- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 15, 2001

Petty press habits persist, despite the national crisis. Even on the national day of mourning, some journalists continued their sniping at President Bush, judging him primarily by the style rather than the content of his message.
"Bush has yet to find a note of eloquence in his own voice. He is, in fact, distrustful of it, and went for Texas plain talk, rhetoric as flat as the prairie and as blunt as a Clint Eastwood soliloquy," wrote Newsweek's Howard Fineman, later noting, "he did not look larger than life at his Oval Office desk, or even particularly comfortable there, and he cited Psalms without the kind of emotional resonance voter-viewers have come to expect from an Empathizer in Chief."
The Los Angeles Times' Howard Rosenberg called Mr. Bush stiff and boyish, writing that "Bush has lacked size in front of the camera when he should have been commanding and filling the screen with a formidable presence even his body language is troubling."
Mr. Rosenberg suggested the president should instead function as a "national anchorman."
Heaven forbid. The last thing we need at this moment is slick ooze on camera. We need terse, straightforward messages from our leader, and Mr. Bush has delivered them.
America, apparently, is listening. Mr. Bush's public approval rating skyrocketed into the high 90s yesterday. The critics persist, though, predicting that the approval surge is temporary and that Mr. Bush will fade in the long haul.
This is mighty impatient analysis. At this juncture, the president's primary duty is toward the business of the White House rather than the image of the office, and the needs of the press. Mr. Bush has maintained a laudable presence, offering an average five statements a day, plus heartfelt messages at the Washington National Cathedral and the New York attack site yesterday.
Some critics claimed New York Gov. George E. Pataki and Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani had a more "presidential" presence. Reassurance had come from them, "but not from Bush," stated a Newsday editorial, which asked "Where's W?"
Such comparisons are a handy way to criticize Mr. Bush without appearing "unpatriotic," observed Slate's Mickey Kaus, who then suggested the president just give up and let his Cabinet do the talking.
These comments seem inappropriate at this time. The terrorist attack is not a political scandal story to be spun and toyed with; instant analysis of its larger implications has a very brief shelf life in the credible media market place.
Despite the magnitude of on-going events, there have been relatively few real gaffes in coverage, meanwhile.
Wednesday night, most networks broadcast false reports that 10 survivors had been found in the blast rubble, prompting Mr. Giuliani to beg the news media to preserve accuracy in their zeal to be first.
"Some of it can be very dangerous and emotionally damaging," he said. Fox, CNN and others have since issued on-air apologies.


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