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Eric Boehlert Headshot

Bush Has "Affection" for the Press -- and It Shows

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Putting up a potentially unpleasant road bump during Bush Bounce Week (although one that will be likely be buried during the talk shows comes Sunday), was the president's amazingly inappropriate Rose Garden put down of a blind reporter who was wearing sunglasses while posing a question. If you've only read about Bush's foot-in-the-mouth moment, do yourself a favor and go watch the clip. Because it's the only way to really appreciate the extraordinary, can-you-believe-this-guy contempt Bush flashed for Peter Wallsten, as the President of the United States took extended moments from a press conference to break the balls of a legally blind reporter for wearing shades. (Bush was clueless about the eye condition at the time.) Thanks to recent giddy press coverage, Bush thinks he's riding high at 38 percent in the polls -- a plateau any other modern day president would be ashamed to claim -- which explains the return of The Swagger.

Anyway, Bush's official apology line, as politely detailed in today's New York Times, was that the president needled Wallsten, the way he's needled other pressmen, "out of affection." See, deep down Bush loves the press. He ridicules reporters because he loves them. It's his way of showing affection.

That's why Bush, with microphones inches away, called the New York Times' Adam Clymer a "major league asshole" during the 2000 campaign. Bush essentially walked away from press conference during his first term because he loves the press. Bush mocked the New York Times during his 2004 convention address because he loves the paper. Bush's Department of Justice has buried reporters under a wave of unprecedented subpoenas because Bush loves the press. Bush's Department of Education paid off pundit Armstrong Williams because Bush loves the press. The Bush White House invited Jeff Gannon, the former male escort with no legitimate press credentials into the briefing room where he was free to ask softball questions, because Bush loves the press. Bush's former chief of staff labeled the news media just another special interest group seeking access, because Bush loves the press. Bush hired the inarticulate and out-of-the-loop Scott McClellan to be his liaison to the news media because Bush loves the press. And Bush just tapped as his chief domestic policy adviser Karl Zinsmesiter, a former right-wing pundit who has regularly shit all over journalists, and specifically called reporters cowards for their coverage inside Iraq, because Bush loves the press.

It's all done out of love people. Truth is, there's a bizarre Beltway love/hate relationship in play -- Bush actually hates the press, yet the press still loves Bush.