“President Reaches Out to a Friendly Circle in New Media,” ran a Washington Post headline above a Sunday story about a White House meeting between Bush and a group of friendly bloggers. “The blogs represented at the meeting are generally pro-Bush and pro-military, and the ensuing reports were highly sympathetic to the president,” the story said.
The Post cited several of those reports. There was, for example, Ward Carroll of Military.com (“Facts on the ground notwithstanding, he believes the United States can win the Iraq War. And to be honest, being around him made me believe it at that moment too”) and Matthew Burden, who blogs under the name Blackfive (who subsequently wrote that Bush called him “brutha,” and described Bush as “intelligent, razor sharp, warm, focused, emotional (especially about his dad), and genuine. Even more so than this cynical Chicago Boy expected. I was overwhelmed by the sincerity–it wasn’t staged.”)
I found this all very interesting because over the summer I wrote a series of stories about a Pentagon program that reaches out to bloggers in seeking to disseminate the administration’s message on Iraq and other national security issues. In reading the Post story, it seems likely that the White House event is part of a similar effort by the administration to bypass the traditional media and speak directly with reporters and bloggers who are deemed to be more reliable.
I had been told that the people invited to take part in the Pentagon blogger “roundtables” were overwhelmingly friendly towards the administration. That was born out by a list of invitees to an August roundtable that I recently received. There were a few independent voices but those were far outnumbered by the likes of Michelle Malkin, Michael Fumento, and Glenn Reynolds.
And at least four of the bloggers who participated in the White House event were on the list of invitees to the Pentagon’s roundtable. In addition to Blackfive, there was Bill Roggio (who attended via video link from Baghdad), Steve Schippert of Threatswatch.org, and Mrs. Greyhawk of Mudville Gazette. The Bush Administration has utterly botched the war, but it does demonstrate “intelligent, razor sharp” planning when it comes to putting on media lovefests.