Bush, Deep Throat and the Press

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, June 3, 2005; 12:54 PM

In an unusually revealing, under-the-radar chat with broadcast news directors on Wednesday, President Bush opened up about Deep Throat, anonymous sources, his relations with the press and how local news coverage is what motivates him to keep flying around the country talking about Social Security.

Getting personal, Bush also talked about how he cries easily. And the president who said on Tuesday, "I don't worry about anything here in Washington, D.C.," acknowledged on Wednesday that, in his quiet moments, he does worry -- although "not all that much" -- about such things as people losing their life in Iraq and his twin daughters.

Bush met with about two dozen board members of the Radio-Television News Directors Association in an ornate conference room in the Old Executive Office Building. It was on the record but, ironically, not for broadcast.

The Associated Press published a short story Wednesday night, but even after the RTNDA Web-published the fascinating excerpts from the session yesterday afternoon, it didn't get much attention.

Barbara Cochran, the association's president, said Bush was scheduled to only spend 30 minutes with the group, but kept talking for about 20 minutes extra.

"He seemed relaxed, eager to answer questions, and he was very expansive in his answers," Cochran told me. "I've never heard the president talk that much about his thought about the issues that we in the news media deal with all the time," she said.

· On Deep Throat, Bush explained why he won't get into whether he believes W. Mark Felt was a hero or not. "I don't think it's appropriate for the President to be drawn into that debate. But having said that, I don't have an opinion yet either."

· On anonymous sources, Bush seemed comfortable with the fact that two reporters are facing jail time for not disclosing their sources in the Valerie Plame Case. "Seems like to me the balance is just right when you think about it. If you think about all the unnamed sources in Washington, D.C., that affect a lot of stories, relative to the actual number of reporters that have actually been called into account. . . . There is a lot of sourcing here in Washington DC that never gets called into account. I mean, a lot. I'd say it's a million to one. That would be the ratio."

· On the press: "I enjoy my relationship with the press corps. I don't necessarily agree with what's written or what's spoken. But the press corps doesn't necessarily agree with what I do either. But it is a good relationship, and it is a vital relationship for the Presidency that there be a good exchange with the press, on a regular basis."

· On why he's keeps plugging away on his meticulously stage-managed and strikingly repetitive national tour on Social Security: "Part of the reason I'm going around the country, by the way, is because not everyone gets their news from the national news. In all due respect to the national Pooh-Bahs, most people get their news from the local news. And if you're trying to influence opinion, the best way to do it is to travel hard around the country and give the people their dues."

· On his hardest moments: "The hardest thing I have to do is sit down as the President with loved ones who've either lost a soul or have a wounded person, severely wounded. I try to do a lot of it. It's my obligation as the President. It's an amazing experience. First of all, I'm a crier, and I weep a lot. On the other hand, when it's all over, I feel incredibly strengthened by the strength of the parents or the wife or the kids."

· On his (relatively few) worries: "I'd say I'd spend most of my time worrying about right now people losing their life in Iraq. Both Americans and Iraqis. I worry about my girls. I used to worry about my wife, until she hit an 85% popularity figure. Now she's worried about me." He added a bit later: "You know, I don't worry all that much, other than what I just described to you. I attribute that to . . . I've got peace of mind. A lot of it has to do with my particular faith, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that a lot of people pray for me and Laura. . . . I'm sleeping pretty good. Seriously. I get asked that. There's times when I hadn't been. I've got peace of mind."

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