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The president vs. the media: so far so good


In the wake of his election victory, President Bush said he had earned "capital" and intends to spend it. 

Freed from the burden of seeking re-election, in his news conference it sounded like President Bush may now seek more interaction with the media. 

He began this session with praise:

"I appreciate the hard work of the press corps.  We all put in long hours and you're away from your families for a long period of time,” says President Bush.  “But the country is better off when we have a vigorous and free press covering our elections.” 

Seconds later, a vigorous query about the Middle East prompted Bush to say, "Now that I've got the will of the people at my back, I'm going to start enforcing the one-question rule.  That was three questions."

At times, it was hard to tell whether the president was simply needling reporters or whether he really plans to clamp down.

"Again, he violated the one-question rule right off the bat.  Obviously you didn't listen to the will of the people," quipped the president. 

Still, the president accepted the will of reporters.  But Mr. Bush has clearly decided that when it comes to the media, he will be dictating the rules.

It's no secret that the Bush White House has great disdain for the press corps.  The administration considers some reporters to be partisan, narcissistic, and sloppy. 

Sloppiness was on full display at this session when a reporter asked a question regarding Yasser Arafat’s supposed death.

Mr. Bush was later informed that Arafat was still on life support.

But at the end of the press conference, the president made sure to ask reporters a question of his own:

“How many of you are going to be here for a second term?  Good.  Gosh, we're going to have a lot of fun then, thank you all."

A lot of fun, indeed.  The fact is that the White House pressroom is very much like a frat house: there are unique traditions and travel experiences and there is certainly a herd mentality.  The question is, in the wake of the most secretive administration in 30 years will the president be more open in a 2nd term or will he now be emboldened to keep reporters from even getting their elusive follow ups.