The Times makes nice

Published January 10, 2005 8:13PM (EST)

The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller once defended the press's failures in the run-up to the Iraq war by explaining just how "frightening" it is to ask a question at a White House press conference. Recalling a press conference on the eve of war, Bumiller said: "There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time."

In what looks like an effort to make her job a little less scary, Bumiller offers up a long, wet kiss to the new White House communications director in today's Times. In a "White House Letter," Bumiller says that there's just one problem with Nicolle Devenish: She's too darned nice! Warning that it might be a tall tale, Bumiller leads her profile anyway with an anecdote about Devenish's days as a spokeswoman for Republicans in the California Legislature. The upshot: Devenish got fired because she was seen "talking and laughing and looking too trusting of the California press corps."

Bumiller dutifully notes Bush's hostility with the press -- then just as dutifully notes Devenish's denial of it. For her part, Devenish says that she may not always be happy with reporters, "but we have to keep the lines of communication open." She says the relationship is "like a marriage." If Bumiller's piece is any indication, the honeymoon has just begun.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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