The Value Of The Press

U.S. President George W. Bush, right, and his wife Laura arrive at Singapore's Paya Lebar Air Base Tuesday Oct. 21, 2003 in Singapore. Bush is making a brief visit for meetings with Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong where the two are expected to discuss their recently signed free trade agreement and regional security issues. AP

The secret is out. The president does read the newspapers after all. He and his wife read five of them every morning. And our source on that is a good one: Laura Bush. She confirmed it in a delightful interview with The New York Times. She said reading the papers is a ritual they've shared since their first year of marriage.

And I'm glad to know it, because it worried me when the president got snippy with reporters the other day and told them he never reads the papers and depends on his staff to tell him the news. Frankly, I never believed that, but what bothered me was that the White House is the worst place in the world to keep in touch with what's really going on. Everyone who comes there does so at the president's invitation or works for him. People who work for you or want something from you tend to tell you what you want to hear. And when they are the only ones to tell you the news, it's easy to get wrong ideas about a lot of things. Just ask the people who worked in the Nixon White House.

It is the press, for all its foibles and faults, that gives a president -- any president -- a second source of information. Sometimes it confirms what he already knows. Sometimes it is in contrast to the official line. And as we've been seeing lately, sometimes the official line can be wrong.

And here's another little scoop on about how well-informed the president really is, and it comes from the same source, Mrs. Bush. She told me that she and the president watch "Face The Nation." Well, except for today, I guess.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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