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White House Briefing: Dan Froomkin

White House Goes to the Blogs

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, August 17, 2004; 12:23 PM

Jimmy Orr, the White House's Internet guru, wants the White House Web site to get bloggier.

"We're trying to make it more bloggish," he says in an interview. "People need to see that we're on the site and we're listening to what they have to say."

So, he says: "We're going to try -- as questions come in, and as people have comments about the events of the day -- to be more proactive."

Blogs -- short for Web logs -- are all the rage these days. And while some people use them for such things as chronicling their sex lives, they have more significantly emerged as a potent vehicle for news and views on the Internet.

Two of the most seminal features of blogs are interaction with readers and immediacy. And the White House Web site under Orr, an enthusiastic 37-year-old press office staffer, has already taken some steps in that direction.

White House Interactive is generally updated daily with a new e-mail question from the public and an answer, typically from someone fairly high up in the White House staff.

One of Orr's biggest accomplishments was the launching last April of "Ask the White House," a live discussion that has featured guests such as Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., first lady Laura Bush and White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier.

(While many guests only take softball questions, that's not always the case. Check out, for instance, this Karen Hughes performance in January.)

A next step, Orr says, could be to use the site to communicate with the public throughout the day, for instance by reporting what the president is doing right now. "We need to be more live," he says. And it's doable -- "'Cause we're here. We just need to communicate that better with the public."

A while back, Orr was his own guest on "Ask the White House" One questioner raised the topic of blogging. And it turns out Orr's a fan.

"Bloggers are very instrumental. They are important. They can lead the news. And they've been underestimated," he wrote.

"Here's what the bloggers do. They notice something in the news or something they've observed that maybe the 'traditional' media hasn't covered or isn't spending much time on. But they think it is significant. So, they give the story a second life (or first). And they talk about it. And others talk about it. Before you know it, it is leading the news."

In his online appearance, Orr mentioned a few blogs he reads regularly. He e-mailed me a more extensive list:

The Note, from ABC News

Noted Now, also from ABC News

Andrew Sullivan

Instapundit

• OpinionJournal.com's Best of the Web Today

HyperGeneMediaBlog

White House Briefing (You're reading it.)

James Lileks

And he's not the only one in the White House who reads blogs, he says. Far from it.

"They're important here," he says. "I can tell you that a lot of people read them."

Note to White House officials (and others): Don't forget to nominate your favorites for washingtonpost.com's 2004 Best Blogs - Politics and Elections Readers' Choice Awards.

Troop Maneuver

Mike Allen and Josh White write in The Washington Post: "President Bush announced plans Monday to recall as many as 70,000 troops from Cold War-era bases in Europe and Asia as part of a global rearrangement of forces that is aimed at making the military more agile in an age of unpredictable enemies."

Although the "repositioning is to unfold gradually over seven to 10 years . . . Bush's announcement of the plan -- which drew mixed assessments from military analysts -- gave him a chance to talk about bringing troops home at a time when his opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), has pledged to substantially reduce U.S. troop levels in Iraq."

Allen and White note: "This is the second week of an effort by Bush and his campaign to undo any success Kerry had in using the Democratic National Convention to portray himself as worthy of the title commander in chief."

Elisabeth Bumiller writes in the New York Times that the announcement came in a speech "to a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the political combat zone of Ohio," and she notes that many of the details of the plan had been previously reported.

Howard Wilkinson writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer: "The VFW crowd -- which will hear from Bush's Democratic opponent John Kerry on Wednesday -- gave a tepid response to Bush's announcement that he is restructuring the military to bring about 70,000 troops home from Europe and Asia to American military bases. But they cheered and rose to their feet often when the president recited a litany of what his administration has done to aid veterans."

Dana Bash reported on CNN: "This is a major policy announcement from the sitting commander-in-chief. But this event was paid for not by the White House or the taxpayers but the president's reelection campaign. And it came at the end of a very intensely political speech by the president."

