George W. Bush's biggest fault? Refusing to play ball with White House press corps. That's the inference from Times' White House reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg, who appeared on Charlie Rose Monday to discuss Bush's last press conference, alongside political author Robert Draper and Newsweek editor Jon Meacham. After Draper made a point about Bush's relations with the press, Stolberg followed up with a whine:
I think that's absolutely right. I think this president has never been comfortable with the press. It was very revealing. I was on his final Air Force One flight the other day on Saturday. We went to Norfolk, Virginia for the commissioning of the new Navy aircraft carrier, the George H.W. Bush.
This would have been a perfect moment for any president, a nostalgic moment, a family affair, to come back and talk to the press. Instead, relations between the Bush White House and the press are so soured that even at the very end of the flight, when Dana Perino came back and a TV cameraman said "why don't you send the president back to have a picture with us?" she said, "You won't ask him any questions, will you?" And then she said she would think about it, and she came back and she said, "well, I'm sorry, you know, we're out of time."
Now, he is the president of the United States. If he had engaged the press throughout his administration and used the press to his advantage, he would not find himself at the end of his presidency in a situation where he couldn't even come back for a simple photograph.
As Times Watch showed inthe 2008 edition of"Top Ten Lowlights of the New York Times", buttering up the press didn't help John McCain get fair press coverage during the general election againstmedia favoriteBarack Obama.