Last night on Fox News, former Bush White House press secretary Dana Perino criticized President Obama because he hasn’t held a “primetime” press conference since last July. “I don’t think that there’s any way…I would have gotten away with that with the White House press corps,” she complained.
Host Greta Van Susteren noted that last year, Obama actually conducted more one-on-one interviews that Bush or President Clinton had combined in the same time frame. But seeming to look for another line of attack, Perino pointed to a video the White House put out yesterday on the Travel Promotion Act and suggested that it indicated the administration is “repressive”:
PERINO: But there was an incident today where the President signed the Travel Promotion Act — not a huge bill by any stretch of the imagination. But usually, that is something that the White House press corps would get to cover. They didn’t today. And then later on in the day, the White House decided through its own media — they have a robust new media shop and they’re creating their own news and they’re posting it, and all the networks said that they’re not going to show it. But creating your own news is something that happens in repressive regimes. And a democracy is — it is critical to have a good, strong free press in a democracy.
Transparently posting news videos on the White House website is one thing; secretly producing “fake news” videos promoting an agenda and distributing them for local news broadcasts is quite another, which is exactly what the Bush administration did:
Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government’s role in their production.
In fact, the Government Accountability Office found that the Bush administration practice amounted to illegal “covert propaganda” — a ruling the Bush White House subsequently disregarded. The Bush team also famously paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams to promote No Child Left Behind “on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.” The propaganda also spread abroad as well. The Bush Pentagon got caught planting positive coverage in Iraqi newspapers during the height of the insurgency.
Summing up “the heart of the Bush presidency,” journalist Ron Suskind reported that a senior Bush official once criticized him for living in “the reality-based community” after Suskind had written a piece critical of the administration. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” the official said. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”
By Perino’s standard, it seems the Bush administration constitutes a “repressive regime.”