The introductory spread for the lead story in U.S. News & World Report’s October 24 issue could serve as bulletin-board or even wall-poster fodder for fans of the media’s things-just-keep-getting-worse-and-worse-for-President-Bush narrative. Against a black background, a striking mustard-yellow headline and white subhead read, “FACING THE MUSIC/It started with the New Orleans blues. Now it’s sounding like a real dirge.”
On page 18, the left-hand page, USN&WR writer Kenneth T. Walsh hyperbolically calls last week’s videoconference with soldiers in Iraq “an overchoreographed piece of political stagecraft,” adding that it was “widely ridiculed as a PR stunt gone awry and, more broadly, seen as another blow to the image of competence that was once a pillar of the Bush White House. The criticism couldn't have come at a worse time for a president struggling to hold his party together and boost his approval ratings. Instead, he came across, as he did after Hurricane Katrina, as the leader of the gang that couldn't shoot straight.” (On later pages, the story discusses other Bush-related troubles: the floundering Harriet Miers nomination, supposed scandals involving Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, Rove/Libby/Plamegate, and so on.)
The more visually oriented facing page reinforces the even-Bush’s-fellow-Republicans-are-turning-against-him theme. On the left side are large-type quotes from GOP Sens. David Vitter (on the “fail[ed]”government response to Hurricane Katrina) and Chuck Hagel (“The reality is that we’re losing in Iraq”). On the right side is a facial shot of an downcast-looking Bush, his head bowed, seemingly absorbing the latest bad news concerning his administration.