Sunday, November 20, 2005

This counts as news?

Previous: Mainstream Media 101: how to twist words

When mainstream media has run out of issues on which to oppose President Bush, when they have no more words of his to twist and distort, they try to mock him on things with no substance. The caption for the photo begins: "U.S. President George W. Bush reacts as he tries to open a locked door as he leaves a news conference in Beijing November 20, 2005."
Locked doors thwart Bush's bid to duck question

BEIJING (Reuters) - Irked by a reporter who told him he seemed to be "off his game" at a Beijing public appearance, President George W. Bush sought to make a hasty exit from a news conference but was thwarted by locked doors.

At the end of a day of meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other Chinese officials, Bush held a session with a small group of U.S. reporters and spoke at length about issues like religious freedom, Iraq and the Chinese currency.

The final reporter he called on critiqued Bush's performance earlier in the day when he stood next to Hu in the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square to deliver a statement.

"Respectfully, sir -- you know we're always respectful -- in your statement this morning with President Hu, you seemed a little off your game, you seemed to hurry through your statement. There was a lack of enthusiasm. Was something bothering you?" he asked.

"Have you ever heard of jet lag?" Bush responded. "Well, good. That answers your question."

The President then recited a list of things of that he viewed as positive developments from his Beijing meetings, including cooperation on North Korean nuclear disarmament and the ability to have "frank discussions" with his Chinese counterpart.

When the reporter asked for "a very quick follow-up," Bush cut him off by thanking the press corps and telling the reporter "No you may not," as he strode toward a set of double doors leading out of the room.

The only problem was that they were locked.

"I was trying to escape. Obviously, it didn't work," Bush quipped, facing reporters again until an aide rescued him by pointing to him toward the correct door.
When Annette Bening's flustered character did that in "The American President," it was considered funny yet charming. When a tired President Bush performs the same accident of heading for the wrong door, mainstream media uses it as another opportunity to make him the butt of jokes, because they can't seem to get him on anything else. He answered a very impertinent reporter's question the first time around, and since he likely had a schedule to keep, I can see how he dismissed the reporter's request. Yet Bush showed himself as a great sport, able to make light of the situation (and himself).

Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, being President is indeed a thankless job, and a very tiring one with the travel required. At the end of this entry, I talked a little bit about how the technology of the last several decades means any President's "vacation" is unavoidably a working one. President Bush's "vacations" at his Crawford ranch (which is outfitted with the latest technology) still involve early morning security briefings, policy meetings with his staff, entertaining presidential visitors, and everything else he'd normally do at the White House.

Furthermore, I had always thought, or at least I have always tried to follow, a rule of etiquette stipulating that you do not embarrass a fellow guest (let alone your own guest). The reporter was certainly a fellow guest in Beijing, and his initial question (remember we're talking about someone ostensibly seeking to report real news) was certainly lacking in any newsworthiness. He more than deserved the curt brush-off at the end.

There was a photo back in September of which a big deal was made, when President Bush was snapped scribbling a note supposedly asking permission for something.

Contrary to what liberal shills trumpeted for days, the note was hardly asking for permission: "I think I may need a bathroom break? Is this possible..." If anything, the note gave me immense respect for the President as a diplomat, and more importantly, a gentleman. Apparently he was unaware that he was free at any time to simply get up and leave for a few minutes, leaving Condi Rice to fill in for him. However, he displayed excellent manners in being discreet. He probably judged that a note could be surreptitiously passed or whispered to the chairman, who could then say, "Let's take ten minutes for refreshments and cigarettes." That would be the genteel way, since it does not draw attention to any single person, it permits everyone to leave at the same time, and it allows others a restroom break too.

No doubt President Bush's good manners were instilled by his father. My late father was of the same generation as George H.W. Bush, so I would not be surprised if George W. Bush and I had similar, formal upbringings. I grieve that formal manners have slowly dissipated from American culture. People today say "What?" or "Huh?" instead of "I beg your pardon?" My father taught me that when I was five. It later grated him to answer the telephone and hear a certain friend rapidly slur, "Is Perry there," instead of "May I speak to Perry, please?" He did like my two best friends, Charlie and Steve, who were raised by very good parents.

On the other hand, I wonder what Oliver Willis' background is that he mocks President Bush as asking for a "potty break." Then you see reporters repeatedly wasting President Bush and his administration's time with questions of no worth, and it's clear we can hardly expect good manners from mainstream media.



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