Hoisted on their own petard? Washington journalists have formulated outrage over how “Scooter” Libby fed information to New York Times reporter Judy Miller which ended up on the paper's front page one Sunday, and then Vice President Cheney appeared on a Sunday talk TV interview show where he insidiously cited the story as proof of the potential nuclear threat from Saddam Hussein. On Friday night, the broadcast networks pulled the same maneuver as they treated as of great import how President Bush was “dogged,” at the Summit of the Americas in Argentina, with questions about Karl Rove and the CIA leak matter -- a self-fulfilling agenda since those questions were posed by reporters from the Washington press corps. In short, the media made its agenda the news and then marveled over it.
"The President also found himself shadowed by the controversy that has helped drive his popularity to record lows, the investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA officer," ABC anchor Bob Woodruff announced on World News Tonight, which led, as did CBS and NBC, with stories which covered the violent protests as well Rove. ABC's Jake Tapper noted how “Bush came to this summit to talk about his free trade policy that he says would help ease poverty and create jobs in the region,” but pointed out how “questions about the CIA leak scandal, and the role of top aide Karl Rove, continue to dog him." CBS's Bob Schieffer echoed Tapper's terminology: "President Bush is in Argentina tonight, dogged by questions from back home.” John Roberts began his story, as if the media were observers and not participants: "President Bush was thankful for the chance to get out of Washington. But it didn't take long for Washington to catch up with him." NBC's Brian Williams stressed how Bush's “political troubles following him to Argentina from faraway Washington.” Kelly O'Donnell zeroed in on how Bush's “domestic woes came along, too” with “four of five” press conference “questions related to the political fallout from the CIA leak case.”
Fred Barnes, during the panel segment on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, scolded the reporters for posing questions “Senator Durbin or maybe Senator Schumer drafted them for them” since “they were Democratic 'talking points.'” He suggested: “Somebody should explain to members of the mainstream media, that they are not a part of the political opposition. They're supposed to be reporters. They don't have to echo Democrats." (Barnes in full, a bit more from ABC, CBS and NBC, plus the questions posed to Bush, follow.)
The rebuke from Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, in full:
“It seemed to me most of the questions asked by the reporters -- I just read a transcript, I don't know who the reporters were -- but I think probably Senator Durbin or maybe Senator Schumer drafted them for them. I mean they were straight, I mean they were Democratic 'talking points' and they're asking the President about these in Argentina. And that's one thing. The other thing is, they knew what the President was going to say. They knew he was going to say that the investigation goes on, as it does, maybe not full swing, but it's still there. And so somebody should explain to members of the mainstream media, that they are not a part of the political opposition. They're supposed to be reporters. They don't have to echo Democrats.”
# ABC's World News Tonight. Bob Woodruff, joined mid-introduction after he cited the protests: “The President also found himself shadowed by the controversy that has helped drive his popularity to record lows, the investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA officer.”
Jake Tapper began from Argentina:
“President Bush came to this summit to talk about his free trade policy that he says would help ease poverty and create jobs in the region. But questions about the CIA leak scandal, and the role of top aide Karl Rove, continue to dog him.”
Bush at press conference: “The investigation on Karl, as you know, is not complete. And therefore, I will not comment upon -- about him and/or the investigation.”
Tapper: “The President also shrugged off new poll numbers indicating a majority of Americans now doubt his honesty.”
Bush: “The way you earn credibility with the American people is to set a clear agenda that everybody can understand, an agenda that relates to their lives, and get the job done.”
Tapper moved on to the protests and Hugo Chavez.
# CBS Evening News. Bob Schieffer's tease: “President Bush is in Argentina tonight, dogged by questions from back home, and face to face with leftist inspired anti-American demonstrations.”
“Well, no rest for the weary. Surely that thought must have crossed the President's mind. He left Washington, the CIA leak scandal and the indictment of a top White House aide, only to arrive at a big international summit in Argentina where he found new questions, not about the summit, but about the scandal back home.”
John Roberts began, with “Persistent Problem” on screen: “President Bush was thankful for the chance to get out of Washington. But it didn't take long for Washington to catch up with him.”
Reporter at press conference: “Did Karl Rove tell you the truth about his role in the CIA leak case?”
Bush: “I've told you before that I will not discuss the investigation until it is completed.”
Reporter off camera, likely Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times: “Are there discussions in the White House about whether or not Karl will remain in his job?”
Bush: “The investigation on Karl, as you know, is not complete. And, therefore, I will not comment upon-- about him and/or the investigation.”
Roberts: “The President wouldn't talk about Karl Rove or possible staff shakeups, but he's under growing pressure to fix the problem, and fast. 'No one wants Karl rove to go' one House Republican told me, 'he's too important to the party. But it looks like White House doesn't have a strategy and that frustrates everyone.' And it's not just the CIA leak investigation dogging President Bush here. Anti-U.S. protestors arrived by the trainload in Mar del Plata this morning...”
# NBC Nightly News. Brian Williams teased: "Battleground: Massive protests against President Bush on his trip to Argentina, and his political problems follow him there as well."
Williams opened his newscast, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
"Good evening. President Bush is in Argentina tonight, and there is trouble in the streets as a result of his visit there. There is also the matter, on this Friday evening, of the President's political troubles following him to Argentina from faraway Washington. For a time there today, cable news viewers around the globe watched the live pictures of the violence, the fires, the clashes with police in the streets of Mar del Plata, Argentina. And the President's own words today reflected the trouble outside and at home. We begin tonight with NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell, who is traveling with the President."
After beginning with the violent protests, Kelly O'Donnell got to the press conference:
"For President Bush, domestic woes came along, too. The President took a handful of questions from reporters traveling with him."
George W. Bush: "I understand the anxiety and angst by the Press Corps to talk about this."
O'Donnell: "Four of five of those questions related to the political fallout from the CIA leak case. The President would not talk about his top advisor, Karl Rove."
# Press conference at the Sheraton in Mar del Plata. At about 11am EST Friday all the cable networks carried a tape of the event, but the camera stayed on Bush and didn't show the journalists, so it's difficult to know the names of those who posed questions.
A reporter whom Bush identified as “Nedra” asked: “Did Karl Rove tell you the truth about his role in the CIA leak case? And do you owe the American people an apology for your administration's assertations [yes, she said assertations] that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby weren't involved? “
A correspondent named “Steve,” who I think I could identify but am not positive of and so won't, inquired: “You've taken a beating in recent weeks, sir. What are you going to do for a fresh start? Are there going to be any staff changes? Would it help if the special prosecutor would wrap up his probe quickly?”
“Elisabeth,” who sounded very much like Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times, asked: “Are there discussions in the White House about whether or not Karl will remain in his job?”
Another reporter, who sounded like CBS's Thalia Assuras but well may not have been, interjected in the midst of Bush's answer: “The American people, though -- sir, the American people, though, are beginning to question your honesty, according to the polls, 58 percent. And your approval rating is at an all-time low, primarily because, it seems, of this investigation. They are wondering whether you can keep on track and whether to believe you, sir.”
For the WhiteHouse.gov transcript of the November 4 press conference with U.S. reporters.