Friday, April 15, 2005

Bush on Payolagate : No Regrets

George Bush held court with editors from around the country at a conference in Washington yesterday. Editor and Publisher captured the essence of Bush's time on stage, but one thread that seemed to weave through the entire affair - he has no regrets about anything.

In answering a question about the administration's reliance on paid shills to push administration agendas:

In response to questions from editors at the annual American Society of Newspaper Editors conference, the president also declined to comment on subpoenas for reporters in the Plame case and said that government payments to commentators, such as the 'pundit payola' Armstrong Williams received, are acceptable as long as they are disclosed.

In other words, the only problem he sees with the ongoing pay-for-propaganda scandal is that the reporters and pundits involved got caught.

(Where have we heard the "got caught" theme before?)

Beyond the payolagate issues, Bush also addressed the issue of administration propaganda disguised as "soft news" pieces, which are then peddled by government agencies to local news outlets as broadcast filler. Again, no regrets. Only that they got caught. And he shifted responsibility from the agencies that produce the propaganda to the news outlets that run the clips without identifying them as government produced. His choice of words were interesting, especially on a day that the Senate passed legislation forbidding the use of such propaganda tactics.

Not one time - not once - did he acknowledge that the concept of "open government" requires a high threshold of transparency in order to be held accountable "by the consent of the governed". In fact, he went out of his way to make sure the editors knew that his administration does, in fact, despise the media and any kind of investigative light thrown into the dark corners of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Regrets? He's had a few. But mostly that he got caught.

And yesterday afternoon, the department heads from Ministry of Truth applauded politely, on cue.