Bush's Plea for Attention

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, October 11, 2006; 11:18 AM

Trying to seize back the microphone, President Bush today holds another surprise press conference, this time having given reporters less than two hours notice to present themselves at the West Wing driveway for the stroll over to the Rose Garden.

Regardless of the questions he is asked, Bush is sure to talk tough on North Korea, remind people of the danger of terrorism, and most likely try to connect the two.

As I've been chronicling over the last week or so, Bush has been having a devil of a time making anyone pay much attention to him of late. The Congressional page-sex scandal has sidelined him more than at any time in recent memory. His poll numbers are dismal. And Bob Woodward's latest book has finally convinced establishment Washington that he has a serious credibility problem.

The goal of today's press conference is to make sure that stories like this one, by Ken Herman of Cox News Service, don't become the norm. Herman writes: "At the worst possible time -- with pivotal congressional elections a month away -- an administration that thrives on controlling the message has lost control of it."

I'll be Live Online at 1 p.m. ET to talk about the press conference.

The Summit That Didn't Matter

Yesterday's White House "summit" on school violence was a much tamer and lamer attempt to reclaim some headlines. It was all choreography, no substance.

Here's the transcript of the portions Bush attended.

Dana Milbank of The Washington Post cuts right to the heart of the problem: "President Bush has always been a disciplined man, but yesterday he set a new standard for self-control: He moderated an hour-long discussion about the rash of school shootings in the past week without once mentioning the word 'guns.' . . .

"This was no misfire. The White House, hastily arranging yesterday's forum to react to shootings over the past fortnight at schools in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Wisconsin and Missouri, neglected to invite any gun-control advocates. . . .

"The Bush administration has for years been known for its use of human props to make its points: middle-class 'tax families' to pitch for tax cuts, victims of Saddam Hussein's torture to pitch for the Iraq war, and friendly partisans to pitch soft questions at 'Ask President Bush' sessions. The technique is not new; Bill Clinton did much the same when hosting events about race.

"Still, yesterday's forum was unusual. While experts dispute how much blame to place on children's access to guns, even the invited guests found it a bit odd to banish the topic entirely from a school-violence forum."

Milbank notes one amusing exchange: "[Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales advised Bush that one panelist said metal detectors send 'the wrong message about what we think of our kids.'

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