Friday, August 06, 2004

Flubbo op

President Bush unscripted


In a Q&A before thousands of journalists of color today in Washington, DC, President Bush proved why his handlers avoid, usually at all costs, putting their man in any situation that requires spontaneous speech. Though the crowd, gathered in the nation's capital for the annual Unity journalism conference, was largely polite, some of the president's answers to questions posed by a panel of four journalists were either so awkward, empty or preposterous that they drew snickers of disbelief.



And it seems that, under the artful questioning of one journalist, Roland Martin of the Chicago Defender, Mr. Bush inadvertently called for the end of college legacy admissions of the sort that enabled him to attend Yale, based not on his lackluster academic history but, rahther, on his family history. (Question of the day: will he try to back-pedal on this newfound stance?)



The president opened his remarks by telling the assembled crowd that he knew a bit about their profession, and that it was an important one. With what he called "my press corps," he said he enjoyed a "cordial and professional relationship."



"That's how I feel about coming here," he explained, repeating a call to be "cordial and professional." One wondered if he were issuing a plea.



In his opening statement, a somewhat scattered assertion of his administration's accomplishments, President Bush segued to a riff on the "No Child Left Behind" measures by stating, "Look, you can't read a newspaper if you can't read." That served as lead-in to his one good piece of oratory, assailing "the soft bigotry of low expectations." He claimed high percentages of African-American and Latino children "narrowing the achievement gap" since the law took effect, but gave no explanation as to how that gap was measured.



On his quest for tort reform that would prevent so-called frivilous medical law suits, the president quipped, "I don't think you can be pro-doctor, pro-patient and pro-trial-lawyer at the same time." Hear that, Breck girl?



So far, so good. (Well, kinda sorta; the newspaper line drew some unintended titters.)



Gee, baby, ain't I good to you?

Given the nature of his audience, Mr. Bush then moved on to the subject of diversity, giving himself a gold star for having a cabinet that included the likes of Secretary of Education Rodney Paige, whose miracle-working in the Houston public school system now appears to have been a statistical ruse; Secretary of State Colin Powell (of course); and Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, who has presided over the rewriting of labor regs to deprive millions of hourly workers the right to time-and-a-half for overtime.



He went on to remind the crowd that many of the people who advise him daily are not white. "The people who walk into the Oval Office and say, Mr. President, you're not lookin' so good today--they're diverse," he said, drawing uncomfortable laughter. "They're from all walks of life."



Lip-smackin' good

The most delicious moments, however, came in response to questions put to the president by a panel of four journalists: Joey Chen of CBS, Ray Suarez of PBS's "NewsHour", Roland Martin of the Chicago Defender, and Mark Trahant of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Early in the questioning, Mr. Bush was clearly stumped when Mark Trahant, a past president of the Native American Journalists' Association, asked the president what he thinks tribal sovereignty entails.

"Tribal sovereignty means just that--that it's sovereign," said the president. "You're--you've been given sovereignty and you're viewed as a sovereign entity." Unfortunately, he didn't let it end there. "And therefore," he continued, "the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities."




More to come...

NOTE: Your blogtress, being extremely busy and in demand, is writing this post in fits and starts, in between engagements. So rich is the material, that she will continue to dissect it throughout the next 24 hours, and post her findings as she finds them. In the meantime, though, you can find a more concise narrative of this event in Elisabeth Bumiller's story in today's New York Times.

Sphere: Related Content