- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2001

ON MEDIA

It has been about 264 hours since President Bush took office an eon in the nonstop media marketplace where the first 100 days will be chronicled under a microscope.

True to press tradition, Mr. Bush got a break from scrutiny during his inauguration with favorable, even affectionate, reports.

Most news organizations have given Mr. Bush a grudging honeymoon, admiring his style but contesting his decisions.

Style, many have grumbled, is no substitute for substance. Nevertheless, Mr. Bush's deft, convivial political operations have earned the title "the charm offensive" in many reports.

"By almost every account, George Bush is off to a very good start," conceded Bob Schieffer of CBS, who was particularly mournful during the network's coverage of the eventual Bush victory in December.

"Granted, it is hard to look bad when you're playing off the Clinton farewell tour, with all of the pardons and parting gifts and the occasional acts of vandalism. But give the new man credit."

Cautionary notes are in vogue.

"Good luck and good cheer, of course, get a new President only so far; strategy and gamesmanship have to take him the rest of the way," Time magazine notes this week, adding that Mr. Bush has "a few things to learn about Washington."

Newsweek calls Mr. Bush's style "a canny blend of confrontation and conciliation," and like many reports, made analogies to the Texas two-step:

"In a carefully choreographed debut, Bush pays off the right, then moves to the middle. Heeding his dad's past stumbles, Dubya is off to a smooth start. But the dance is a tricky one."

But is a vast left-wing conspiracy mobilizing to do battle in print and broadcast against the Bush administration? Of course, in some quarters. Most likely, the new media war will unfold in carefully executed, persistent increments rather than blockbuster scandals, which no longer resonate with many Americans.

Some news organizations have never abandoned their positions of hostility to Mr. Bush, and have already dug in.

There is "popular rage at the blatant injustice of Election 2000 and the illegitimate presidency that is assuming power," notes The Nation this week in an issue titled "The Tainted Presidency."

"Our soundings tell us that this anger is widely shared around the country," it states, telling Democrats to "rediscover their progressive voice" or else "the people will organize to keep the pressure on."

The socialist intellectual quarterly Dissent notes that Mr. Bush's "dubious victory" expresses "contempt of democratic citizenship … the raw pursuit of power by the Republicans compares only to their pursuit of Bill Clinton."

Specific issues championed by Mr. Bush also induce ire.

"The flowering of the Bush dynasty comes as a result of the abandonment of women's rights … the women who voted for George W [as well as those who didn't] have a right to feel betrayed," states Womensnews, an on-line publication of the National Organization for Women.

Meanwhile, the new White House press team has taken the high road in its first week.

In his very first official press conference last Tuesday, the first words out of press secretary Ari Fleischer's mouth were about cooperation and professionalism.

"I'm going to try as hard as I can to be on time," Mr. Fleischer said. "I think it's helpful to everybody."

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