This column was reprinted by permission of L. Brent Bozell and Creators
Syndicate. To reprint this or any of his twice weekly syndicated columns, please contact Creators Syndicate at (310) 337-7003 ext. 110
Bush's Final Jabs
President Bush came before the White
House press corps for the last time on January 12 to thank them for doing their
jobs. This exercise was akin to thanking the sharks who ate you.
The president said he didn’t always like the stories that were generated, "but
always, the relationship, I have felt, has been professional." Walking in the
footsteps of his father, he’d politely unfurled an obvious fib in a display of
Always professional? President Bush didn’t draw any attention to Helen Thomas in
the front row as he praised the media for their never-failing professionalism.
Helen’s accusatory rants at White House spokesman Ari Fleischer about the
president’s bloodthirsty ways were legendary, like this one in 2003: “Why does
he want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis?” She lectured Bush directly in 2006:
“Your decision to invade Iraq has caused the death of thousands of Americans and
Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime.” She wanted to know if
the “real reason” he caused all these deaths and injuries was for oil, or for
The media’s abusive coverage wasn’t personal? Try Dan Rather, or Rather’s old
White House hand puppet, John Roberts (now anchoring at CNN). In 2004, Rather
first ran the sloppy, error-ridden National Guard hit piece, never telling his
audience the president’s primary accusers were political opponents with personal
and political vendettas. Then Roberts publicly and dishonorably mocked the First
Lady for doubting CBS: “Laura Bush offered no evidence to back up her claim, and
CBS News continues to stand by its reporting.” That was a “Mission Accomplished”
event for the entire media, which lapped up the CBS hit piece until the bloggers
started to unravel it.
And yet, of course, there are many in the White House press corps who have
dutifully churned out their stories for years and traveled the globe with the
president in virtual anonymity, reporters just reporting – and nothing more.
That said, it’s also true that the reporters who gathered daily in the briefing
room were overwhelmingly Democrats who never really wanted Bush to be there when
they preferred Al Gore or John Kerry. Many probably felt he was undemocratically
imposed by the Supreme Court in 2000.
Republican presidents take a beating from the press and still praise them for
their professionalism, even when some of them don’t deserve it. Democratic
presidents can be just the opposite: the media coverage is generally good, yet
still they whine. Bill Clinton expected the royal treatment, and mostly received
it, and when he didn’t, he was furious. (Remember him denouncing the “knee-jerk
liberal press” in Rolling Stone?) President Bush received about a month of
respect – right after September 11. Clinton was treated with respect by
reporters even after he was impeached.
For eight years, President Bush rarely raised a peep of public protest against
the media’s partisanship (save his sneaky photo holding a copy of Bernard
Goldberg’s insider expose "Bias.") Now, even as he praised the media’s
professionalism, his resentment at the inaccuracy of long-established liberal
media templates erupted in his final press conference.
Bush grew agitated as he remembered the press pounding him for seeing Hurricane
Katrina damage from the sky on Air Force One without landing in Louisiana. He
said – correctly – that had he actually landed in Baton Rouge, it would have
required police to leave the disaster scene to protect him, and reporters would
have savaged him for that. No matter what the president did or didn’t do, he was
going to be attacked.
The president was also very animated in protesting the media’s similar no-win
approach to terrorist surveillance. After 9/11, the executive branch was
excoriated by the press for having failed to make the al-Qaeda connections and
prevent it all. “And then we start putting policy in place -- legal policy in
place to connect the dots, and all of a sudden people were saying, ‘How come
you're connecting the dots?’”
Bush’s media critics are crowing about his legacy lying in tatters. Bush
responds with his stubborn confidence that history will vindicate his
administration. But how to explain Bush’s sudden interest in interviews? With
only days left before the moving vans file out, he’s decided to go public, and
publicly defend himself.
Why didn’t he start doing this seven years ago, when it would have mattered?
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