Well, that's not completely true, but we can dream, can't we? This summer the White House press room will be undergoing a complete renovation, which means the various talking heads of the press corps will be moved across the street to the Jackson House and out of the White House. For about seven months, peace will reign in the Executive Mansion.
This will not be a small job:
The room is, quite literally, a fire hazard, with wires fraying and cameras, cords and equipment piled throughout. It has all the comforts of a 1970s schoolroom: cramped, ergonomically challenged desks and seats for reporters, and no high-speed Internet access. If this sounds like whining from a pampered reporter, here's more to stew over: The renovation will be paid for largely by taxpayers.
"You will pleased to hear since this project is at the government's initiative, the government will bear the great bulk of the cost," Mark Smith, president of the White House Correspondents Association, wrote to reporters last week.
A cost estimate was not available.
If you think the press should pay a price for all of this, don't worry: The cost includes the removal of cancer-causing asbestos. Media companies will pay to wire the new and improved press room and the temporary shelter, which is off the west side of Lafayette Square.
On Monday, during Vice President Dick Cheney's speech which was being broadcast live over CNN, a large black "X" was repeatedly flashed over the Vice President (h/t Drudge). Here's the screen shot, and here's how Drudge describes what happened:
At 11:04:45 AM ET Monday CNN was airing Vice President Dick Cheney's speech live from the American Enterprise Institute in Washington -- when a large black 'X' repeatedly flashed over the vice president's face! The 'X' over Cheney's face appeared each time less than a second, creating an odd subliminal effect.
WASHINGTON - The 14 centrists who averted a Senate breakdown over judicial nominees last spring are showing signs of splintering on President Bush's latest nominee for the Supreme Court.
That is weakening the hand of Democrats opposed to conservative judge Samuel Alito and enhancing his prospects for confirmation.
The unity of the seven Democrats and the seven Republicans in the "Gang of 14" was all that halted a major filibuster fight between GOP leader Bill Frist and Democratic leader Harry Reid earlier this year over Bush's nominees.
The Iraqis have approved their new constitution, but the AP is not real happy about it. Look how quickly they go from good news to bad news in this report:
Draft Constitution Adopted by Iraq Voters
Iraq's constitution was adopted by a majority in a fair vote during the country's Oct. 15 referendum, as Sunni Arab opponents failed to muster enough support to defeat it, election officials said Tuesday. A prominent Sunni politician called the balloting "a farce."
The U.S. military also announced the deaths of two Marines in fighting with insurgents last week in Baghdad, bringing the number of American service members killed in the war to 1,999.
It's almost as though they used the news of the vote as an excuse to rerun the combat death numbers.
The dead tree news media is suffering these days and their readership is aging. This is not a sign of good things to come for the newspaper industry (from the Star Tribune):
Newspaper readership is down. Fewer young people are picking them up, and the average age of a newspaper reader is now 55, according to a Carnegie Corporation study. Many papers have been losing circulation at alarming rates across all age groups.
Newspaper profits and the stock prices of the companies that own them were also down during the first half of 2005. The biggest newspapers are cutting staffs, closing foreign bureaus and taking other steps to meet their owners' profit goals.
Most of these dire trends are nothing new. Deep thinkers have prophesied for years that newspapers are on a glide path to irrelevance or extinction.
Rep. Peter King was interviewed by Hardball's Chris Matthews, and Radioblogger has the blow-by-blow of this very one-sided battle. Decision by a knockout to Rep. King. Here's the final comment by King which ended the match:
"Chris, you won't give me a chance to answer the questions. Just because the president doesn't watch you on television, it doesn't mean he's not doing his job. You know, Franklin Roosevelt wasn't hired to listen to radio accounts of D-Day. You're hired to do the job, and the president can do his job without having to listen to Chris Matthews or Andrea Mitchell or Tim Russert, or any of the others. He is doing his job. Now I agree the military should have been brought in sooner, but that was primarily the fault of the local government not being more responsive, and then the president did the best he could.
We all remember during those first few days of Katrina that there were reports of terrible atrocities occurring in the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center, and WHERE WAS BUSH!, and all that nonsense. Well, it turns out that the vast majority of those stories at best were urban legends which the media reported as facts and in the process created a lot of ill will toward the Federal government:
After five days managing near-riots, medical horrors and unspeakable living conditions inside the Superdome, Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron prepared to hand over the dead to representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.
