Bush's Press Conferences: Why The Uptick?

(PEJ/Mark Knoller)

One of the more frequent gripes about President Bush and his relationship with the press during his first term was the infrequency of his press conferences. According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Bush's pressers were the most infrequent of "any president in the television age." But, you -- you perceptive media consumer -- might have noticed that Bush has been holding far more press conferences during this term. Well, PEJ noticed too, so they took the next logical step in obtaining archival White House statistics -- they contacted CBS News' Mark Knoller and yielded this:

In the 21 months since his second inaugural, Bush has already held 15 solo press conferences. Last year, 2005, he held nine – more than double the number he averaged each of his first four years. In 2006, he's already held six – including one in each of the last five months. At this rate his second term would not only easily surpass his first-term total but equal it in two years.
PEJ offers their own projections on the reasons for the increase, suggesting a combination of the coming mid-term elections, sagging poll numbers, negative Iraq news, and perhaps the arrivals of new press secretary Tony Snow and chief of staff Josh Bolten as responsible factors. We asked Knoller what he thinks is behind the uptick.

"Like most of his recent predecessors, President Bush does news conferences when it suits his purposes, not those of the press," said Knoller. "It's a myth to think that he's in any way scared of the press or our questions. And he has shown increasingly that he enjoys the intellectual give and take - and needling reporters about their style, clothing or questioning."

"To the extent there have been more regular press conferences in recent months, you can credit the calendar. The midterm elections loom large and he has much at stake. More than anything, he wants Republicans to remain in control of the House and Senate during the final two years of his presidency. And he uses the opening statement at his press conferences to try to score points for his policies. Answering questions for the remainder of the hour is the price he's willing to pay."