Bumiller, Bush and Betts, just friends

Published January 14, 2005 7:14PM (EST)

Elisabeth Bumiller's White House love-in continues in today's New York Times. Earlier this week, Bumiller offered up a warm kiss for incoming White House Communications Director Nicolle Devenish. Today, she shares the love with Bush buddy Roland W. Betts.

Bumiller devotes nearly 2,000 words to the touching friendship between the two men, and it is not the first time she has done so. As a visit to Bush's fraternity website will show you, Bumiller wrote an earlier tribute to the Bush-Betts relationship back in 1998.

This time around, Bumiller lets us know that Betts thinks the president isn't as conservative as the press makes him out to be, and that -- all indications to the contrary -- Bush actually likes puzzling through the tough questions that face him. And Bumiller offers up Betts' explanation for why Bush refused to talk with the 9/11 Commission unless Dick Cheney could be there at his side. It wasn't because Bush needed Cheney's help. No, Betts explains -- and see if you can follow this -- Bush insisted on having Cheney with him in order to show that Bush was really in charge at the White House. "What he told me was that he wanted people to see how deeply he understood this, and how we was calling the shots," Bumiller quotes Betts as saying.

Somehow, Bumiller doesn't find room for the fact that Betts has shoveled buckets of money to the Bush campaign and the Republican National Committee. And while Bumiller notes that Betts pushed Bush to hold the Republican's convention in New York last summer, she doesn't mention that Betts' company, which developed and operates New York's Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex, might have had a financial interested in having such a high-profile event come to the city. Nor does Bumiller mention that Bush appointed Betts's wife, Lois Phifer Betts, to the Kennedy Center's Board of Trustees.

No, the thing about old friends like Roland Betts is, they like you just because they like you, even if you are the president of the United States. As Betts tells Bumiller, Bush has a "comfort level" with his old friends. Around them, Betts say, Bush can "truly relax, and not worry about people positioning him on something."

If she keeps this up, Bumiller will soon have Bush feeling the same way about her.

By Tim Grieve

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

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