Au contraire, indeed. If you caught President Bush's live press conference on KOB-770 AM last week like I did, you heard this question from Jeff Gannon, Washington bureau chief and White House correspondent for some outfit called Talon News. After the president selected “Jeff,” this question followed: "Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid [D-NV] was talking about soup lines. And Hillary Clinton [D-NY] was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet in the same breath they say that Social Security is rock solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work—you've said you are going to reach out to these people—how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?"
Nevermind Bush's fatuous response, according to mediamatters.org, "Talon News' editor in chief, Bobby Eberle, is a Republican activist who served as a delegate to the 1996, 1998 and 2000 Texas Republican Conventions and to the 2000 national Republican Convention. In 1999, Eberle was recognized with a ’unanimously approved resolution of commendation by the Republican Party of Texas for service and dedication to the Republican cause.' His biography on Talon's website notes: ’Bobby has devoted considerable time and energy to the Republican effort' and ’Bobby is a member of Texas Christian Coalition and Texas Right to Life.' Eberle is also the president and CEO of GOPUSA.com, a ’conservative news, information, and design company dedicated to promoting conservative ideals' that carries articles and commentary by Gannon and Talon News. GOPUSA is also affiliated with MillionsofAmericans.com, a conservative advocacy organization run by Bruce Eberle, a relative of Bobby Eberle and a conservative fundraising consultant."
Judging by the content of Gannon's question (no wonder Bush blissfully selected him), Talon's purpose is no surprise. But, to make matters more disgraceful, it turns out Harry Reid never said anything about "soup lines." Gannon got the line from America's favorite drug addict himself, Rush Limbaugh.
Only hours later, Limbaugh told his audience: "I said earlier today in the program, shortly after we began, that somebody in the White House press corps listens to this program. It is Jeff Gannon from Talon News. Here is his question, which is a repeat, a rehash, of a precise point I made on this program yesterday. ... I'm not upset by this, folks. I'm honored. I'm thrilled. Don't misunderstand. I'm not accusing anybody of anything. I just think it's fabulous here. Now, you may think that my ego is out of control. Au contraire, my friends. I have no ego. Not of the kind you're talking about, anyway, or thinking about. No, what makes me think that the reporter was listening to the program is that Harry Reid never actually said ’soup lines.' That is my characterization of their portrayal of America. He never actually said it."
Of course, if the White House had any integrity, partisan hacks (What the hell is Talon news, anyway?) would not be selected to pose questions at a rare presidential press conference. But instead, this clown Gannon gets himself a seat in the front row. That's just pitiful.
Three's a charm. Eric Boehlert reports in Salon.com: "One day after President Bush ordered his Cabinet secretaries to stop hiring commentators to help promote administration initiatives, and one day after the second high-profile conservative pundit was found to be on the federal payroll, a third embarrassing hire has emerged. Salon has confirmed that Michael McManus, a marriage advocate whose syndicated column, 'Ethics & Religion,' appears in 50 newspapers, was hired as a subcontractor by the Department of Health and Human Services to foster a Bush-approved marriage initiative. McManus championed the plan in his columns without disclosing to readers he was being paid to help it succeed."