"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalls the doctor saying.
The real total was six, Beron said.
Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice. State health department officials in charge of body recovery put the official death count at the Dome at 10, but Beron said the other four bodies were found in the street near the Dome, not inside it. Both sources said no one had been killed inside.
The Corner reports that Nina Totenberg, the legal reporter for National Public Radio, wants the next round of confirmation hearings scheduled around her vacation:
"Nearby, Nina Totenberg, the legal reporter for National Public Radio, cornered the chief of staff of Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee; Totenberg was lobbying to schedule the next round of Supreme Court hearings around her vacation plans, which she had scheduled to coincide with her wedding anniversary."
Don't worry, Nina. Just write something in opposition to the nominee and drop it off with your editor before you leave.
Last night I, along with many millions of others, was treated to the live broadcast of an emergency landing by JetBlue flight 292. The flight had departed from Burbank, CA bound for New York City and experienced an unusual problem with it's nose landing gear. The wheels were cocked 90 degrees to the right and wouldn't retract.
After circling near Catalina Island for nearly 3 hours to burn off fuel, the flight finally made its way in to Los Angeles International Airport and made what can only be described as a textbook emergency landing. The pilot greased the main gear on the runway, held the nose up as long as he could, and then eased the plane down onto the damaged nose gear. After some smoke and not just a little bit of flame, the plane came to stop with the damaged nose gear right smack in the middle of the runway's centerline. Not bad with the nose steering gear ground off. There was no fire, and after a few minutes, the relieved passengers departed the aircraft without a physical scratch on them. I'm sure some will be shook up a bit after the experience, but they walked away and that's always the best result.
NBC is doing something that you just don't see on network TV these days - promoting a TV show with a Christian theme. The peacock network is making a full-court promotional effort for the show with churches and Christian radio stations (from Newsmax):
An upcoming TV series featuring Christian pop singer Amy Grant will make its debut next Friday, and NBC is pulling out all the stops to promote it.
In "Three Wishes," Amy Grant will visit a different town every week, where, in a gesture of Christian charity, she will seek to fulfill the wishes of needy families and community groups, according to the New York Times.
The show, which Amy Grant describes as "faith in action," is being heavily promoted by NBC, which, the Times reports, has sent more than 7,000 DVDs of the show's first episode to ministers and other clergy members, along with a recorded message to their congregants from Amy Grant.
NBC also has scheduled Grant, who recently released an album of hymns titled "Rock of Ages," for interviews on Christian radio and taken out advertising in small-town newspapers.
For two days now Fox News' Major Garrett has reported on first the Red Cross, and then the Salvation Army, being denied entrance to New Orleans by Louisiana State authorities. According to Garrett and the Red Cross website, officials didn't want the food, water and sanitary supplies to get to the Superdome and Convention Center because it might encourage others to come to those sites rather than evacuate the city. The result of the decision to withhold aid was thousands of New Orleans citizens trying to survive in horrific conditions without much needed supplies. The Louisiana National Guard, which was not tasked with providing survival supplies to evacuees, had to divert their attention from law enforcement and rescue operations to providing aid to the desperate families looking for the basics of life.
The Associated Press posted an article by Barry Schweid detailing hurricane relief aid being sent by a number of other countries. In the process the writer just couldn't help taking a cheap shot at U.S. generosity, which has pumped billions of dollars in foreign aid to others in need. First there was this line which followed a paragraph about Japan's contributions to the disaster relief:
The United States historically has aided victims of disasters, but it is not universally recognized as providing the level of aid expected of a rich nation.
Then, a couple of paragraphs later we have another comment about American aid:
The United States, the world's largest economy, lags behind other rich nations in the percentage of its giving to nations in Africa, the world's poorest continent.
If you're an AOL user and signed on today, the top news item was a photo of President Bush at the wheel of his pick-up truck, and the headline "Should He Be On Vacation, Long Break Stirs Controversy". Of course, they had the obligatory unscientific "polls" where the AOL users get to express the views.
The poll questions were as loaded as the headline:
1. Should Bush be on vacation during a war? Yes/No
2. How hard does it seem like Bush is working on his vacation? Very/Somewhat/Not at All
3. Do you think Bush's vacations make him more effective in the long run? Yes/No
4. How would you describe the amount of vacation Bush takes? Too Much/Just Right/Not Enough
This is at least the second time AOL has run a news item and poll like this since Bush went on vacation. Given that this info appears under "AOL News", the assumption is that AOL considers this the top news story in the country (this is the same spot where important breaking news appears).
