Sunday, May 15, 2005

Bicycles and Press Cycles

After 4.5 years of the Bush II Epoch, we’ve finally figured out what it takes to get the attention of the White House press corps. No, not that smoking gun British intelligence memo that suggests the Bushies deliberately manufactured “evidence” of WMDs to justify the war in Iraq. Not the ethics investigations multiplying like paramecia, or even the specter of a male hooker cavorting in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Nope, it was a bike ride.

Last Wednesday, when a two-seater Cessna ventured into restricted airspace over Washington DC, all Hell broke loose. Security officials feared the plane could be carrying anthrax spores or something radioactive, like lobbyist checks made out to Tom DeLay. So they evacuated 30,000 federal employees in 15 minutes.

Things quickly grew comical. According to an AP report, DC police lifted Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi right out of her shoes and carried her down the Capitol steps like a rolled-up carpet.

The secret service hustled Dick Cheney, Laura Bush and former dragon-lady-in-residence Nancy Reagan to a secure bunker, and apparently left Donald Rumsfeld in charge. Per Reuters:

“Vice President Dick Cheney who was at the White House at the time was quickly evacuated, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was told about the incident around the time it happened, his spokesman said, and was ready to make any "necessary decisions."

But they neglected to inform the Leader of the Free World that his wife and cronies were getting ready to kiss their asses goodbye until 36 minutes after the crisis was over. Why? Because Bush was busy riding his bike in the Maryland woods with an old high school pal.

Bush was understandably eager to finish his ride – apparently he’d just taken off the training wheels. But still, White House reporters wanted to know, why wasn’t he informed? And if Bush wasn’t running the country during what could have been its biggest crisis since 9/11, who was?

For once, the press discovered it had teeth. The exchange between press secretary Scott McClellan and the members of the 4th estate is fascinating and worth a read. Here’s just one of many great questions:

Q I think there's a disconnect here because, I mean, yesterday you had more than 30,000 people who were evacuated, you had millions of people who were watching this on television, and there was a sense at some point -- it was a short window, a 15-minute window, but there was a sense of confusion among some on the streets. There was a sense of fear. And people are wondering was this not a moment for the President to exercise some leadership, some guidance during that period of time? Was this not a missed opportunity for the President to speak out and at least clarify what -- that he was informed, and what was taking place at that time? If not even during the 15-minute window, why not later in the day?

There are a dozen more just like it. (You can find the full transcript here; Editor and Publisher excerpted many of the good bits.)

Needless to say, McClellan was peddling even harder than the President, trying to contain a press corps hungry for blood.

Wouldn’t it have been great if the press had acted like this during, say, the run up to the Iraq war? Or the non-investigations on intelligence failures and 9/11? Or a dozen other occasions where the American people were being fed a steaming pile of horseshit and being told it was hors d’oeuvres?

Here’s my theory on why the press suddenly got pissed. When the White House was evacuated, many reporters weren’t told. The emergency PA system installed for that purpose was never used, so several reporters were left there watching the commotion and holding each other’s johnsons (Helen Thomas excluded).

But their questions cut right to the heart of this sham presidency: From My Pet Goat to Georgie’s Big Adventure, the guy who got elected isn’t the one making the big decisions. So who is?


Anonymous Gerhard said...

Funny that the USA seem to be so affixed to the thought that some man should "run the country". In Germany we've had enough of that and rather say: No, thanks a lot, Mr. Leader Of The Free World.

2:54 AM  

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