Crowd Likes Bush - Times In Disbelief

Times' reporters can'tstand it when President Bush actually has the nerve to speak in front of supportive crowds, and neither did the headline writer to Jim Rutenberg's Thursday story, "Outing Finds Bush in the Thick of Softball Season." The text box reads: "In a challenging time, the president turns to a friendly audience."

That "friendly audience" would be the Associated General Contractors of America. Reporter Rutenberg, as if in disbelief, quoted chapter and verse the often-religious, positive bent of some of the audience questions to Bush.

"President Bush did not leave Washington on Wednesday. But for at least two hours he was transported to a different world, away from inquiries involving the credibility of top aides and questions about the war in Iraq. The place was a hotel ballroom just a couple of blocks from the White House, where he took questions from supporters. It was not so much a grilling as a warming.

"'What do you pray about?' one man asked. 'And how we can we pray for you?' (Answer: 'Wisdom and strength, and my family, is what I'd like for you to pray for.')"

Rutenberg went on to list the ratio of giving to the GOP by the group's political action committee.

"The questions came from members of the Associated General Contractors of America, a trade group that is heavily Republican and has a political action committee that gives more to Republicans than to Democrats, by a roughly six-to-one margin, according to an analysis by the Web site Bush is hardly the first president to go before a friendly crowd during a challenging period. But he has done so several times in the last few weeks, even as some onetime allies voice worry about the White House creating the impression that he is cloistered, hearing only supportive voices. It was just such an impression last year that helped lead White House aides to put him before more critical audiences."

But given Rutenberg credit for appending this White House rebuttal directed at the liberal media:

"Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, said, 'Stay tuned,' when asked whether Mr. Bush would be doing that again anytime soon.

"She chided reporters in attendance at the session on Wednesday for 'the rolling of the eyes and the smirking' during the questioning.

"'What I observed was the looks of disbelief on some of the reporters' faces - and I've seen it before - that anyone in the United States supports the president or has a different opinion from what is read in the newspapers," Ms. Perino said. 'People who have that feeling need to be validated and respected as well.'"