Audience Likes Bush, Times Amazed - Part XI

Times reporters can barely conceal their surprise anddisdain when they discover not everyone in America hates the president's guts.

White House reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg, who has a habit of saying Bush's "domestic agenda is in tatters," filed the snarky "Low in Polls, Bush Makes More Time for Friendly Crowds" from Rogers, Ark. Typically for the Times, Stolberg took the trouble to quote the pro-Bush questioners, as if expecting her readers to be enganging in a collective "can you believe these people?" wince.

"Out there in the rest of America, polls show that about twice as many people disapprove of President Bush as approve of him. But here in a cavernous convention center hall, Mr. Bush found nothing but admirers Monday when he answered questions during a town-hall-style meeting.

"One man began by commending Mr. Bush 'on your steadfastness and your faith.' Another concluded by saying, 'Thank you for being my president for the last seven years,' with an emphasis on the word 'my.' A third expressed dismay that Mr. Bush could not run for president again.

"'It's time for new blood,' Mr. Bush replied. 'Plus,' he added wryly, 'I'd be single.'

"The friendly audience in northwest Arkansas - not a single questioner criticized Mr. Bush - is typical of such let-Bush-be-Bush events, which the White House is staging with increasing frequency. Mr. Bush's aides like them because the president is much better in an informal setting, especially one where he can get his message across, conversation-style, without pesky reporters asking the questions."

OnSaturday Stolberg opened her news story from a Bush fundraiser in Miami with this punchy left hook:

"His poll numbers are in the tank, and the Republican presidential candidates barely mention his name."