Ken Herman writes in the Austin American-Statesman: "President Bush, road testing the strong-leader-in-perilous-times theme to be sounded at the Republican National Convention, is working this week to portray opponent John Kerry as ill-suited for the mission and the moment.

"The message is coming in a new television ad, from surrogates and from Bush himself."

On CBS's Early Show today, Bill Plante looks at the criticism of Bush's plan.

Here's the text of Bush's VFW speech.

Return of the Bushisms

Dana Milbank has an announcement to make in his White House Notebook column in The Washington Post this morning:

"Ladies and gentlemen, the Bushism has returned. The malapropisms that adorned Bush's 2000 campaign before going into remission during much of his presidency have reemerged to garnish his reelection bid."

Milbank has quite the rollicking collection.

Noting Bush's comment in Oregon -- "I hope you leave here and walk out and say, 'What did he say?'" -- Milbank writes: "The question was rhetorical, but it is possible a listener would at times be truly befuddled about Bush's meaning."

More on Those Bush Events

In yesterday's column, I wrote about how the press corps appears to be getting a little fed up with hokey "Ask President Bush" events.

Now Scott Lindlaw of the Associated Press weighs in on one aspect of the Bush campaign's crowd-control tactics that some readers felt I didn't pay enough attention to.

"President Bush's team exerts close control over admission to his campaign events. Dissenters and would-be hecklers are turned away, campaign officials say. On several occasions in recent weeks, Democrats who have gotten in have been ejected because they wore pro-Kerry T-shirts."

Lindlaw writes: "Bush's admission policy can leave the impression that the president has strong support wherever he goes."

Lindlaw also solves the mystery of how Bush seemed to get such a warm reception from union members in Las Vegas last week: He didn't.

It turns out that just because he spoke at a union hall doesn't mean he was speaking to union members.

"Labor unions traditionally align with Democrats and have not been particularly friendly to Bush. So when Bush spoke at a Las Vegas union hall Thursday, the campaign used its usual ticket distribution policy to pack the hall with backers.

"The crowd roared its approval throughout the speech. Some tickets were also given to union members. A few of them sat silently in the back rows."

Here's the text of that speech, which the White House press office headlined: "President Speaks to Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners."

Stock Market Loses Faith

Bloomberg writes: "Income and capital-gains tax cuts, the fastest economic growth in five years, the creation of more than 1 million jobs, an ebullient outlook from the chairman of the Federal Reserve and victory in Iraq were exactly what most chief executives at America's largest companies and their investors wanted from the president, Congress and the central bank. And they got it all."

So the stock market should be booming, right?

"Instead, the reality of record-high oil prices, more than 790 American military deaths in Iraq since Bush addressed soldiers under a banner declaring 'Mission Accomplished,' and the administration's warnings of threatened terrorism in America's backyard have helped depress trading and send the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq Composite Index to their lows for the year last week."

More From Yesterday's Trip

After Bush's VFW speech, he paid a 20-minute visit to the new Underground Railroad museum in Cincinnati, then spoke at a rally in Traverse City, Mich.

Denise Amos and Gregory Korte write in the Cincinnati Enquirer: "The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center became a political backdrop Monday during brief visits from President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell. . . .

"Bush's first stop: 'Journeys,' a quilt-like wall mural that artist Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson pieced together over 35 years.

"'Really. That's interesting,' Bush said, nodding and smiling as he listened."

Tom Raum writes for the Associated Press from Traverse City: "President Bush voiced sympathy on Monday for this industrial state's economic distress but told a receptive northern Michigan audience that conditions are improving."

George Weeks writes in the Detroit News: "President George W. Bush used a rally at this Lake Michigan town to pledge never to allow the diversion of Great Lakes water to parched sections of the country or elsewhere."

Here's the text of his speech in Traverse City.

Today's Calendar

Bush today travels to Ridley Park, Pa., to speak at a Boeing plant, then attends a rally in Hedgesville, W. Va.

Harold Brubaker writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer about Bush's visit to the "Boeing Co.'s Delaware County factory, home of Chinook helicopters, the Army's workhorses in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Bush is expected to tour the Chinook assembly line today and give a speech thanking Boeing employees for their work on the helicopter that has been flying platoons of soldiers in and out of hot spots since the early 1960s. . . .

"The facility also assembles the V-22 Osprey, which takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane. But the aircraft has had a troubled past, and faces an uncertain future because of an imminent budget crunch at the Pentagon."

Laura Bush headlines a "W. Stands for Women" rally in St. Louis today.

AFP writes about Bush's hectic campaign schedule. "For three weeks, the US president has worked in Washington an average of one day a week. . . .

"In order to recover from his electoral marathon and to prepare for his acceptance speech, the president will spend the week between August 19 and 25 at his ranch in Crawford, Texas."

Watch This Story

Speaking of Boeing, Bloomberg reports: "The Bush administration informed the European Union it wants to scrap a 12-year-old agreement that let EU members subsidize Airbus SAS, the world's biggest plane manufacturer, a U.S. trade official said. . . .

"The new rhetoric on aircraft subsidies shows how the Bush administration is moving to help Boeing Co. and protect aerospace jobs in election-year battleground states such as Washington and Pennsylvania, said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia."

The Fine Print

In the final part of a Washington Post series on how the Bush administration has used the regulatory process to redirect the course of government, Joby Warrick writes that by changing the word "waste" to "fill" in a regulation covering coal mining, Bush appointees have allowed an increase in the destruction of mountaintops in Appalachia.

The Second Bush Administration

Peter S. Canellos writes in the Boston Globe that many of Bush's most prominent advisers are not likely to stick around for a second term.

"Bush and his team will be running for reelection on a set of policies that will be carried out by a new crew of people. And because the old crew is still there, Bush won't be able to say who might be occupying the most important positions in his administration -- and if they'll really be following the same course as their predecessors.

"For Bush, it's like putting a fully furnished house on the market without mentioning that most of the appliances are due to be replaced in January."

Noor Khan Watch

Amy Waldman and Eric Lipton write in the New York Times that the rush of activity following the arrest of suspected al Qaeda operative Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan -- whose laptop spawned the latest terror alerts -- was an example of "the extraordinary interconnection among international intelligence services that has surfaced since the Sept. 11 attacks."

For those looking for an explanation of why administration officials leaked Khan's name, here's what Waldman and Lipton have to say about that:

"The release of Mr. Khan's name -- it was made public in The New York Times on Aug. 2, citing Pakistani intelligence sources -- drew criticism by some politicians, like Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who charged that this leak might have compromised the search in Britain and Pakistan for Mr. Khan's Qaeda partners. (No officials in Britain, Pakistan or the United States have told The Times on the record that identifying Mr. Khan had such an impact)."

Here's that Aug. 2 story, which didn't make it entirely clear where the leak came from.

So does this mean national security adviser Condoleezza Rice was wrong when she confirmed to CNN's Wolf Blitzer that Khan's name was disclosed in Washington?

Not in His Name

AFP reports: "The family of Daniel Pearl, a US journalist who was beheaded in Pakistan two years ago, urged US politicians not to use the reporter's name for political reasons after Vice President Dick Cheney invoked Pearl's name during a campaign event. . . .

"Cheney used Pearl's name in Ohio last week as he derided Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's pledge to wage a 'more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations.' . . .

"'A sensitive war will not destroy the evil men who killed 3,000 Americans and who seek the chemical, nuclear and biological weapons to kill hundreds of thousands more,' Cheney said. 'The men who beheaded Daniel Pearl and Paul Johnson will not be impressed by our sensitivity.'"

Apparently, Pearl's family isn't impressed with Cheney's sensitivity either.


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