Dancing with the Stars: The Trade Summit Edition

When Bush and NAFTA dance together, the president leads

I’m here, with political reporters, in New Orleans—where, for the past two days, President Bush has been in summit meetings with Felipe Calderón, president of Mexico, and Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, discussing NAFTA. The NOLA setting is, of course, fraught with meaning, particularly for President Bush, and the summit provides a much-needed opportunity for both the president and the press I’m with to revisit the city and witness its attempts to revive itself after the destruction left in the wake of Katrina. And the summit itself is significant, as well, given the shaky state of the U.S. economy, the uncertainty of our immigration policy, and the—

Guys? Guys? Where’d you go? Guys?

Um…yeah. Guess the reporters got a little distracted. NAFTA’s kinda dull, after all—especially since Bush’s take on it (he wants to keep the controversial trade deal intact) will be moot come January. And the whole Katrina thing—kind of a downer. Luckily, though, the reporters have found something much more worthwhile—and by worthwhile, I mean entertaining—to report about the summit: President Bush…dancing! Well, kind of! Moving awkwardly! With a jazz band! And he’s really, really goofy looking!


The whole POTUS-palooza is hilarious. So much so, in fact, that any self-respecting news network would of course focus its coverage of the NAFTA summit around the fantastic footage of Bush American Bandstand-ing it. How could a network live with itself knowing it had deprived viewers of all the twinkle-toed merriment, that it had instead bored them with talk of immigration (snooze) and free trade (double snooze)? Bonus points for a network that can perform the unlikely feat of airing the dancing scene…without even mentioning NAFTA.

So: nice work, MSNBC! Here’s Morning Joe’s take on the summit:

SCARBOROUGH: It’s becoming pretty clear right now that President Bush can’t pass up an opportunity to dance. He is, as I called him long ago when I first met him, a Dancing Machine. So after a day of meetings in New Orleans with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, the president once again put on his dancing shoes. It’s Mardi Gras, baby.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, well, I’m not sure. That’s awkward. Accompanied by the sounds of the “The Saints Go Marching In” from the classic Big Easy jazz band, the president took the opportunity to show off his signature moves. Ow.

Ow, sure. But also: Teehee! Who could concentrate on trade policy when there’s a Move being Busted?

Guys. Thanks for the laughs, and all. Seriously. But maybe a little bit of substance with the fluff? A little cake under the icing? Even just a crumb? Sure, President Bush may be lame, as far as ducks go—but that doesn’t mean the coverage of him needs to be.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.