Drudge is reporting that Jonathan Klein, head honcho at CNN, is taking some verbal shots at the folks at Fox News:
"CNN President Jonathan Klein implies ratings news leader FOXNEWS is mired in coverage of "meaningless nonsense," claiming: "Fourteen Americans dead, and they have Natalee Holloway on," Klein says. "And they're supposedly America's news channel."
"It's easy and it's brainless," Klein charges in a telephone interview set for publication at the NEW YORK TIMES, explaining why cable news outlets are gravitating to the Aruba story. "They're looking for an ongoing drama" along the lines of the NBC crime show "Law & Order," he said, adding, "Except 'Law & Order' doesn't do the same plot every night."
The president was described by his doctors in his annual physical as being in "superior" condition for a man his age.
He takes pride in his six-day-a-week workout regimen and last week he showcased the statistics on his heart rate monitor for a group of reporters who rode with him. The monitor showed he burned 1,493 calories in a two-hour ride, also 17 miles.
While some cable TV hosts are making their living off the Natalee Holloway case this summer, Bob Costas is having none of it.
Costas, hired by CNN as an occasional fill-in on "Larry King Live," refused to anchor Thursday's show because it was primarily about the Alabama teenager who went missing in Aruba. Chris Pixley filled in at the last minute.
"I didn't think the subject matter of Thursday's show was the kind of broadcast I should be doing," Costas said in a statement. "I suggested some alternatives but the producers preferred the topics they had chosen. I was fine with that, and respectfully declined to participate."
The Natalee Holloway story is very sad, but should have run its course months ago. Thanks to a slow news summer (at least until Cindy Sheehan showed up), the story had legs far beyond that which would have been expected. The tropical paradise, the beautiful blond...everything a tabloid show could wish for.
The New York Times is reporting on a series of Pew Research Studies that indicate that a majority of Americans think that news organizations are biased in their reporting:
The share of Americans who believe that news organizations are "politically biased in their reporting" increased to 60 percent in 2005, up from 45 percent in 1985, according to polls by the Pew Research Center.
Many people also believe that biased reporting influences who wins or loses elections. A new study by Stefano DellaVigna of the University of California, Berkeley, and Ethan Kaplan of the Institute for International Economic Studies at Stockholm University, however, casts doubt on this view. Specifically, the economists ask whether the advent of the Fox News Channel, Rupert Murdoch's cable television network, affected voter behavior. They found that Fox had no detectable effect on which party people voted for, or whether they voted at all.
In a surprising role reversal, Hollywood is about to deliver bad news to the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times and, to a lesser extent, other big-city dailies around the country. Every major movie studio is rethinking its reliably humongous display ad buys in those papers because those newsosaur readers are, to quote one mogul, “older and elitist” compared to younger, low-brow filmgoers — so it makes no sense to waste the dough.
Wait, it gets worse: I’ve learned that at least two Hollywood movie studios have decided to drastically cut their newspaper display ads as soon as possible.
"The newspaper notified the Department of Defense that it would no longer donate public service advertising space to help promote the Freedom Walk, an event planned for Sept. 11. At the conclusion of the procession from the Pentagon to the Mall, there will be a performance by country star Clint Black, who recorded the song “I Raq and Roll.”
“As it appears that this event could become politicized, The Post has decided to honor the Washington area victims of 9/11 by making a contribution directly to the Pentagon Memorial Fund,” said Eric Grant, a Post spokesman. “It is The Post’s practice to avoid activities that might lead readers to question the objectivity of The Post’s news coverage.”
The three-ring circus that has opened in Crawford (the first in history in which all of the acts are clowns) is a wonderful example of what happens when you have a bored press corps. After so many days of standing around in the hot sun interviewing each other, along comes Cindy Sheehan to make all their dreams come true. They finally have a story, and if it has the potential to make the president look bad, all the better. The White House press corps loves that kind of stuff.
I first saw this coming last Sunday when I signed on to AOL and the Crawford campout was the lead item on AOL news. At that point there had been no significant national press coverage of Ms. Sheenan, so I questioned whether this story was worthy of showing up on the front page of every AOL user who signed on that day. As the week has played out it has become obvious that the story was going to have legs, whether deserved or not.