Funny Boy

by digby

Earlier today in the NY Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg told us that the white house is having a very difficult time getting any press coverage and that the press corps is queasy about appearing too close to Bush because they fear being attacked by liberal bloggers:

Back when he was riding high in the polls, when his every utterance made headlines and the press planes trailing him around the country were still full, President Bush had little need to indulge reporters with ceremonial pleasantries.

But that is what Mr. Bush intends to do Wednesday, when he cuts the ribbon for the renovated White House briefing room. It is the latest sign of how times have changed for a president who now must work to hold the attention of a press corps that often seems to have lost interest in him.


Mr. Bush’s communications team, trying to gin up coverage, has gotten more creative. Last summer, he held a news conference in Chicago intended to attract regional coverage. In April, he used high-tech electronic graphics in Grand Rapids, Mich., to promote his troop buildup in Iraq. He held one town-hall-style meeting in Tipp City, Ohio, in April, and another Tuesday in Cleveland — a departure for a White House that prefers controlled events.

“They have to dig a little bit deeper into their toolkit at this point in the presidency to get the front-page coverage,” said Martha Joynt Kumar, a political scientist at Towson University in Maryland who studies the White House communications operation.


...with the White House press corps under attack from liberal bloggers as being too cozy with the Bush administration, some reporters say they feel a little bit queasy about attending. Mr. Snow said the president would not take questions, which poses a quandary for journalists uneasy about being seen with him at a purely ceremonial affair.

Still, Mark McKinnon, a former Bush media strategist, senses “an opportunity for détente” in the awkward affair. “But,” Mr. McKinnon said, “I wouldn’t advise any member of the White House press to get too close to the ribbon.”

Well gosh. Here you have a president who is allegedly desperate for some coverage and a press corps that is queasy about being seen as too close to him, you should be able to expect some fireworks, right? Even if Junior refused to answer questions, this new press corps would be anxious to get difficult questions about Iraq, and Cheney and Libby and Gonzales and impeachment and, god knows what else, on camera, so they'd make like Rather and Donaldson during Watergate and Iran-Contra, right? He was right there!

Here's what happened:

The relationship between the President and the press is a unique relationship, and it's a necessary relationship. I enjoy it. I hope you do. As I say, sometimes you don't like the decisions I make, and sometimes I don't like the way you write about the decisions. But nevertheless, it's a really important part of our process. And the fact that you were working in substandard conditions just wasn't right. It really wasn't.

And so my White House worked with Steve and Ann, worked with Mark Smith to get it right. And I think it's going to benefit future Presidents and future White House press corps, to be working in modern conditions, conditions where a fellow like me will feel comfortable coming in here answering a few questions without losing 20 pounds. (Laughter.)

It was really hot in here. As a matter of fact, I can't imagine how Snow could handle it on a regular basis. But now it's modern, and it's going to enable you to do a better job. And I'm glad that's the case.

I want to thank Peter Doherty -- where is he? Yes, Peter, thanks for working hard here. You get a lot of credit for making sure this thing works. And one of these days Laura and I are looking forward to coming and actually see what it's like working here. I've never toured -- I've never even been able to get beyond the podium -- (laughter) -- if you know what I mean. As a matter of fact, I've always felt comfortable behind the podium in front of you, kind of as a shield. (Laughter.) But I would like a tour.

Q Bullet-proof --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's not exactly bullet-proof. Some of your bullets are able to -- verbal bullets -- (laughter) -- are able to penetrate. But you've been around a long time, see, you know what it's like to query Presidents. You've been -- you're kind of an older fellow. (Laughter.)

Q -- (inaudible) --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes -- proudly so. Thanks for the birthday greeting, too. I appreciate that thoughtful gesture.

But, anyway, we're glad to join you for this ribbon-cutting, and we thank you very much for working with Hagin and the bunch to make sure this thing -- deal works. And it's going to. And it's going to make your life better and, frankly, it's going to make the lives of future Presidents better, as well. And so it's a good contribution that you all have left behind. And we're glad to have been a part of it. And so -- wait --

Q What, do you think I'm going to ask a question?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I did think you were going to ask me a question, yes. (Laughter.)

Q I am. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, maybe some other time.

Q Oh, but do you think you open --

THE PRESIDENT: See what I'm saying? (Laughter.)

Q You can't come to the press room, especially a modern press room --

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute, let's do this -- let me cut the ribbon, and --

Q You think anything has changed?

THE PRESIDENT: Let me cut the ribbon -- are you going to cut it with me, Steve -- and then why don't you all yell simultaneously? (Laughter.) Like, really loudly. (Laughter.) And that way you might get noticed.

Q It doesn't sound like you're going to answer --

THE PRESIDENT: No, I will. I'll, like, listen --

Q And leave?

THE PRESIDENT: -- internalize, play like I'm going to answer the question, and then smile at you and just say, gosh -- (laughter) -- thanks, thanks for such a solid, sound question.

Here we go, ready? I'm going to cut the ribbon. (Laughter.) Then you yell. I cogitate -- and then smile and wave. (Laughter.)

Are you going to come, Laura? Here we go.

(The President and Mrs. Bush cut the ribbon.) (Applause.)

Q -- (inaudible) --

THE PRESIDENT: Brilliant question.

Q -- (inaudible) -- cogitating that, right?

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. See you soon.

Q We look forward to seeing you come and do a little --

THE PRESIDENT: I will see you soon, thank you.

Q Y'all come back. (Laughter.)

Yeah, you can just feel the queasiness in that room. And the president's deep yearning to get their attention is palpable. zzzzzzzzzzzz

I should point out that this is the white house transcript. But the NY Times blog reports the names of the two reporters who are featured in the exchange. The first is Martha Raddatz of ABC, who never got her question out of her mouth.

The other was Bill Plante:

And, holding to his promise, ignoring, among others, Bill Plante of CBS News when he tried to ask him whether Vice President Cheney is part of the executive branch. “Brilliant question,’’ he joked.

(It's funny how the white house transcribers couldn't hear that question, isn't it?)

So, the NY Times reported this morning that the white house is desperately trying to find ways to get the attention of the news media and yet Bush refused to answer any questions today when the whole white house press corps was present. And the same article said that the white house press corps was queasy about attending this event because they are being attacked for being too cozy with Bush --- yet they went and they laughed uproariously at every one of his stupid, humiliating jokes like a bunch of Justin Timberlake fans, even as they made a pathetic attempt to ask him questions they knew he would not answer.

I give up.

Update: Now he's making little girls cry. As Joan Walsh writes:

Boy, is Bush's hostile, dry-drunk, nickname-giving faux alpha male act getting old.

It was old for me after the first interview I ever saw with him seven years ago when he slumped in his chair like a sullen 14 year old and snapped at the reporter. I've always recoiled at that particular personality type and I've been so traumatized by Junior that I think I've developed a knee-jerk hatred for it that's going to take some work to get rid of.