Another Clunky Night for Couric, As CBS Heavily Emphasized Gloom for Bush

CBS’s live coverage of the State of the Union speech was dominated by gloom for President Bush Tuesday night. Anchor Katie Couric described Bush as "resolute, yet resigned." In the very first seconds after Bush concluded, Couric jumped in with the fact that CBS News polls showed President Bush had an 82 percent approval rating at State of the Union time in 2002, just months after 9/11, and now "reverse it," CBS’s approval rating number for Bush was 28 percent, an "all-time low." CBS has traditionally held the lowest poll number of the media outlets. The other polls in the current time period aren't great either, but found numbers between 31 percent (Newsweek, also traditionally low) and 39 percent (LA Times-Bloomberg).

Couric then turned to Bob Schieffer, and stressed it was odd that Bush went from opposing nation-building in the 2000 campaign to now favoring the spread of democracy. (It could be argued you can support democracy-building without doing the tougher work of nation-building.) With a pessimistic tone, Couric asked "Has he changed any minds tonight?"

Schieffer replied that as for Iraq, Bush remained "very alone on this," and repeated that "even Republicans" would be voting for a resolution opposing the surge. Schieffer did offer that the new speech was a "much better speech" on Iraq than the official surge speech two weeks ago. Couric then added that Bush has "pretty much given up on Congress supporting him" on Iraq.

Couric also interviewed former Bush aide Nicolle Wallace and former Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart. Again, Couric asked if Bush "changed any minds tonight"? Wallace answered with strange praise for Bush’s tribute to "Madame Speaker" Pelosi as the Real Bush. When Couric moved on to Lockhart, she aksed if "any of his policy ideas" would become reality? Lockhart typically flunked the speech as sober, subdued, and too "timid." Couric asked him to elaborate, and Lockhart insisted the policy debate has passed Bush by, and he claimed Bush only moved further toward lame-duck status.

After the speech by freshman Senator Jim Webb, Couric oozed that Democrats picked him to speak because "his military credentials are above reproach." Schieffer added he "had a son in Iraq," and Democrats wanted to keep the emphasis on Iraq. "He really ripped him tonight," Schieffer said of Webb’s speech against Bush. It was "very tough talk."

In her one nod toward scrutinizing the Democrats after Nicolle Wallace insisted the president’s tone was "very welcoming and inviting" and Democrats should respond, Couric asked Schieffer "won’t Congress pay the price" if they don’t make deals with the President? Schieffer answered gruffly that "Congress will do what’s in its interest."

Couric’s live anchoring once again was marred by odd word choices and overly cutesy phrasing. She called the speech an "auspicious" event. Auspicious (favorable) for who? I didn’t hear her say. She claimed the House chamber had a "cocktail party atmosphere" in the minutes leading up to the speech, but no cocktails (or bartenders) could be spotted by the viewer. One other weird moment was when Couric noted how Joe Lieberman was hounded by voters in Connecticut after he was "bussed" by the president, Schieffer noted whimsically that Congress-people like to shake the president’s hand to get themselves on television. Couric said in a shaming tone, "You’re so cynical, Bob."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis