Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Milbank: Reality bites

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank dished about White House press operations on MSNBC's "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" last night after Olbermann played a clip of White House press secretary Tony Snow being challenged by CBS newsman Bill Plante over the definition of the term "civil rights:"

OLBERMANN: Big picture here. We had dictionary time with Tony Snow at that news conference. We got this memo from the communications director, Dan Bartlett, to the press. He‘s described all the progress that the White House has made on everything from Iraq to immigration, as if we, you know, we‘ve been out or something for the last five years.

But does the—does the administration, the White House, still believe its main, if not only, problem is getting its message out correctly?

MILBANK: Well, I don‘t think that they believe that. But it‘s the only thing that they can do something about right now. So I—you had this sort of unfortunate thing where Dan Bartlett‘s memo says the economy is flourishing, and then the market‘s down 200 points today. It‘s very hard to control reality.

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Base instincts

The liberal blogs were all abuzz yesterday afternoon over White House press secretary Tony Snow's comparison of the Marriage Protection Amendment to "civil rights matters." (The proposed Constitutional amendment, being debated today in the Senate, would, if passed, forbid judicial challenges to anti-gay-marriage legislation at both the state and federal levels.) Raw Story has posted the relevant piece of the transcript from yesterday's White House press briefing:

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY TONY SNOW: Whether it passes or not, as you know, Terry, there have been a number of cases where civil rights matters have risen on a number of occasions, and they've been brought up for repeated consideration by the United States Senate and other legislative bodies...

BILL PLANTE (CBS News): You mentioned civil rights. Are you comparing this to various civil rights measures which have come to the Congress over the years?

SNOW: Not -- well, these -- it --

PLANTE: Is this a civil right?

SNOW: Marriage? It actually -- what we're really talking about here is an attempt to try to maintain the traditional meaning of an institution that has maintained one meeting for -- meaning for a period of centuries. And furthermore --

PLANTE: And you would equate that with civil rights?

SNOW: No, I'm just saying that I think -- well, I don't know. How do you define civil rights?

PLANTE: It's not up to me. Up to you.

SNOW: Okay. Well, no, it's your question. So I -- if I --

PLANTE: (Chuckles.)

SNOW: I need to get a more precise definition.
Think Progress has the video.

John Aravosis of America Blog asks, "How dare they?" He also makes the observation that in television coverage of President Bush's address today on the Marriage Protection Amendment, none of the eight religious right leaders, including Pat Robertson and James Dobson, who were present at the event were visible on camera.

In the meantime, together with PoliticsTV.com, Aravosis is leading a posse of readers into calling senators and asking them about their personal sexual practices.

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