Bush will apparently stop holding formal press conferences
March 28, 2001 9:16 PM   Subscribe

Bush will apparently stop holding formal press conferences, instead opting for "informal conversations" with reporters. He promises to be "accessible," but I for one wouldn't be surprised if "informal" began to translate as "ceases to tell the country what he's up to"...
posted by logovisual (27 comments total)
how did this man become the most powerful person in the world again?
posted by stuporJIX at 9:34 PM on March 28, 2001

What's wrong with throwing out the status quo? Seems pretty progressive to me. Perhaps the mass media will have to work a bit for their stories now. If informal and accessible should become hidden and deceitful, then the country has a beef. Let's see how it plays out.
posted by netbros at 9:48 PM on March 28, 2001

no, "accessible" means "I'll talk to reporters who write favorable stories about me."

posted by rebeccablood at 10:09 PM on March 28, 2001

No, "accessible" means "You will quote my press releases or you will never work in this town again. Stop asking so many damned questions!"
posted by donkeymon at 10:27 PM on March 28, 2001

His first press conference was an utter embarassment, despite his use of cheat sheets from Ari Fleischer/Karen Hughes. I don't know whether to be overjoyed that America will be spared further ridicule or furious about his cowardice.
posted by rmannion at 10:35 PM on March 28, 2001

I'm furious about his cowardice. I'm even more furious that our leadership is beginning to look a lot more like a fascist dictatorship than a democracy. First GW reverses proposals that got him elected, then he hides from public scrutiny by filtering his media exposure. I suppose next he'll be censoring what criticism comes from news agencies by threatening the corporations that run them or something equally disgusting. God, I can't wait to get out of this country.
posted by rklawler at 10:44 PM on March 28, 2001

This has been happening since the campaign. Pardon the self-bloggage, but I've been noticing Dubya's inability to perform solo for awhile too. It's not even a political thing; I'd be just as outraged if America had been duped into voting for a Democratic proxy candidate. Back in the previous Bush administration I had a button that said "Presidential Prayer Club -- Keep George Healthy" with a big picture of J. Danforth Quayle. Now I want one with Dubya's picture on it and "Keep Dick Healthy" as the motto.
posted by norm at 10:46 PM on March 28, 2001

The oil executive in charge of the world's most dangerous nation wants to get away with holding "informal conversations" with reporters? Does he think he's the host of a talk show?

D-Dubya-40 won't last long.
posted by pracowity at 11:27 PM on March 28, 2001

What's wrong with throwing out the status quo?

Bush's performance in his first formal press conference was terrible. For him to give them up entirely is a sign of weakness to the country and the world community-- our commander in chief should be able to answer tough questions from the press in a formal setting every few months.
posted by rcade at 11:35 PM on March 28, 2001

But does all this actually surprise anyone? I thought it was pretty clear that Bush was an electable figurehead for the old guard Republicans rather than a candidate in his own right; and so it was no shock when he reversed his pollution reduction proposals.

I suppose over here we're used to politicians reneging on pre-election promises when they get into power and find that they're hamstrung by existing interests, but in Bush's case it seems that he is actively promoting those interests. What does surprise me is the gung-ho character of this administration so soon after they gained power - there's no subtlety to be seen here, is there? It seems to be a reactionary administration in every sense of the word - even political style.
posted by Caffa at 1:40 AM on March 29, 2001

Never before have I considered the need to move to another country.
posted by fleener at 5:10 AM on March 29, 2001

Where the Hell are those Overvote/Unvote Recount annonuncements?
posted by ParisParamus at 5:16 AM on March 29, 2001

Where the Hell are those Overvote/Undervote Recount annonuncements?
posted by ParisParamus at 5:16 AM on March 29, 2001

I did move to another country, right after the election results were announced. It's much better here.
posted by u.n. owen at 5:43 AM on March 29, 2001

rebeccablood -- you have hit the nail on the head, from what I hear from the White House print journalist. I occasionally end up on the same Metro train heading into DC with a handful of these print reporters. They talk amongst themselves, but as the trains are quiet it is easy to hear. They have been trying to get nicknames from dubbya so they know he recognizes them. They have been thankful that there are still the press conferences, as it allows them access to ask questions of the Prez. Over the past month or two they have been seeing those with nicknames get face-time with the Prez and get the *inside scoop*. Most other reporters are left out of the process and needed questions go unasked.

TR was the first president to invite the press into the White House and he treated them as part of the process. He would joke with them and made them feel like they were his friends. The press became enamored with TR. In turn they would take his views and print them favorably, which influenced public opinion, and gave TR the public support to carry out what he viewed as needed. This allowed him to break out of Party constraints and leave the political machine behind. TR was considered to be a bright man and his ideas well fleshed out, this at a time when their were no handlers for the President.

