The Bush Blitz

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Write
Thursday, October 19, 2006; 8:20 AM

I'm sure no one was terribly shocked when George Bush sat down with Bill O'Reilly and Dick Cheney chatted up Rush Limbaugh.

It's election season, the White House has launched a media blitz, and those seen as sympathetic get first dibs.

(Bush isn't only playing to the right; he gave his first-ever interview -- airing Sunday -- to ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who may have caused some wariness because Stephanopoulos worked for the previous White House.)

But how effective are these playing-to-the-base interviews? Do you really gain anything if most of the listeners and viewers are already on your side? Or is that less true this year, when some conservatives (not to mention conservative radio hosts) are disaffected and may just stay home?

And how are the questions from commentators who constantly rip the MSM?

Let's start with the Limbaugh talk with the veep. Rush began by talking about a caller who "was frustrated that the party at large doesn't seem to be getting the news out about how good the economy is, and indeed the economic statistics are fabulous -- unemployment, middle-class wage growth, Dow Jones Industrial Average flirting with 12,000 -- and yet we're told that people don't 'feel' this economy is good."

And: "The gas price run-up was hailed as a 'failure' of the Bush administration's economic policy. Now that gas prices are coming down, the focus seems to be on what is it you all are doing to manipulate the market before the election."

And: "Also, I wanted to mention to you that the deficit has been cut in half three years early. It really is stunning news, but it's a large Drive-By Media megaphone to overcome."

And: "Do you get frustrated when you see Republicans speculating on how many House seats they're going to lose?"

And: "It's clear -- to me, anyway -- that you in the White House are not changing policy on [Iraq] at all, that the operating policy here is victory. Is the perception that victory is possible strong enough? Is that possibility being laid out in strong enough terms to the American people that they think it's possible, or are they beginning to doubt that it can happen?"

And: "There was a story in the Washington Post yesterday or earlier in the week. The reporter was amazed that the president and Karl Rove remain, quote, 'inexplicably upbeat,' unquote, about the outcome of the elections, and that there is "no plan for if the Republicans lose" the House and/or the Senate. Can you tell us why the upbeat attitude in the White House?"

Limbaugh makes his opinions clear every day. My only question: What would he have said if a member of the Drive-By Media had asked such questions of President Clinton?

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