Thursday, May 19, 2005

WH reporter Revolt! Scottie Mc C's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Yesterday was a Very Bad Day for White House Spokesmanatrix Scott McClellan. It wasn't supposed to be that way.

Much to his surprise, the press corps proved to have a gag reflex after all. Scotty McC finally crossed a line, and they remembered that even whipped dogs have teeth.
the feeding frenzy started when early in the Press Conference:

Q: With respect, who made you the editor of Newsweek? Do you think it's
appropriate for you, at that podium, speaking with the authority of the
President of the United States, to tell an American magazine what they should
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not telling them. I'm saying that we would
encourage them to help --
Q You're pressuring them.

Even more remarkably, the question was asked by a reporter for an American TV Network!
Take a bow Terry Moran of ABC News.

Now I can feel your shock and disbelief so you might want to sit down for this next Part (assuming you blog standing up, which, I must tell you is a terribly odd thing to do):

Q Let me follow up on that. What -- you said that -- what specifically are
you asking Newsweek to do? I mean, to follow up on Terry's question, are you
saying they should write a story? Are you going that far? How else can Newsweek,
you know, satisfy you here? { Must...resist...Jeff Gannon joke....}

Now in the excitement of seeing a reporter actually asking a follow-up question (and one about a question asked by another reporter!) I almost missed the identity of the questioner:

Elisabeth Bumiller of the NY Times.

Yes That Bumiller, the infamous author of the White House Letter. A recurring Puff piece on W, that's so slurpy, its a wonder she doesn't wear a blue dress when writing them
But not yesterday. Yesterday she was the Pit bull of the briefing room. She wanted specifics

Scotty tired to give a vague, but faintly indignant non-answer:

McCLELLAN: -- because of this report. I think Newsweek is going to be in the
best position to determine how to achieve that.
And there are ways that I
pointed out that they can help repair the damage. One way is to point out what
the policies and practices of our United States military are. Our United States
military personnel go out of their way to make sure that the Holy Koran is
treated with care { Holy Koran Batman!, Scotty better hope Dr. Dobbie and his
dominionist pals don't hear him talking like that}-
And Elisabeth wasn't havin none:

Q Are you asking them to write a story about how great the American military
is; is that what you're saying here?
{and just to leave Scotty no wiggle
Q Are you asking them to write a story?
And dear Scotty, seeing
thing veering badly off track tried to recover by launching into one of his
patented Long Answers That Say Absolutely Nothing
MR. McCLELLAN: Elisabeth,
let me finish my sentence. Our military -
Q You've already said what you're
-- I know what -- how it ends.

Or in the vernacular "Scottie if all you are going to do is regurgitate the same bullshit, just save your breath

(She also got the quote yesterday that must have been hardest for WH official to say with a straight face. Speaking to her about the Newsweek Story an anonymous (natch) WH official said

"There's no expectation that they're going to bring down Newsweek, but there is a feeling that there is no check on what you guys do "

Because, if there's one thing the Republicans have proven this week, they are all about them checks and balances aren't they?

Bumiller wasn't the only one getting all up in his grill neither. Blood was in the water and it wasn't going to be pretty. Another reporter apparently remembered that WH press briefings aren't supposed to be a closed book exam:

Q Back on Newsweek. Richard Myers, last Thursday -- I'm going to read you a
quote from him. He said, "It's a judgment of our commander in Afghanistan,
General Eichenberry, that in fact the violence that we saw in Jalalabad was not
necessarily the result of the allegations about disrespect for the Koran."
He said it was "more tied up in the political process and reconciliation
that President Karzai and his cabinet were conducting." And he said that that
was from an after-action report he got that day.
So what has changed between
last Thursday and today, five days later, to make you now think that those --
that that violence was a result of Newsweek?

Ooooh now looky there! The reporter did his homework and came prepared!

