CommunityPam's House Blend

Slate‘s Fred Kaplan skewers the Prez and the lazy media that were tricked into covering his “major policy address” yesterday.

Did CNN and MSNBC get hoodwinked this morning? Yesterday, the White House announced that President Bush would be delivering a “major policy address” on terrorism today. The cable news networks broadcast it live and in full. Yet the “address” turned out to be a standard campaign stump speech before a Pennsylvania crowd that seemed pumped on peyote, cheering, screaming, or whooping at every sentence.

The president announced no new policy, uttered not one new word about terrorism, foreign policy, or anything else. He did all the things he wanted to do in last Thursday’s debate—accuse his opponent of weakness, bad judgment, vacillation, and other forms of flip-floppery—though this time without a moderator to hush the audience, much less an opponent to bite back. And Bush loved it, smiling, smirking, raising his eyebrows, as if to say, “How ’bout that zinger?”

In short, the cable networks were lured into airing an hourlong free campaign ad for George W. Bush. (CNN’s spokeswoman did not return my calls inquiring if the producers felt used. The secretary to MSNBC President Rick Kaplan—no relation—connected me to a “viewer relations” line, where I could leave a message if I wished. I called again to clarify that I had a press question, not a consumer complaint. She connected me to the same line again. When I tried a third, fourth, and fifth time, she didn’t even pick up the phone; no doubt seeing my number pop up on the Caller ID screen, she routed my call to the prerecorded announcement.)

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding