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The President's Preemptive Strike

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"Wanna know how you can get those poll numbers up, Mr. President? Don't schedule a press conference during 'Survivor,' 'CSI' and 'The Apprentice,'." wrote one skeptic on the Web site DamianPenny.com. An "O.C." fan observed on that show's Web site: "He started the war in Iraq which was totally wrong, caters to big business ..... , lets big corporations pollute our air & water, but the worst thing he could ever do is pre-empt The OC!"

But here's our favorite part of this story. The president of the United States scheduled his show during TV-Turnoff Week, the one week of the year when the well-meaning folks at the Washington-based TV-Turnoff Network ask people to turn off their sets and spend more time doing something else.

We asked TV-Turnoff Network Executive Director Frank Vespe if the timing of the president's show wasn't unfortunate for his movement.

 "It sort of is, particularly because he's spoken many times, and the first lady, too, about the benefits of turning off the TV," he replied.

We asked McClellan if it wasn't unfortunate that the White House had scheduled this event during TV-Turnoff Week, when this nation of obese people was being encouraged to read a book, ride a bike or spend quality time talking to their family members instead of sitting in front of the set.

"All worthwhile endeavors, but I think listening to the president of the United States is as well," he answered.

CBS and NBC cut out about four minutes before the president stopped taking questions, to get their talking-heads commentary done in time for the start of "Survivor" and "The Apprentice" at 9. Fox cut out a couple of minutes later, but ABC stuck with the president till the bitter end.

Finally  after CBS and NBC had already cut him off  Bush acknowledged what was going on. He said he would take one more question, quipping, "I don't want to cut into some of the TV shows getting ready to air  for the sake of the economy." The White House press corps twittered.

Thinking of the lost ad revenues, one network exec retorted to The TV Column: "He took tens of millions out of the economy tonight."

 --

Judy Woodruff, anchor of CNN's "Inside Politics," will leave the cable news network when her contract expires at the end of next month.

Two sources familiar with the situation, who asked not to be identified because of the confidentiality of contract talks, said CNN had offered Woodruff a role as a kind of "super correspondent" in Washington but planned to drop her as "Inside Politics" anchor. The offer, which would have amounted to a demotion, confirmed Woodruff's earlier decision to step down, the sources said.

Her attorney, Robert Barnett, said that "CNN offered Judy a new contract and a continuing full-time relationship."

In recent months, Woodruff said, "it just became clearer to me this was a time to turn the page. I do love politics and have loved this team that I've worked with, but I've done this program for 12 years. I've been incredibly lucky. On the other hand, there does come a moment when you ask, what else do I want to do with my life?"

 Woodruff said she wanted to teach, write, hit the lecture circuit and take on "longer-form journalism. And I can't do those things and do a daily program."

But she sounded wistful when she discussed her love of politics, which began as a rookie reporter at WHEA in Atlanta, where she covered Jimmy Carter's 1970 run for Georgia governor.

Woodruff joined CNN in 1993 after working for PBS on the documentary series "Frontline" and reporting for "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour." She was chief White House correspondent for NBC News from 1977 to 1982 before moving to PBS.

 It was unclear whether CNN would hang on to "Inside Politics," an hour-long show that runs weekdays at 3:30 p.m. Asked if she hoped her show would survive, Woodruff said that ".'Inside Politics' is an incredible signature program for this network" and that she believes CNN is committed to covering politics. She said she will be an occasional consultant and contributor and will stay beyond the May 31 expiration of her contract if CNN needs a longer transition period.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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