The Talking Lion

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Washington Press Corps actually behave like journalists for once

We're used to the lapdog journalism of the television and print reporters assigned to the White House beat throughout the Bush administration. But it looks like things are changing? Maybe?

These reporters seem to be okay with failing to enagage in anytype of investigative journalism, giving the Bush adminsitration what basically amounted to a free pass with their shoddy case for invading Iraq and barely even mentioning the Downing Street Memo. But when these guys believe that they were personaly lied to (as opposed to when the Bush administration lies to the American public), they get angry. And in this case, the American people benefit.

18 months ago, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan made it clear to reporters that Karl Rove had nothing to do with the leaking of the name of a CIA operative. Recent revelations have proved that to be a lie. And the Press Corps is pissed.

Dana Milbank's piece in the Washington Post details Monday's press conference in his Washington Sketch column. Here are some highlights:

It was journalists' first chance to grill McClellan on camera since coming to the conclusion that he had misled them 18 months ago when he said President Bush's top political aide, Karl Rove, had nothing to do with the unmasking of a CIA operative. The recipients of McClellan's bum steer were furious -- hectoring him more than questioning him.

"You're in a bad spot here, Scott."

"Have you consulted a personal attorney?"


The 32-minute pummeling was perhaps the worst McClellan received since he got the job two years ago. His eyes were red and tired. He wiggled his foot nervously behind the lectern and robotically refused to answer no fewer than 35 questions about Rove and the outing of the CIA's Valerie Plame. Twenty-two times McClellan repeated that an "ongoing" investigation prevented him from explaining the gap between his past statements and the facts.


McClellan is not used to this kind of stuff and he was obviously affected by the atmosphere. He repeatedly responded to any question concerning Rove with the answer "while the investigation is on-going, the White House is not going to comment." This was not good enough for his audience, however.

McClellan delivered a nearly verbatim response to CBS's John Roberts, so NBC's David Gregory tried to provoke him, asking: "Did Karl Rove commit a crime?"

"This is a question relating to an ongoing investigation," a pained McClellan repeated. After dodging some follow-up questions, he tried to quiet Gregory by saying, "Let me finish."

Gregory almost shouted back: "No, you're not finishing. You're not saying
anything."

ABC's Terry Moran tried next, observing that Rove "has essentially
been caught red-handed peddling this information."

McClellan repeated his mantra. "Ongoing criminal investigation," said he.


Possibly my favorite part of all this is how a frightened McClellan turned to an old friend for support in his time of need, and came up with nothing. "Yes, I see the reporter from Fox News has a question?"

McClellan tried for relief from Fox News, but Carl Cameron hit him with a tough one. "Does the president continue to have confidence in Mr. Rove?"

McClellan wouldn't say, so a mischievous April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks tried to get McClellan to say something -- anything -- about Rove. "Who is Karl Rove as it relates to this administration?" she asked.

"I think I've responded," McClellan answered.



You can also read the entire transcript of the press briefing here.

It's good to see an appropriate line of questioning for a change from these people. Maybe they'll act more like true journalists from now on when it comes to other important subjects? Like the continuing problems in Iraq? Or the denial of civil rights to gays? Maybe? Anyone? Anyone? Beuller?

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