Friday, October 07, 2005

The Fresh Prince of DC

A few more things about George W. Bush's latest big speech on the GWOT yesterday. First, there are several signs of frantic media management by the White House in the run-up to the speech to minimize the distractions from its message. First, a local TV station in New York City, WNBC, was encouraged to sit for two days on its knowledge of the information behind the terror alert in the city -- a tad awkward for a big speech on the successes in the GWOT to be occurring during a terror alert.

Second, Bush's statement of al Qaeda's goals, while drawing on well-known material, seems specifically but selectively related to the content of a letter from its global #2, al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi. This letter seems to have been bouncing around in media circles for a while:

The warning, from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was spelled out in a 6,000-word letter, dated early in July, that was obtained by American forces conducting counterterrorism operations in Iraq, the [senior US] official said in a briefing.

The official said Mr. Zawahiri also warned that Mr. Zarqawi's forces should concentrate their attacks on Americans rather than on Iraqi civilians, and should refrain from the kind of gruesome beheadings and other executions that have been posted on Qaeda Web sites. Those executions have been condemned in parts of the Muslim world as violating tenets of the faith.

The official said the letter was made public on Thursday after the government learned that CBS News and NBC News were preparing broadcasts based on partial descriptions of its contents.

Clearly a problem -- the President about to give another account of how al Qaeda are a bunch of ruthless murderers who target civilians and want brutality on American TV screens, but there's a letter floating around making clear that Al Qaeda (.pk) is unhappy with its franchisee in Iraq. Solution: scoop the imminent media embarrassment with an off-the-record briefing that makes the papers on the Friday of a holiday weekend.

Speaking of holidays, at the conclusion of their words of praise for Dubya's speech, Powerline offers this example of media bias:

I [Hindrocket] haven't seen a report on how many people watched Bush's speech; in fact, I'm only assuming that it was broadcast by someone. My guess is that very few either saw it or will read it in its entirety. Instead, the overwhelming majority depend on what they read about Bush's speech in the newspapers or hear on television news reports. Those articles and reports, with hardly any exceptions, will be carefully framed to minimize the speech's impact.

People used to talk about the Presidency as a "bully pulpit," but I think one lesson of the Bush years is that the President's ability to communicate effectively with the American people, outside of the context of an election campaign, is limited. The real "bully pulpit" belongs to the mainstream press, which is just about unanimously devoted to undermining the President's effort to communicate with, and thereby lead, the American people.

DUDE! The speech was delivered at 10am eastern time on a weekday morning. Note the assumption that working people should have downed tools to get the unfiltered message of The Exalted One, or failing that, that the masses should have arrived home in the evening to endless reruns of the speech. What country is this exactly?

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