President Bush has become so confident of his mastery of the issues -- and the media -- that he doesn't feel much pressure when he holds news conferences these days. To get ready for his presser on Valentine's Day -- his first of the new year -- Bush read some briefing materials the day before, but he spent only an hour with his aides going over possible questions and answers on the morning of the event.
He and his aides correctly predicted all the topics, Bush advisers say. Some strategists for past presidents think this approach is too superficial and cavalier. They say carefully preparing for a news conference can clarify issues inside the White House and focus the West Wing's attention on upcoming events, sometimes even pushing a president to make a decision or set policy to keep up with the news.
But Bush's advisers say he already knows what he thinks about the issues of the day so there is no need for intensive rehearsals or exhaustive prep work. "The president is confident that you're not going to stump him," a White House aide told U.S. News.
"You're not going to ask him a question that he's not familiar with" -- especially when the questions are on Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and the war on terrorism, which he finds very predictable.
Bush's verdict after years of disdaining these media encounters because he feared looking silly when reporters played a game of "gotcha": News conferences are no big deal. He was also quite pleased with himself for refusing to comment on the 2008 presidential race because he doesn't want to be "pundit in chief." That remark wasn't pre-cooked by advisers, a Bush aide said. "It came out of his head."
By Kenneth T. Walsh