Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Daily briefing no longer fun!

I have been following the White House daily briefings online, and I must say that the difference between Tony Snow and Scott McClellan is very telling. For one, I am no longer able to count on automatically going to the transcript and being able to pound out a post based upon the daily trainwreck that was the McClellan briefing.

Just the methodology of Snow and McClellan are diametrically opposed. I could read the transcript of the answers provided by McClellan when he was there to kick around and form a perfect mental tape of how any particular answer sounded. The rising inflection as McClellan rattled off a pat answer to a hard question. The monotone delivery of a standard issue answer to a ho hum question. It was just all the same.

Now there is an actual human being who is well versed in public appearances doing the job. There are actual sentences that a regular person might say, that have intelligence as a guiding principle, not just based upon a talking point. Just reading the transcript truly is to read the difference between Dr. Seuss and JRR Tolkien.

Here are some examples of questions taken from today's press briefing. I will first provide the standard talking point answer that Scott McClellan would nearly certainly have given, and then copy and paste the answer Tony Snow provided straight from the White House web site.
Q: The House today passed overwhelmingly the Palestinian Antiterrorism Act, which cuts off aid to many NGOs in the West Bank and also denies visas to members of the Palestinian Authority, presumably including Mahmoud Abbas. What is the administration's view of this? Will you veto it if it gets through the Senate?

McClellans answer to this question would have run roughly along these lines:
President Bush is working hard with our allies on the hill to address this very important issue. The American people understand since September 11 that our government is fighting terrorism around the globe, and that we are doing this with the help of our allies in the middle east, including Israel. So our allies in Congress have worked with the President and know how he feels about this very important issue which the American people think we should continue to work on.
Here by contrast is the answer given by Snow, who it turns out is actually a human being!:
MR. SNOW: Well, we did not support that measure precisely because it does tie the President's hand in some of the activities that I was talking about just now, which is providing humanitarian aid. We think it unnecessarily constrains. This is an issue that we are pretty certain is going to come before a House-Senate conference, and we hope that those differences will be resolved there.
Notice the difference there? Not one fall back by Snow to September 11. Not one mention of the American people. You could not just pick this answer off the page and run it through google and see it pop up verbatim in three past White House briefings.

Here is another example:
Q: You said that if Iran attacked Israel, we'll come to the aid of Israel. I wonder if you'd be a little bit more specific. Would we be supporting them in their retaliation against Iran, or would we ourselves be retaliating against Iran?
Here would be the McClellan type answer:
The President understands that Israel is a democracy, and he understands that democracies do not attack their neighbors. The American people realize that after September 11th we were engaged in a global war on terror. Our enemies are ruthless and vicious killers who hate democracy. So my answer to you is that the President has previously discussed how Israel is a partner in the war on terror and we will continue to talk about how important democracy is in that very important region of the world.
But here, by contrast is the answer given by Tony Snow:
MR. SNOW: I don't -- I'm not going to give you a specific answer because I've given you a general answer to a hypothetical question. I cannot give you a specific answer to a hypothetical question.
Unfortunately from my (proudly liberal) perspective, the White House briefings given by Snow really have lost a lot of the pizazz they used to have with McClellan. Maybe Snow will fall into some sort of repetitive syndrome much like we experienced on a daily basis with McClellan. Until he does though it makes finding the subject matter for post from the daily briefings alot harder.


agreeing with the president on this one. Cutting off the NGOs is inhumane.
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