The President’s Teleconference Talk With Military From One Who Was There
An interesting follow up on the controversy swirling around President Bush’s talk with members of the military: Sgt. Ron Long was there…in the front…one of the soldiers and he gives his perspective on his blog. Read it all, but here’s a small part:
First of all, we were told that we would be speaking with the President of the United States, our Commander-in-Chief, President Bush, so I believe that it would have been totally irresponsible for us NOT to prepare some ideas, facts or comments that we wanted to share with the President.
We were given an idea as to what topics he may discuss with us, but it’s the President of the United States; He will choose which way his conversation with us may go.
We practiced passing the microphone around to one another, so we wouldn’t choke someone on live TV. We had an idea as to who we thought should answer what types of questions, unless President Bush called on one of us specifically.
The only problem is: the White House had told reporters it would be freewheeling with no screening. That’s WHY this story was done. If officials then went on and selected who got to talk and Bush got to choose his questions and the people who got to talk him had advance warning it’s hard to say that its unscreened and unscripted.
The bottom line is that poor thinking and advance planning created this. The news media was HANDED this story. The White House set themselves up by what they told the press earlier. No one has contended that the military there were given every word that they said and when the White House spokesman tried to flip the question around to questioning the motives of the reporter (whether they believe the military meant what they said) it could not obscure what was said earlier to reporters and what they saw with their own eyes.
People on the left and right may see in this a confirmation of their beliefs, and use it accordingly — but as a journalistic issue reporters simply couldn’t pass up this story — it was virtually shoved into their hands by an incredibly sloppy White House operation…which could have hedged a bit or simply said that soldiers will go over the order of questions, etc.
Second bottom line: expect more press scrutiny of what the White House says and does. And don’t expect to see pre-event satellite feeds available to the press at events like this — or reporters anywhere near where the event will take place until it does.