One of the accidental subplots to Karl Rove's departure yesterday was a question directed to President Bush by CBS White House correspondent Bill Plante at Rove's farewell press event. His question was picked up by a DC media blog and generated many responses. So we asked Bill for his side of the story, which follows.
As the President and Karl Rove walked away from the lectern after their emotional announcement of Rove's resignation, I yelled a question.
"If he's so smart, why did you lose Congress?"
The President, as usual, didn't answer.
That's OK – he doesn't have to if he doesn't want to.
But judging by some of the reaction, you'd think I had been shouting obscenities in church!
"Unprofessional;" "Inappropriate;" "Unbecoming;" "Doesn't show much class;" "you are a total idiot;" "Shill for the liberal Democrats."
People who sympathize with the President – no matter who the President happens to be – always seem to think it's impolite to yell questions. Or they argue that the question is inappropriate at the moment. That may sometimes be true, but not [this time].
Rove has been a controversial figure in this administration, the man most often credited or blamed with framing support for the war by politicizing terrorism.
There was no time to frame that question because the event this morning was a statement, not a news conference. So I asked a more direct one. I thought it unlikely that they would answer, but it's always worth a try.
This isn't the first time I've been blasted for yelling. Twenty or so years ago, I yelled a question at President Reagan as he left the Rose Garden after the annual Teacher of the Year ceremony.
One woman wrote to tell me that I was a guest in the President's house and ought to be behave as one.
Ten years ago, I asked President Clinton a question which brought a red-faced angry response.
The point is that reporters are not here as guests. We're here to ask questions.
Because if we were ever to agree to "behave," we'd be walking away from our First Amendment role – and then we really would be the shills we're so often accused of being.