NYT: Make A Call To The Bullpen, Bush!

March 23rd, 2006 6:55 AM

Are Late Innings the Time for a Relief Pitcher?

The big question on the mind of certain New York Times reporters is one that has been repeatedly answered over and over with a resounding “No.” Well we can dream, can’t we?

In an attempt to portray the White House as disorganized, in constant conflict, lost, and on the verge of a “shake up,” Elisabeth Bumiller and Adam Nagourney again show that the NYT is reporting news it wishes to happen, rather than what actually has happened.

“President Bush's suggestion on Tuesday that he may add a new senior figure to his White House team raised questions about the future of two of his closest and most powerful aides, Andrew H. Card Jr. and Karl Rove, as they struggle to put Mr. Bush's White House back on course.”

Raised questions? By whom – the NYT? I didn’t know that it was an undisputed fact that the White House was “off course” – I guess that’s a matter of interpretation, which is otherwise known as an opinion. Opinion in a news article under the “Washington” section. Typical.

Moving right along, we get this little gem in the very next graph:

“Mr. Rove, his senior strategist, and Mr. Card, his chief of staff, have increasingly been forced to fend off rebellious Congressional Republicans, complaints about the administration's competence and calls from within their party for an infusion of fresh thinking into the White House.”

This is a typical theme that the mainstream press has been trying to hammer the President with – the “your own party hates you” theme. I would perhaps be a little more convinced of this had the NYT actually named any of the “rebels” in the Republican Party (besides John Thune, who is chosen to fill the role of "rebel."). I assume (not very journalistic of me, but if the NYT can do it, so can I) they are referring to very moderate Republicans like Lincoln Chaffee, John McCain or Olympia Snowe. Again, it is hard to tell since nobody is named or even quoted.

Here are some more subtle assertions that the Republicans are in the dumps and depressed:

“Still, Mr. Bush's decision not to squelch speculation about such a move…did nothing to restore diminished Republican confidence in a White House team that once promoted a reputation for efficiency, order and impeccable political instincts.

Again, this is the opinion of the reporters. Not everyone in the United States or even in the media believe that the White House is in disarray and organizational chaos. By the way, who gave them a reputation for all of those good things? Is the NYT setting up a “straw man” to knock down (thank you, Jennifer Loven)?

Six paragraphs in, we finally get the “nut graph”.

It is not clear what role a new appointee would take on, or whether Mr. Bush, known for his loyalty, would be able to make a change without diminishing the standing of Mr. Card and Mr. Rove. Nor is it certain that Mr. Bush will even make a change.”

There is no certainty about the central premise of the article? So why print it? If there is no certainty, then why act like there is by putting together this tortured attempt to act like the NYT has some kind of inside track? Why assume that Karl Rove and Andrew Card are the “problem” that the Administration is looking to “fix?” None of this is answered or justified in the article.

So who is the expert source that the reporters cite for an outside, expert analysis? Former Lyndon Johnson VP Hubert Humphrey (D) and Rep. James O’Hara (D) legislative assistant and former senior staff analyst for Congressman David Obey (D) Dr. James A. Thurber, a long-time political science professor. With these credentials (not shown in the article), it is not surprising when one get an analysis like this:

"He's losing strategic power," James A. Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at the School of Public Affairs at American University, said of Mr. Rove. "It's just decaying, and the decay rate is very fast at this point. Lame-duck presidencies that have people who have been there for many years have many problems."

With all due respect and acknowledgement of your overall point, professor, EVERY Presidency has problems, regardless of how often the staff is shuffled. Can we get somebody who worked from a right-of-center think tank or college professor to comment? No? I guess they don’t exist. Moving right along, then…we get John Thune – a name from the rebellious Republican side (finally)!

"An ingredient that's missing right now in the White House is that sense of urgency, that passion, that intensity," said Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota. "When you've had horses there that you've been riding for a long time, you kind of need to change them once in a while."

Maybe, maybe not. Again, this is Sen. Thune’s opinion, not the entire GOP’s. Given Thune’s experience running the country in a time of war, he would know. Since the article has now been wandering for a bit, lets return to the original “narrative.”

“By most accounts inside and outside the administration, Mr. Rove is relentlessly cheerful, presenting himself as an optimistic face in a gloomy White House.”

The way this article has framed it, this current White House must be the most depressing place in the world right now. It’s a miracle everyone has not resorted to extensive counseling and emotional therapy yet.

And don’t forget to throw in a line about PlameGate (unrelated to the story), at which the media can not get over its disappointment that Rove was not the “target” that they tried to peg him as in that “investigation:”

“Mr. Rove has assured worried Republicans that the party will endure just minor losses in the midterm elections. Associates said Mr. Rove appeared increasingly certain that he would not be indicted for his role in the leaking of a C.I.A operative's name.”

Nice try. Here’s one more rather humorous excerpt. When asked “how things are going,” Rove replied:

“"Everybody's away, so I'm running the country," Mr. Rove replied, playing off his caricature as an all-powerful behind-the-scenes puppet master.

Given the importance and authority that the article seems to ascribe and attribute to Karl Rove, it is not a stretch to assert that this article unwittingly reinforces that caricature. Ironic.