President Reaches Out to a Friendly Circle in New Media

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By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 16, 2007

The day after his prime-time speech on Iraq, President Bush sat down for a round-table interview not with traditional White House reporters but with bloggers who focus on military issues, including two participating by video link from Baghdad.

Judging from some of the accounts of the Friday meeting, the president offered up little news. Here is what one of the 10 bloggers, Ward Carroll of Military.com, described from his notes as some of Bush's most notable comments:

• "This strategy is my strategy."

• "I'm defining a horizon of peace."

• "I don't mind people attacking me. . . . That's politics . . . but I do mind people impugning the integrity of our generals."

Still, the hour-long meeting in the Roosevelt Room offered Bush another opportunity to break through what he sees as the filter of the traditional news media, while also reaching out to the providers of a new source of information for soldiers, their families and others who follow the conflict in Iraq closely.

"More and more we are engaging in the new-media world, and these are influential people who have a big following," said Kevin F. Sullivan, the White House communications chief.

Bush told the group that, to his knowledge, it was the first time a president had met with bloggers for a chat at the White House, one of the participants wrote. The blogs represented at the meeting are generally pro-Bush and pro-military, and the ensuing reports were highly sympathetic to the president.

"At this meeting President Bush came off as more comfortable with the message than I've seen him appear on TV or in speeches," wrote Carroll, a journalist and former Navy pilot. "No deer-in-the-headlights stuff here. Truly unwavering and passionate. Facts on the ground notwithstanding, he believes the United States can win the Iraq War. And to be honest, being around him made me believe it at that moment too."

Matthew Burden, a former Army officer who blogs under the name Blackfive, raved about how Bush slapped his hand and called him "brutha."

"The President was very intelligent, razor sharp, warm, focused, emotional (especially about his dad), and genuine," Blackfive wrote. "Even more so than this cynical Chicago Boy expected. I was overwhelmed by the sincerity -- it wasn't staged."

Bill Ardolino, who participated from Baghdad, wrote on indcjournal.com that he asked Bush about progress in Anbar province and Fallujah and that Bush's answer "honestly surprised me in its length, level of detail and grasp of events on the ground."

Bush told Ardolino: "The military can only do so much. There has to be follow-up with jobs and hope. We recognize that the man on the street needs to feel like his government cares about him."

Bush talked about the difficulty of setting up workable bureaucratic processes in Iraq, according to Ardolino's post, and the growing pains "that this society needs to go through" to achieve stability. "We shouldn't expect instant results with a society that was brutalized by Saddam Hussein," Bush told the group.

When it was all over, the bloggers seemed wowed. "All in all, it was an amazing day for Military.com and one I'll never forget," Carroll wrote. "In fact, I'd rank the event a close second to the time I sat in with Cheap Trick. It was that good."


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