Can Bush do the same? The press is interested interested in reporting unfairness or problems in the process. I don't know that I would want to alienate the press.
posted by vanderwal at 5:50 AM on March 29, 2001

Part of me still expects to wake up and find that it's still November, and it's all been a bad dream....
posted by jpoulos at 6:41 AM on March 29, 2001

Anybody watch those press conferences with his staff? They never answer anything. "We'll discuss that the week it comes up..." "President Bush hasn't commented on that yet..." I watched a couple with Bush that were most certainly disasters, and I haven't seen him for a while. May as well get rid of the press conferences, because they are useless as of now. Not that I'm not outraged though.
posted by mblandi at 6:51 AM on March 29, 2001

FDR used to invite the reporters right into the Oval Office and chat with them there, but ol' Frank was probably the most charismatic president we ever had and knew how to work a group of newsmen to get just what he wanted.

JFK started the formal press conference model we have grown familiar with, largely because he, too, was such an excellent performer but felt he could do better with TV cameras on hand so that the reporters couldn't re-spin his remarks.

Reagan was certainly a good performer, but needed things to be very scripted, hence the more formal style and the insistance that reporters not just yell out questions. People often accused Reagan of being a puppet, but he was just an actor at heart and needed direction.

Dubya is meat on a stick. His handlers kept him away from reporters as much as possible during the campaign, and now they are bringing that same modus operandi to the White House. I don't think anyone is fooled, but I fear that by the time 2004 rolls around we'll have gotten so used to it that no one will care.
posted by briank at 7:14 AM on March 29, 2001

I seem to remember that at some point early in the Clinton administration, the reporters were disallowed access to a particular area of the White House, making them feel that they were being pushed around (and they probably were). This action caused the press to get much tougher on Clinton.

This was a dumb move on the administration's part. They could easily have avoided press conferences without stating the policy directly. They'd eventually have had to hold a press conference, but they could have delayed a long time.

The press will not be amused by this change in policy, and they'll turn on Bush. He'll end up having to hold an occasional press conference anyway, probably about as often as he'd have to if the policy had been de facto rather than announced.

I heard an interview on NPR with a reporter who covered the Bush campaign for the New Republic and then for the Washington Post. He did not paint a very flattering picture of the press corps, including himself. He said that journalists covering a campaign were pretty grumpy, and many were easy on Bush because the Bush campaign gave them better food. He also said that when he worked for New Republic he had no access to Bush, but as soon as he moved to the Post, he got an interview immediately.

The Bush people will continue to attempt to tightly control access to avoid embarrassment. They'll piss off the press. They'll wish they hadn't.
posted by anapestic at 7:29 AM on March 29, 2001

I don't really see the problem. There is certainly no requirement that the president have formal press conferences.

In fact, since Reagan there has been a steady decline in the number of general press conferences held by the president. They've all preferred to keep direct formal contact with the press limited to events where the scope could be limited to some degree (visiting dignitary, signing of major bill, walking to the helicopter, etc.).

Clinton, at several points during his presidency went months without a press conference. Gore, during the campaign had several periods where he went more than a month without a press Q&A, and this was a guy trying to get enough press to be elected.

I'm not saying this is a good thing, but I don't think it is particularly bad.
posted by obfusciatrist at 7:39 AM on March 29, 2001

So why did we elect this incapable bastard again? When will we get someone in the whitehouse who can kick ass and take names?

Would someone mind telling the reps/demos that we'd like a president who will not be compared to a bowl of tapioca or plain oatmeal?
posted by SpecialK at 8:25 AM on March 29, 2001

Having just watched Bush do a press conference, I found the timing of and the comments in this thread highly amusing. ;-)
posted by tsitzlar at 8:35 AM on March 29, 2001

Never let reality get in the way of a good Bush-bashing orgy.

This is nothing but an argument over whether the president should have grandiose prime-time press conferences that are scheduled a week or more in advance, or just having more impromptu ones in the briefing room.. He's not ceasing to give press conferences, as he just proved a few minutes ago.

Awaiting the next false alarm....
posted by aaron at 8:42 AM on March 29, 2001

I have to agree with Aaron on this one. Conferences held in a different style and location are still conferences -- with, I suppose, the possible problem that an impromptu conference would be harder to be sure to catch, but I imagine that White House correspondants tend to spend a lot of time in the briefing room in any case, and can certainly plan to accomodate a new rhythm of information-dissemination, as they've been fully warned. Also, who on earth believes that good, useful, hard-hitting reporting comes directly out of press conferences? They generally tend to involve exactly the same kind of information that's available in a press release, just in Q&A format. At least the impromptu version can happen more immediately following the advent of whatever circumstances have prompted the conference in the first place.
posted by redfoxtail at 8:58 AM on March 29, 2001

I thought it was interesting that the president was at 4 news events yesterday, and took questions from reporters at none of them.
posted by crunchland at 9:32 AM on March 29, 2001

This is nothing but an argument over whether the president should have grandiose prime-time press conferences that are scheduled a week or more in advance, or just having more impromptu ones in the briefing room..

Standing up in the East Room and facing the press onslaught is an established part of the modern presidency. If Bush can't do that with a week of time to prepare, he's a total lightweight.
posted by rcade at 10:14 AM on March 29, 2001

vanderwal: They have been trying to get nicknames from dubbya so they know he recognizes them.

that is pathetic and hilarious.

posted by rebeccablood at 12:35 PM on March 29, 2001

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