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Why Are Some Reporters So Rude?

We asked for your questions and you delivered. Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts has gone through the CBS News White House Booth inbox and takes his best shot at answering some of them.

I am very happy to ask this question to a White House reporter: Why are some reporters so rude? Why don't the reporters wait for an answer before running ahead to the next question?

I am noticing the rudeness more now than ever before. Why is there such an obvious lack of respect to the person being questioned, be it the President or some other official? I think it looks bad for the reporter.

Jane A. Mastantuono

Jane, I guess it's all a matter of what you consider 'rude.' The job of any White House Correspondent worth his or her salt is to attempt to get to the truth. This White House is extraordinarily adept at sticking to the message and not imparting any information during the briefing that it doesn't want out there. The Press Secretary comes to the briefing with a set of talking points and sticks to them fastidiously. So the reporters try to knock him off point, usually to no avail.

You also have to look at the history of White House briefings. In the past, they were much more of a free-for-all than they are now, with the reporter who could shout the loudest taking the floor. Nowadays, the Press Secretary works his way down the rows, calling on reporters in a far more orderly fashion. But there's still some of the free-wheeling environment of the old days left and that's what you see with interruptions, etc. It's just the way the game is played.

Now, I will admit that the daily briefing does include more than its fair share of inane and downright embarrassing questions, but that's part of the landscape as well.

What is the latest status on Mr. Bolton's nomination to the U.N.?

Nancy K.

Nancy, Bolton's nomination is on hold. Senate Majority Leader Frist lost two cloture motions on the Bolton debate and has not brought it back to the floor since. President Bush insists he'd prefer an up or down vote in the Senate on Bolton's confirmation, but a few Republican Senators believe that will never happen. So now the White House appears to be mulling over the prospect of a recess appointment for Bolton, which would be in effect only until the end of this Congress, which is in January of '07.

You have decades of experience at the White House among all of you CBS correspondents and spend every day with other veteran reporters discussing their views of various topics. The Rove probe has to be a topic of much "backroom" discussion.

What is your take on the ultimate target of Prosecutor Fitzgerald and this investigation? If Karl Rove "is not a target" as he has stated to the press, who is? Though I realize you can only speculate, you must have a theory about what the Special Prosecutor is attempting to accomplish other than jail hapless journalists!

Rev. Tetsugen Eric Heintz

Reverend Heintz, thanks for your question. I'm going to go out on a limb here and declare I don't think the ultimate target of Fitzgerald's investigation is Karl Rove. Certainly, it has been an embarrassing few weeks for the White House as their decrees of 'no involvement' in the Valerie Plame case blew up in their faces. Rove's attorney insists that Rove is not a target, but what else would you expect an attorney to say of his client. However, I think Fitzgerald is either aiming in a different direction, or is simply seeking clarification of how Plame's role in her husband's trip to Niger became publicly known before putting the investigation to bed.

I don't think anyone is going to be indicted here; it's not clear that a crime was committed, but there certainly does appear to be more than a whiff of politics in this whole attempt to discredit Joe Wilson.

Whatever happened to the Cheney-Chalabi cha-cha-cha? Are they no longer simpatico? Just wondering......

Bob Blayney, Hamilton Ontario, Canada

Bob, thanks for your question. Chalabi was quite tight with the White House in the run-up to the Iraq war and in the immediate aftermath. He was a major source of intelligence for the Pentagon and CIA, but fell out of favor as the political process progressed following major combat. At that point, he had pretty much been shunted aside by the Administration, and in fact, it looked like there was quite a bit of bad blood between Chalabi and the White House. Since then, he has worked his way back into Iraqi politics, but he's not one of the people that the White House actively supports.

George Tenet's new book is reported to lay most of the blame for 9/11 on Dr. Rice. Do you have any further information regarding this? Is Mr. Tenet laying low until the President completes his 2nd term?

Chris Yang

Chris, to be honest, I haven't heard much about Tenet's upcoming book, but there's a couple of things he'd have to consider in publishing anything critical of the White House. If you want to sell books, you have to get it out while the Administration is still in power. On the other hand, it could be seen as indiscreet, or sour grapes for a recently 'retired' DCI to put out something critical of the President or his closest advisors. And - Tenet still has to work in this town. Tenet also has a problem of his own - remember the "slam dunk" assurance he gave the President about the intelligence regarding Iraq's weapons? That could leave him open to a pretty nasty fight with the White House, which has a record of laying waste to the credibility of anyone who paints an unfavorable picture of them. Remember Paul O'Neil and Richard Clarke?

Please keep the questions coming. I'll be on vacation for the next couple of weeks, but my able colleagues Mark Knoller, Bill Plante and Peter Maer will be here to give you an inside look at the daily machinations of the world's most comfortable maximum-security prison.

John Roberts
CBS News Chief White House Correspondent