Does the White House press corps ever read the transcripts of their White House Press Gaggles and White House Press Briefings with Scott McClellan? If they do, does it make them nauseated? Do they cringe at their own inanity?
Here is a White House Press Gaggle with Scott McClellan right after the announcement that Sandra Day O'Connor was stepping down from the high court.
McClellan begins with what he calls the "tick-tock of the day", a description, in numbing detail, of how an envelope was delivered to the White House by the High Marshall of the Supreme Court announcing O'Connor's resignation.
Various White House Press Corps members then ask McClellan to "back up" and clarify the details in even more numbing specificity, as if this was really hot news they were going to report to the American people. This clarification process goes on and on.
Then it morphs into questions about a conversation between Bush and O'Connor by telephone which drips with syrupy sentiments and a question about whether O'Connor cried on the phone. McClellan reports that Bush said to O'Connor: "For an old ranching girl you turned out pretty good."
At one point, one of the press corps members says that she saw the President on the phone earlier and that he seemed agitated, that he was shaking papers in his hands while he was talking on the phone with someone (the reporter wonders if it was Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist). McClellan, like Gandalf, waves his hand in their faces and says no, of course not, the President was not agitated.
The gaggle continues with more questions about the process detail, but with one question from some brave soul who asks whether the President will have an abortion litmus test for his nominee to replace O'Connor. McClellan continues his Gandalfian hand-waving and the press corps goes back to the really hardhitting questions like how long it will be before an announcement, as if they expect McClellan to say: "Oh we will have an announcement next Thursday at 9:00AM."
There is more excruciating detail in back and forths about Presidential deliberations and detail about various papers the President will be studying on nominees as he travels to Europe. One reporter actually wants to know whether the papers on potential nominees will contain "names and bios, and things like that?" I would not have been surprised if McClellan had responded by saying: "No, it 's actually one big Ouija board we give him and he spells out whatever name comes to him by channeling."
Then there is a stunning shift in the questioning. A reporter wants to know about the Kuwaiti Prime Minister's lunch with Bush which is happening as they gaggle, and which McClellan is supposed to be at: "Anything new coming up for the meeting?" Of course, McClellan has no idea, because he isn't there.
At the end, the gaggle sputters out with more detailed questions about how the message was delivered to the White House. Some reporter actually wanted to know whether the person who delivered the letter announcing O'Connor's resignation had to present ID at the White House gate. Now that's the kind of hardhitting question I think most Americans want from our White House press corps. Don't you?
There is, finally, some persistent questioning at the end of the gaggle by some reporter wanting to know whether Bush believes he needs Democratic support in the nomination process. There is no real answer to this question other than time-honored prevarication by McClellan that this administration will consult with the US Senate.
Reading transcripts of the White House Press Briefings and Press Gaggles is illuminating in so many ways, not the least of which is the level of inanity of their content. Every day, at these meetings, there is clear evidence of the degree of self-censorship by the press, the nature of their imbedded relationships (I prefer to think of them as emboweled relationships), and the cosiness of their positions which make them less and less watchdogs for the American people and more and more pets of the establishment.