Watchdog Blog

Gilbert Cranberg: The White House Press as Patsies to the End

Posted at 8:49 pm, January 15th, 2009
Gilbert Cranberg Mug

President Bush’s final press conference, Jan. 12, 2009:

Q. Mr. President, in recent days, there’s been a fair amount of discussion in legal circles about whether you might give preemptive pardons, pardons in advance, to officials of your administration who engaged in anything from harsh interrogation tactics to perhaps dismissing U.S. attorneys. I’d like to know, have you given any consideration to this? And are you planning on it?

The President: I won’t be discussing pardons here at this press conference.

Q. Can I have a follow-up?

The President: Would you like to ask another question?

Q. Yes, I would, sir Thank you. Four years ago–

The President. That’s the spirit. Isn’t it? (Laughter)

Q.I appreciate that.

The President: Thank you. (Laughter)

Q. Four years ago, you were asked if you had made any mistakes……..

The press corps allowed Bush to change the subject and the pardon question dropped liks a stone. No one picked up on Bush’s comment that he would not discuss pardons “at this press conference,” possibly implying that he might have more to say about it elsewhere. Nor did anyone press for reasons why the question was off-limits.

It developed that it was the only subject Bush refused to address. As that became evident, it might have occurred to the press to inquire why Bush was so touchy about it. Instead, the subject evaporated without explanation. If the president had contemplated torture-related pardons he could well have concluded from the watchdogs who didn’t bark that he had no cause for concern from that quarter.

Bush’s refusal to discuss pardons “here at this press conference” should have been greeted by a flurry of questions both about the refusaL and about his own role in his administration’s harsh interrogation practices. Instead, the press corps behaved like patsies and allowed Bush to joke his way past the torture-related question. For a press that allowed the administration to take the country to war without holding Bush’s feet to the fire it was a fitting finale.

2 Responses to “The White House Press as Patsies to the End”

  1. Thomas says:

    Gilbert, there’s this guy, name is Obama, he’s the next president. My understanding is that when he has a press conference, the reporters don’t bother to raise their hands, because he’s chosen who he’s going to call on in advance. He also refuses to address particular subjects, and the questions he’s asked are never hostile. Maybe you might write about that.

  2. Mia says:

    I really liked your blog! i read 4 others that are on similar subjets, but they domt update very often, thanks.

Comments are closed.

The website is no longer being updated. Watchdog stories have a new home in Nieman Reports.