Elisabeth Bumiller's White House Swan Song
Reading Elisabeth Bumiller's gossipy, speculative, color-over-facts White House reporting typically feels like eating Cap'n Crunch for dinner. She's a White House correspondent in the MoDo mold.
But Bumiller's latest piece for the Times can be read without guilt. First, it's her farewell to the White House beat -- she's going on book leave, to work on her Condi bio. Second, as an essay in the Week in Review section, it's not trying to masquerade as hard news.
It's full of juicy little tidbits -- like this one:
Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, got so mad about an article that he told me he was putting my e-mail address in his spam filter.
A few more excerpts, after the jump.
Bumiller refutes the notion that this White House is indifferent to its press coverage:
This White House, like all White Houses, is obsessed with the press. What's in the newspapers and on the morning shows is always a big topic at the 7:30 a.m. senior staff meeting. And that's before all the other huddles specifically devoted to communications, including one in the Oval Office, usually around 9 a.m., with Mr. Bush.
Laura Bush once excoriated me during an interview for something I had written in the last paragraph of a story that you needed a St. Bernard to find in the paper. Scott McClellan, the former press secretary, was after me every day for a week to get my editors to correct a factual error. The mild-mannered Mr. McClellan was acting like a terrier because one of his superiors was on his case.
She tells us that the White House leaks strategically (which we already knew, but whatever):
["Republicans close to the White House"] were often White House-sanctioned leakers -- lobbyists, former party officials -- who would pass on information West Wing officials wanted out. They told me that Mr. Bush wanted Trent Lott to step down as Senate Republican leader and that Josh Bolten, the new chief of staff, was looking for a new Treasury secretary. White House officials then said they had no idea where these terrible leaks were coming from. Both reports turned out to be correct.
Finally, Bumiller shares an embarrassing story about herself:
One time I wrote that Mr. Bush dismissed an Osama bin Laden videotape at his ranch by saying "I didn't watch it at all." The actual quote was "I didn't watch it all."
I got a furious letter from a reader saying that I was trying to make Mr. Bush look bad, when in fact I was tired and had typed the quotation from a transcript without my reading glasses in a dingy Waco, Tex., hotel room.
Transcribing without one's reading glasses? A reporting tip gleaned from Alessandra Stanley, no doubt.
We'll miss you, Elisabeth. Whose lime green leather flasher jackets will we make fun of now?
The White House Without a Filter [NYT]
The New Writers' Bloc [Washington Monthly]