About Last Night...

(CBS)
There isn't, alas, too much left to be said about press coverage of the Bush speech. The mood at CBSNews.com when I left the office last night, a couple hours before showtime, might best be described as workmanlike – the Web producers knew they had a big story to cover, but they didn't seem all that concerned about it. After all, the important points of the speech had been deliberately leaked early, and presidents don't have much of a penchant for dropping Steve Jobs-like bombs on their audiences out of the blue. Most everyone assumed that things weren't going to get very interesting last night. And they were right.

As I noted earlier, the big three networks did not broadcast the Democrats' response to the speech, a fact that angered some observers, so that they could turn back to entertainment programming. Would I have liked to have seen CBS show Dick Durbin's response? Of course – considering that the alternative was "Criminal Minds." (A program which, to be fair, I must admit I've never watched. But here's the description of the latest episode: "Gideon and Morgan go head to head in a stand off with a prolific serial killer who is strangely calm when they corner him in a diner. Keith Carradine and Amy Madigan Guest Star.") So I've got to say Durbin wins out. (In the interest of fairness, I should note that NBC, for its part, went straight to "Deal Or No Deal." You know, the one where the models open suitcases.)

All that said, there are three reasons why the decision not to cover Durbin's words doesn't seem a huge issue. The first is that his response was available elsewhere – if you were dying to see it, all you had to do was pick up the remote. The second is that there were no surprises there, either – the Democrats' position on the "surge" is pretty well known at this point, as both Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have been sounding off about it all week. And the third has to do with this notion that both sides must always have their say. Do we really want to turn every presidential address into a (relatively) high-class version of "Crossfire?" Should Democrats have gotten equal time after Bush's Katrina speeches? After his 9/11 speeches? Where do we draw the line?

Matt Drudge broke the media embargo on the full text of the speech, which landed in my inbox around 8:15 last night, 39 minutes early, proving once again that his priority is generating hits to his site, even if it means going against White House wishes. (Drudge strikes me as much more of a businessman than an ideologue.) His decision suggests that the practice of embargoing – releasing information to the press before officially releasing it to the public so that media outlets can prepare for that moment when they have the OK to run it – may be on the way out. As we've been told over and over, the mainstream media has largely lost its gatekeeper function, and there is always someone willing to post all sorts of information online as soon as they can get their hands on it.

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