Monday morning is dreary enough, without the kind of headline that announces The Washington Post thinks the President is irrelevant. "Economy War, to Dominate State of the Union: Bush’s Challenge May Be Getting People to Listen." There is no "news analysis" tag on this piece by White House reporter Michael Abramowitz. It ought to have a tag that announces "News With Attitude."
No one will argue that the last State of the Union speech of a two-term president is typically a dramatic event. But the Post goes out of its way to tout how the President will get no credit for progress in Iraq, just as he received no credit for a booming economy when it was booming earlier in his tenure. Is this a recitation of facts? Or is the Post simply taking credit for its own desperately partisan journalistic manipulations? Here is the irony. Go back to President Clinton’s last State of the Union address, and guess what? On the morning of the speech – January 27, 2000 – the Post put it on page A-14.
This means Bush’s last SOTU is more relevant than Clinton’s to the Post – but only so they can talk him down, and quote Democrats as the experts on his political decline. The story begins:
For years, President Bush and his advisers expressed frustration that the White House received little credit for the nation's strong economic performance because of public discontent about the Iraq war. Today, the president is getting little credit for improved security in Iraq, as the public increasingly focuses on a struggling U.S. economy.
That is the problem Bush faces as he prepares to deliver his seventh and probably final State of the Union address tonight. For the first time in four years, he will come before Congress able to report some progress in tamping down violence in Iraq. Yet the public appears to have moved on from the war -- and possibly from Bush himself.
The economy has supplanted Iraq as the top public concern, and with voters shifting their focus toward the presidential primaries, Bush faces a steep challenge in persuading Americans to heed his words on the war, economic policy or any other issue, according to administration officials, lawmakers and outside observers.
"Very large segments of the American people have written him off already and have moved on to the next chapter," said Jeremy Rosner, a Clinton White House aide and Democratic pollster. Even some of the Republican presidential candidates appear eager to distance themselves from the president.
These are the paragraphs that appear on Page One. Inside, White House press secretary Dana Perino and former GOP aide Ken Duberstein are quoted (as are other Democrats), but the Post especially enjoys touting how its own polls find Bush's approval numbers routinely low.
This is the sort of story that not-so-surreptitiously underlines what talk-show host Michael Graham always called the paper: The Washington Post-Democrat.