All week the administration has trotted out Dick Cheney, George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld to play the "attack the messenger"game to pass along the meme that the media is only reporting bad news from Iraq. Their loyal talking heads followed suit and pick up the theme while the administration stands back and watches. The media has been running the sound bite of Gayle Taylor's question to President Bush (her husband is Kent Taylor-former Public information officer) all week. I wonder how she ever got the mic? Cable news and talk radio has been ablaze with this talking point.
On MTP yesterday, Elizabeth Bumiller from the NY Times, tells us that the President and Scotty have backed off this theme. Is she that dumb not to understand how the GOP plays this game or just being a shill? The panel asked her if she was sleeping.
MS. BUMILLER: The other thing that's interesting, what you didnt show was the president's response to her. I was there that day, and he was very, very careful not to jump on her bandwagon. In fact--mean, obviously, he didnt have to, she did it for him. But the point is he said, "Look, wait a minute. You know, I understand your frustration, but we have a free press in this country, we can't tell them what to do." He pulled back somewhat from her comment.
And I think youre right, Charlie, that they arent--they know they can't sell this, and when they've tried in the past, it has backfired on them.
MR. RUSSERT: But the president also said dont be afraid to go to blogs and find out some more information.
MS. BUMILLER: Yes. I mean, I mean, I'm, I'm--these are gradations here, I mean, in White House response.
MR. RUSSERT: But is the White House convinced that in order to secure the base of the Republican Party for the president, it doesnt hurt to go after the media a little bit?
MS. BUMILLER: Not-of course not. They do it all the time. And, and they complain all the time about, about, about what we do. But, but I, I have noticed this past week Scott McClellan saying, the White House press secretary, you know, "Were not blaming the media for the war in Iraq." He said that a couple times this week, and so, so it, it's-they'reagain, theyre being a little more careful here than usual.
MR. HARWOOD: And did you really fall asleep in that press pool, or was that a cheap shot by the president?
MS. BUMILLER: It was completely inaccurate. I won't say I havent nodded off in previous speeches, but not that one.
Update: Digby picked up on this exchange and has more.