President Bush is more confident than ever of his ability to master the White House press corps, partly because his staff has developed some fresh techniques for outwitting his journalistic adversaries. Take press conferences, for example.
Bush advisers acknowledge that the media often aren't interested in the themes that Bush wants to promote, so they have been utilizing his opening statements—sometimes lengthy ones—for Bush to make his points before the q-and-a begins. This gets his message to the public, unfiltered, before a live TV audience.
White House advisers have also found that if they spread the word that the president will be making an opening statement, this will virtually guarantee that the media will speculate on what he will talk about. And, with White House guidance, reporters can be drawn into focusing on Bush's points in their prepress conference stories. More broadly, Bush wants to maintain a schedule of one press conference per month for the rest of his term, which is roughly his pace over the past year. He held press conferences much less frequently before that, mainly because he thought the media ignored too much of what he wanted to say.
On a related matter, White House aides say Bush wasn't "dispirited" at his press conference last week, as some reporters suggested. Instead, he was just being serious—and that was mistaken for being downbeat. Privately, he is quite optimistic about his final year in office.
—Kenneth T. Walsh