Putting the “Press” Back in Press Conference

Friday, December 07, 2007


The release of a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran prompted mea culpas and soul searching from pols and the press. Bob talks with two White House correspondents, the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Silva and US News and World Report’s Ken Walsh, about how the President and his press secretary, Dana Perino, reacted to the news on Iran.

Comments [10]

Jack from Chicago

All politicians comments are scripted. Too much is at risk to ad-lib. Just ask Hillary about Spitzer's driver's license plan or Barack's drug use. Watch the debates, frequently a politician will avoid answering a question in order to respond with one of their canned quotations. Something they've said a million times before, it's safe and completely vetted.

Bill Moyers is no better than any other journalist; unless you agree with him. And then he's the best! Personally I was underwhelmed by "Buying the War."

I thought Helen was called on within the past year and she said something like "really, me, are you sure?" Whatever! Besides being a cranky fixture, I'm not sure what her appeal is.

Dec. 15 2007 10:33 PM

Bush's Iran statements quoted in the piece were highy-scripted; written for him by a collective of speechwriters -- propagandists one may even call them -- that the Bush administration has relied on for years. Those quotes, as most of Bush's speeches, if not all, were written to manipulate people.

During the build-up for the Iraq war, many press conferences were also scripted, in that the president had lists of people to call on (see BILL MOYERS JOURNAL: BUYING THE WAR).

The earliest of Bush's press conferences sometimes went "off message" -- remember Helen Thomas? But the Whitehouse quickly learned how to control the press -- see now how Helen Thomas is ignored and not even allowed a chance to ask questions.

There has always been an ebb and flow of questions -- questioners asking embarassing questions do not get called on ever again, so, to be allowed in, the press learn self-restraint and self-censorship.

From time to time some journalist will as a tough, or tougher, question. Let us hope that this continues and that the Whitehouse does not continue it's bullying of the -- capitulating -- press.

Dec. 15 2007 01:36 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

When and if they are actually elected (NOT as in 2000) and when the fair and free election is not under false pretences, it is their job. (Swift boat this!)

I’ve been studying Iran since even before I first saw pictures of one of my Aunts and Uncles at dinner at the Shah’s royal table. My recently deceased cousin, a two tour Vietnam vet, drove the Shahrina’s motorboat, after he helped design their resort island city. There has been plenty of black, white and gray surrounding our relationship with that nation over the decades.

By the way, my (losing) campaign committees were always called the Gray Greens, so I have plenty of criticisms of the Democrats, too.

Dec. 14 2007 01:08 AM
Jack from Chicago

It's not WW3 until they make an Oscar-winning movie about it.
The colonists complaints had more to do with taxes and less to do with garrisoning. I don't think Bin Laden pays taxes.
At the time, like in the most recent intelligence report, there were differences of opinion on the intellgence relating to the progress of Iraq's WMD efforts. It's hardly a black and white world (maybe more so in CT); shades of gray require tough decisions to be made. But that's what our leaders are elected to do.

Dec. 13 2007 11:09 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

About WWIII, I actually thought that is what were already (rather incompetently) fighting.

If you take Bin Laden (remember him?) at his word, it was begun by George's dad, when he garrisoned troops in the Muslim Holy Land. By my recollection, it was among the complaints American colonists made against George III's actions in their new heaven, as well.

Jack, did the media add those 16 words of bull to the infamous State of the Union address? Perhaps he'll add them to his direct communications to his base, but say their the smoking mushroom cloud over Tehran, this time.

Dec. 12 2007 01:50 AM
Jack from Chicago

Now we're all big believers in intelligence. Funny that the majority of the media, yourselves included, failed to mention the lack of uniformity in the intelligence report.
I'd ask Bob to listen again to the first quote from the President regarding WW3 and ask how this report changes that. His comment of "underplayed" smacks of bias.
Why the need to communicate directly with the base? Perhaps the feeling that their message is changed by the media to serve the media's interest.

Dec. 11 2007 04:37 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

With a President who cannot distinguish between "start" and "stop' and a Press Secretary who admits (on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" this week) that she doesn't know the difference between the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missle Crisis, it is a wonder that any press bother to attend these disinformation briefings.

Covering this non-event and, especially this reporter's inane questions, was a waste of your listeners' time.

Critique the media, including Public Broadcasting, as the above posters so aptly do and you will be providing a real public service.

Dec. 11 2007 01:27 AM
larry, dfh from Newark, DE

At the beginning of the piece Bob mentioned that "the press got burned before the Iraq war". I beg to differ. The press were very willing participants in the lies that both elected GWB and led to the Iraq war. As proof of this, I need only mention that all the major and minor players except Judy Miller still have gainful employment in the media. And McNeil-Lehrer and NPR were just as guilty as the WSJ, NYT or WaPo. The people in charge of these organizations knew what they were doing, and Bob's dodge was sloppy, insincere, and inaccurate.

Dec. 09 2007 10:44 PM
A Carroll

Bob Garfield and his discussants, especially Silva, neglected to consider that Bush has to give a State of the Union speech to the country in one month. No wonder he's depressed.

I agree with Wm. Balk's first comment above. Why is the press acting so surprised by the 2005 NIE? The IAEA has been reporting the same results with regard to Iran that they reported about Iraq prior to the invasion (i.e., that there are no WMD to be found), but the name "IAEA" didn't even cross Garfield's lips, nor those of most of the press in their "news" items and "analyses" about this event. The "deer in the headlights" act by the press just doesn't wash.

Dec. 09 2007 02:03 PM
William Balk from Lobeco, SC

2 points: on the credulous press corps' apparent shift, critical questioning about the NIE seems to me to reflect the media's unchanged relish for scandal and controversy - not any particularly strong new commitment to critical analysis.
...and on Walsh's observation that the administration has successfully relied on "emails and other media" for direct outreach to its base instead of regular frequent press conferences, it should be apparent that Dan Bartlett's statements this week (that the conservative media "regurgitate" their White House line) that the administration explicitly considered these "other" conservative media (Hewitt, Cillizza, PowerLine) a "direct IV into the vein of (their) support" - that these statements might have put a bit more fullness to the story about how the administration's dealing with the press has worked and how it continues to work.

Dec. 09 2007 09:41 AM

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