Bush's headline performance

The reality of the president's TV appearance, as viewed in the light of morning.

Published April 29, 2005 6:48PM (EDT)

The president's prime-time appearance last night is taking a pummeling in the media today, and we were compelled to take note of some of the finer headlines. Here are some of our faves.

"Reality TV Trumps Bush Press Conference"
"His party may dominate Washington, but President Bush did not dare go head to head last night with 'The Apprentice'," reported NPR's Morning Edition. "TV networks said they wouldn't carry last night's presidential press conference if it went past 9 p.m., pre-empting reality TV."

As many have noted today, the White House P.R. crew wisely opted to bump up last night's scheduled appearance, and Bush even joked about getting out of the way in a timely manner. (Perhaps he was imagining all of TV-going America declaring "You're fired" in unison?) Three networks cut away from the conference early anyway.

"Bush on Offensive as Ratings Hit Floor"
It's always instructive to hear from our friends and allies abroad; The Australian weighed in with the long view from the Land Down Under:

"President George W.Bush sought to wrest back control of his second-term agenda yesterday amid a dramatic drop in the opinion polls that is threatening his legislative program and the Republicans' dominance of Congress. ... The President's intervention with an hour-long press conference comes amid an increasingly poisonous environment on Capitol Hill, which has become as polarised as US political veterans can remember."

"Not Exactly Must-See TV"
The American public "got snookered last night," said the Washington Post's Dan Froomkin.

"Strong-armed, beguiled and wheedled into pre-empting an hour of prime-time national programming last night for President Bush's news conference, the networks were assured they would be getting must-see TV. Instead, they got a clip show. The White House had promised that Bush would unveil new specifics about how he proposes to resolve Social Security's future funding shortfalls. And he did that -- but only briefly, and using language that was disingenuous at best."

The sum total of new information offered, says Froomkin, "could have easily fit into a commercial break."

But the top prize has to go to the New York Times for skipping the obvious riffs about the boob on the tube, and going with the weather channel instead:

"After 99 Days, Bush Uses News Conference to Test Winds"

To test them, or just to blow a bunch of it?

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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