Bush Press Conference: Jeff Gannon, ready thy softballs!

bush and prez seal.jpgPresident Bush will hold a prime-time press conference tonight at 8:30 pm.m. to address his plans for Social Security and energy (and, depending on whether he’s asked about it, Iraq).

The address comes during a drop in Bush’s approval rating. Considering criticism from DeLay-gate, Bolton-gate, Schiavo-gate, Abdullah-gate, and macking-your-wife-in-the-middle-of-the-pope’s-funeral-gate (okay, well, this Newsweek reader wasn’t impressed), the time is ripe for some damage control.

Scott McLellan announced the press conference just yesterday, but it’s doubtful that this was a spontaneous idea – Karl Rove leaves little to chance. But, they’ve planned a press conference, not a straight address. Who asks what questions following will no doubt be relevant.

And, if you agree with Sydney Schanberg in the Village Voice, it will no doubt be controlled: “The administration of George W. Bush has raised secrecy and information control to a level never before seen in Washington.” Ditto Eric Alterman, whose piece “Bush’s War on the Press” argues that the Bush administration undermines journlists with “secrets, lies and fake news” in its bid to control the outward flow of information from the White House. He raising the issues of payments made to right-wing pundits and, of course, the softball-lobbing, barely-credentialed Jeff Gannon:

Press secretary McClellan would often call on Gannon when he wanted to extricate himself from a particularly effective line of questioning. The words “Go ahead, Jeff,” signaled that the press corps could be getting into an area that might embarrass the White House–or could be discovering a nugget of genuine news.

Both Alterman and Schanberg accuse the media of being complicit in the effort by mostly toeing the line. Draw your own conclusions after tonight’s question period. In the meantime, Atrios puts the night in in perspective here, reminding us of all the good TV we’ll be missing.

Bush plans prime time news conference [CNN]
Bush’s War on the Press [The Nation]
A Time for Disobedience [Village Voice]