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President Lacks the Key to His Exit Strategy

November 21, 2005|From Reuters

BEIJING — Irked by a reporter who told him he seemed to be "off his game" at a public appearance here, President Bush sought to make a hasty exit from a news conference but was thwarted by locked doors.

At the end of a day of meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other officials, Bush held a session with a small group of U.S. reporters and spoke at length about religious freedom, the Iraq war and the value of China's currency.

The final reporter he called on assessed Bush's performance earlier in the day when he stood beside Hu in the Great Hall of the People near Tiananmen Square to deliver a statement.

"Respectfully, sir -- you know we're always respectful -- in your statement this morning with President Hu, you seemed a little off your game, you seemed to hurry through your statement. There was a lack of enthusiasm. Was something bothering you?" he asked.

"Have you ever heard of jet lag?" Bush responded. "Well, good. That answers your question."

The president then recited a list of what he viewed as positive developments from his meetings in Beijing, including cooperation on North Korean nuclear disarmament and the ability to engage in "frank discussions" with his Chinese counterpart.

When the reporter asked if he could have "a very quick follow-up," Bush cut him off by thanking the press corps and telling the reporter, "No, you may not," as he strode toward a set of double doors leading out of the room.

The only problem was that they were locked.

"I was trying to escape. Obviously, it didn't work," Bush quipped, facing reporters again until an aide rescued him by pointing him toward the correct door.

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