U.S. policy, but it came out sounding as if the U.S. was somehow itself fostering terrorism.