All presidents harbor a desire to get around what President Bush calls the "media filter" and deliver the news directly to the people. But what would such unfiltered news look like?
It would look very, very good. And positive, and excellent. But do not take the filter's word for it.
Consider the following quotes, all verbatim excerpts of briefings given by senior administration officials at last week's Group of Eight summit in Georgia. With the exception of national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and her spokesman, all provided the briefings on the condition that they not be identified.
On Bush's meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. "This was, I believe, the warmest meeting that the two leaders have had since 2003, since before the Iraq war. It was a warm meeting, it was a productive meeting. . . . It was, as I said, an extremely good meeting. . . . I will stop here and take questions. Let me reiterate, though, that this was a very warm meeting."
On Bush's meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. "As usual, in the bilateral meetings between these two leaders, there was a lot of good cheer and good, friendly conversation. . . . Prime Minister Koizumi opened up by expressing condolences on the loss of Spot, the president's dog, and then asked after Barney, whom he knows. . . . At lunch they ate beef -- and it was very good, I might add."
On the economy. "The global economy is in its best shape in years."
On the G-8 agenda. "It's been quite a successful summit, a summit of policy accomplishments and achievements."
On Bush's meeting with Iraq's interim President Ghazi Yawar. "Really just outstanding meeting. . . . It was a very warm meeting."
On Iraq. "There's a very good spirit of cooperation and partnership already with the new Iraqi interim government, and I'm sure that will carry into the future."
On Bush's meeting with French President Jacques Chirac. "This was a cordial meeting, a meeting taking place near the end of a successful G-8 Summit. . . . Chirac told the president that in his view, the summit had been good, it had been positive. And again, this good atmosphere has certainly colored the meeting between the two leaders. . . . This was a good meeting."
On U.S.-European relations. "I think it has been a remarkably productive period in U.S.-European relations. . . . We are moving in a good direction, Europe and the United States together."
On nuclear nonproliferation developments. "That's a very, very good step forward."
On Bush's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "That was a good meeting. I was not present for it, so I shouldn't characterize it, but everything I've heard suggested that it was a good meeting. The two leaders made progress both on setting out bilateral tasks for both governments. They had a good discussion about Iraq and the Middle East."
On Bush's trip to Europe. "The president achieved a great deal on this trip. . . . We had good discussions on the war on terrorism. We had good discussions on the Middle East."
On Bush's meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. "This was a good meeting. Obviously, they're very pleased with the developments of the past week in general. . . . And I would say they are both in excellent spirits, as one could imagine."
On African development. "It grows out of the president's vision to make the world safer and better, as stated in his National Security Strategy."
On talks with Middle East leaders. "Fascinating and uplifting. . . . We had a terrific meeting today, and on we go."
With his underlings giving him such uniformly favorable reviews, Bush, who has said his aides are the "most objective sources" of news, has begun to anticipate good news even before it occurs. Greeting the Algerian president last week, he remarked: "That was a good meeting yesterday. We'll have a good meeting today."
Secret Service Embargoes Olive Oil
At least it wasn't balsamic vinegar. The president's security detail has always made sure people near the president don't have sharp or flammable objects. But members of Bush's traveling entourage were amused to discover upon entering the G-8 Media Center in Georgia last week that Secret Service agents removed from their luggage such innocuous items as perfume, shaving gel, wine and, best of all, olive oil. A spokesman for the Secret Service said this is standard procedure and that there is no heightened fear that an assailant is plotting to drizzle the president with salad dressing.