Thursday, September 07, 2006

K-K-K-Katie B-B-B-Blew It

White House Photo

"I'm really grateful. Thank you. Thank you." Katie Couric to George W. Bush

Well. That quote up there should be turned around. President Bush should be thanking Katie Couric for allowing him to present an unedited self-serving version of his presidency to the American public. For free.

If you watched her interview with President Bush Wednesday, you have to ask yourself, was that news? Or was Couric used?

I'd say the latter. Famous for her interview "gets," Couric managed to snag an exclusive with the president on night two of her historic solo news anchor stint.

But was it really a "get" or did the savvy Bush propaganda team take advantage of Couric's fame to get the president's message out to a huge audience?

Katie Couric started her TV career as a serious journalist with solid news creds. Then she traded much of her gravitas for the golden apple of The Today Show. Now, not 15 minutes, but 15 years of fame later, she's become a serious journalist again as anchor of The CBS Evening News.

Or has she? And is Couric really managing CBS news, or is the White House?

Let's be clear, I don't have anything against Katie Couric. I admire her abilities and ambition. She's got brains, spirit, character and appeal to spare. But of all the candidates to replace Bob Schieffer--as if he needed to be replaced--why not one of a dozen or more seasoned journalists?

If it was time for a woman, why not Andrea Mitchell, for example, arguably the best, most qualified female journalist on television?

We know why. Couric's got mega star power. America's in love with Katie, from her colon to her kids to her colorful chic. She's a bona fide celebrity and CBS is wisely hoping to cash in on her fame.

Barbara Walters blazed the trail for women in the top spot on TV news. But she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thanks to a misogynistic, ill-mannered Harry Reasoner and a bunch of ultra-conservative suits at ABC, she never got a real chance to prove her mettle. And was forced to create her own female-centric niche.

So here in the 21st Century, Couric is now positioned to take up the gauntlet. And circling back around to her interview with President Bush, she dropped it with a resounding thud.

Katie Couric made me cringe even more than Barbara usually does with her obsequious, gushing pandering to the beleaguered leader of the free world. She seemed so thrilled with her "get" she forgot to do her job... get some real answers.

Read the full interview transcript and see how many hard questions Couric asked the president. Virtually none. How many tough follow-ups. Literally none.

The interview might as well have been a White House infomercial. No questions about the president's dismal poll numbers. No questions about the Democrats' push to gain control of Congress in the critical November elections. Clearly the White House vetted the questions, or at the least, put the kibosh on certain touchy subjects.

Couric's questions on 9/11, terrorism, Abu Gahrib, the war in Iraq, the Middle East were softballs. And she let the president circle the bases at length without once challenging his rambling answers.

Here's one example that made my blood boil.

COURIC: They're gonna kill me for this follow-up, but if you – if you believe diplomacy is the first option, some might question why we're not having more unilateral talks with our enemies, say, Syria, Iran, North Korea.

BUSH: Yeah. The reason why is because you want to have there – you want there to be effective diplomacy. Diplomacy for the sake of diplomacy doesn't achieve objectives. I – my diplomacy, our diplomatic efforts, ably led by Condi Rice, I might add, are aimed at achieving objectives. And the objective with Iran is we want the Iranians to understand it's not just America who objects. The world objects to the idea of the Iranians having the knowledge and/or having a nuclear weapon.

And so it's a – you know, the ideo– you know, somebody saying, "Well, if you just would sit down to … "look, we've tried that, and it didn't work with North Korea. It failed. And so the American people need to expect the president to do things that will be effective and to achieve certain results. And it – unfortunately– diplomacy takes – requires a certain degree of patience. Obviously it's not gonna happen overnight. And – I – I am a – I am – I am convinced that we can achieve objectives through – diplomacy. And I certainly hope so, and we'll work that way.
A non-answer answer if ever there was one. And did Couric follow up? No. She threw him a non-question question that started like this:
COURIC: I know you care so much about the soldiers in Iraq.
Jeez, Katie. Those soldiers are dying, horribly. Our country's in grave danger from terrorists supported by Syria and Iran, and from the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. But you didn't see fit to go there?

Notice that photo above, displayed by on each page of the interview. The only photo CBS--a monolithic, supposedly independent news organization--was able to provide of the Bush interview came from a White House photographer.

The Bush administration and conservative Republicans like to whine about the "liberal media" bashing Bush. Obviously, they don't have to worry about Katie. Or, apparently, CBS News.

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