Retreating to Small Talk When the News Isn't So Good

President Bush heads indoors after a Rose Garden news conference dominated by questions on Iraq and North Korea.
President Bush heads indoors after a Rose Garden news conference dominated by questions on Iraq and North Korea. (By Charles Dharapak -- Associated Press)
By Dana Milbank
Thursday, October 12, 2006

President Bush needed to change the subject.

"If I might say, that is a beautiful suit," he told NBC News correspondent Kevin Corke at yesterday's news conference in the Rose Garden.

"My tailor appreciates that," replied Corke, wearing a $1,500 custom pinstripe number by Tom James with bright-red tie and pocket square.

"And I can't see anybody else who even comes close," Bush added, drawing laughs from the assembled scribes in wrinkled navy blazers.

Then the president spied CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, pointing at her Benetton suit with pink pinstripes. "Suzanne, I take that back," Bush amended with chivalry. Moments later he bestowed on her the day's "best-dressed" honors.

"Kevin and I coordinated," she explained.

CBS News's Jim Axelrod was feeling left out. "My best suit's in the cleaners," he told the commander in chief.

Bush eyed Axelrod's slacks with disdain. "That's not even a suit," he said, before chalking up the whole thing to "high-priced news guys."

It was about the only fun Bush had all morning. North Korea is exploding, Iraq is imploding, and congressional Republicans are self-destructing. Reporters weren't about to let the president forget about that, even if he looked natty in his gray suit and dark-blue tie.

"Do you ever feel like the walls are closing in on you?" Axelrod tormented.

Bret Baier of Fox News asked Bush about "the tide turning, according to several polls, towards the Democrats."

USA Today's David Jackson noted the "shelf full of books" about Iraq and their claims that "administration policies contributed to the difficulties there."


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