Scotty for his part didn't appreciate facts getting in the way of his quivering moral indignation, and tried mightily to make the truth disappear by simply ignoring it :

Well, clearly, the report was used to incite violence by people who oppose
the United States and want to mischaracterize the values and the views of the
United States of America. The protests may have been pre-staged by those who
oppose the United States and who may be opposed to moving forward on freedom and
democracy in the region, but the images that we have seen across our television
screens over the last few days clearly show that this report was used to incite
violence. People lost their lives -
{ See? It those darn enemies of freedom
again! We keep trying to liberate them but they say "no, no I want to be
oppressed, I Hate freedom}
But the reporter wasn't going to let him get away
with that: Behold the power of Facts
Q But may I just follow up, please? He
didn't say "protest," he said -- he used the word very specifically, "violence."
He said the violence, as far as they know from their people on the ground --
which is something that you always say you respect wholeheartedly -- it was not
because of Newsweek.
MR. McCLELLAN: Dana, I guess I'm not looking at it the
same way as you do,....{ see if you hold it upside down read it backwards it
clearly says "the Walrus was Paul"}
Q You don't think there's any way that
perhaps you're looking at it a little bit differently, now that you understand
that the Newsweek report is false?
And When Scotty tried to regain the moral
high ground by denying that again, another Reporter pounced:
Q Scott, to go
back to Dana's question, are you saying that General Myers was wrong, therefore,
that this -- the violence he's talking about? Are you saying he was wrong in his
assessment of what happened in Afghanistan?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, not at all.
In fact, maybe you didn't hear me, but as I said, there are people that are
opposed to the United States that look at every opportunity to try to do damage
to our image in the region, and -- Q Okay - {, Eyes rolling}
Hang on, let me finish
Poor Scotty, he's either got to admit he's a liar or
call his top military commander in the region one. Couldn't happen to a nicer

And then there was the coup de grace a question both logical, brilliant and wickedly pointed (Ken Herman of Cox News tossed the fatal dart>

Q In context of the Newsweek situation, I think we hear the caution you're
giving us about reporting things based on a single anonymous source. What, then,
are we supposed to do with information that this White House gives us under the
conditions that it comes from a single anonymous source?

Boom. Nailed it. Reporters HATE the fact that this WH won't even tell them what time it is without first insisting that the answer be used only on background. Scotty tried to Play Dumb but Ken was having none of it.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure what exactly you're referring to.
Q Frequent briefings by senior administration officials, in which the
ground rules are we can only identify them as a single anonymous source.

And Scotty tried to spin mightily, promising to reduce such background briefings (but ducking the question as why it can't simply eliminate them here and now) And then again lecturing the press about the credibility problems of anonymous sources, yada, yada

But Mr. Herman boiled it all down and exposed Scotty's hypocrisy on this issue

Q With all due respect, though, it sounds like you're saying your single
anonymous sources are okay and everyone else's aren't.

Well. There it is then.

All in all it wasn't a bad day's work for the Corps. Not quite yet to the level of say, Latvian TV, or Dutch High School kids perhaps, but they are making steps in the right direction. With some dedication and good coaching they've got a solid shot at a spot on the JV squad...
What we don't know yet is if the Corps can maintain this newfound courage. I'd be happier if the issue that threw them into open revolt didn't essentially involve protection one of their own. It'd be nice to see the same level of outrage about, say, a hypothetical smoking gun memo , or the routine use of torture by the CIA, or maybe even record deficits and a non-existent social security plan. All in all though, you have to admit it's a start.

I'd like to think that today wasn't so much about protecting turf but of the final straw being laid. I'm hoping that the spectacle of little Scotty openly bullying a major news magazine opened their eyes. Maybe the cognitive dissonance finally got to be too much and the truth began to dawn on them .

When they saw the WH all but giving orders to the press about what to write, maybe they realized their freedoms weren't any more secure than the rest of ours and it was time to do their job before it was to late. That's what I want to think.

Whether I'm proven to be idiotically optimistic or not remains to be seen. But at least for yesterday we had a free and skeptical press again. For however long it lasts, its nice to see.


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5:51 PM  

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