Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Thursday, May 27, 2004

The press gaggle yesterday was extremely interesting on a number of levels. One, it's amazing to see the degree to which the press is completely paralyzed by terror alerts. With all the credence given to the essentially illogical idea that exposing the war crimes of American soldiers at Abu Ghraib (war crimes which, in large part, the rest of the world already knew about) endangers U.S. troops, here's an "unintended consequences" indictment that I think is a little more serious.

By simply dropping every single other story whenever the White House puts out a major terror alert, isn't the press corps encouraging the White House to use the terror alert system and DHS as a tool to deflect public attention from the Bush administration. Isn't that behavior basically telling the White House "we're going to hammer you on every issue, unless there's a terrorist alert in which case we'll go back to being docile?"

I'm not saying these are the types of things that should primarily inform the behavior of the press corps. But if we expect them to factor in the reactions of people thousands of miles away whom they do not know, perhaps it's not too much to ask them to consider the effect on members of the White House communications department, whose natural tendencies we know all too well.

But the other thing that's striking is how the White House (and specifically McClellan) is really squandering the opportunity to make up some lost PR ground here because it can't break out of this constant mode of obfuscation and evasion, even though on this specific issue (the 7 alleged terrorists allegedly in the country allegedly planning an alleged terrorist attack) there's nothing really to evade, as the White House hasn't bollocksed anything up.

Still, McClellan makes it through an entire PB of softball "terror" questions (plus one question about NATO in Iraq, which McClellan dodges) without really saying anything. Isn't this prime PR time, to be generating lots of reassuring sound bytes about how our tireless leaders are protecting us from horrible bad guys? The supposed "straight shooters" in the White House can't get out of spin mode, even to help themselves politically. Truly an administration of pathological liars.

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