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Bush in a Bubble? What Bubble? It's the Media, Stupid

Reported by Melanie - December 18, 2005

"Fox News Watch" is a program billed as one that "covers the [media] coverage." Given last week's news that the US tortures people and spies on its own citizens, and the "policy" speeches George Bush gave and the interviews he granted, there certainly was plenty of coverage to cover. Nonetheless, the headline topic on Fox News Watch last night (December 17, 2005) was Newsweek's Bush-in-a-bubble article. Per News Watch's website, the News Watch panel would discuss: "Is President Bush in a 'bubble'? Why does Newsweek magazine say he is? We'll debate it."

Well, that's not exactly what happened. Instead, Fox managed to air yet another bash-the-media segment and to rehabilitate Bush such that, in the end, he sounded like a victim poised to triumph.

Host Eric Burns opened the segment (titled, "Who's in a Bubble?") with: "'Bush's World,' says the cover of this week's Newsweek: 'The isolated president.' But he wasn't especially isolated this week. He gave major interviews to Fox News Channel's Brit Hume, NBC's Brian Williams, and PBS's Jim Lehrer and he gave two speeches about US strategy in Iraq which leads me, Jim [Jim Pinkerton, one of the panelists], to this question: The media charging the president with being isolated. Are they complaining because he is isolated just from them, to the extent that they would like to have access?"

Pinkerton said Bush has been angry at Newsweek since the late 80's when it ran an article critical of his father. Bush "definitely doesn't like Newsweek," he said.

Cal Thomas said, "The problem with the media is they like to see themselves as part of the action. They want to be consulted. They want to see their ideas bounced around." They "claim that he's in a bubble because he's not talking to them."

Jane Hall attempted to stay on topic: "I know good Republicans, good supporters of President Bush who have felt that he was in a bubble, that there was a disconnect between the growing unease in this country and the drop in popularity." She said that "Brit Hume and Bill O'Reilly, with Donald Rumsfeld, did a much better job because they were more aggressive and seemed to be more willing to do follow-up than Brian Williams, who seemed very deferential."

Neal Gabler (back from a vacation in Italy) said most of "these bubble stories started about two months ago with Tom DeFrank who's a very sympathetic reporter at the New York Daily News. So what it leads me to believe is that people within the administration were leaking to DeFrank..." Gabler said he thought, "they wanted to say 'we're not getting access to the president'."

Pinkerton, a loyal Bush supporter, said, "I do agree that a lot of the stories - the negative press in the last few months - has come from within the administration." He said given the speeches, "the Q and A sessions, the interviews," Bush, "decided to get back on the offensive, and I think it worked, by the way."

Burns wondered why Bush didn't give the four "major speeches" about Iraq during the evening when more people watch television. Hall said the administration was "reaching out to think tanks, to universities." They were "trying to show" they were "going places where they might be criticized, it might not be a natural home." She acknowledged that, "For him to try to get a prime time audience on a restatement, I think, would be difficult."

Thomas added the obvious, suggesting that the networks may have refused to air the speeches, "saying there's nothing new here."

Gabler said Karl Rove and Bush were, "gaming the system." He said they thought that if Bush went on "this whoops tour, 'whoops I made a mistake,' that the press would then kind of accept his apology and not be too critical, and it has worked." They "haven't been very critical, they haven't held him accountable."

Pinkerton ended the discussion with, "Robert Hillman of the Dallas Morning News really put his finger on it - that Bush, by taking a little blame for the WMD decision - has actually lanced the boil of a lot of the press hostility, at least for now."

Comment: Does that sound like a discussion about: "Is President Bush in a 'bubble'? Why does Newsweek magazine say he is?" Of course not.

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