Did the White House dupe the cable networks into covering George Bush’s Pennsylvania speech yesterday by promising a major policy address and then delivering a warmed-over stump speech in a critical swing state?

Salon’s Eric Boehlert asks (subscription required) that question today:

News outlets were told in advance Bush would give a substantive speech addressing key policy issues, which is why they agreed to carry it. … Instead, the address, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., was nothing more than a raucous Bush pep rally as the president unleashed his most sustained and personal attacks on Sen. John Kerry to date …

The question is, why did all three news channels [MSNBC, Fox News and CNN] cover the attack speech for nearly an hour? In the past, they have occasionally cut … to both candidates’ stump speeches for five or ten minutes, but certainly never for 50 minutes. When it became apparent that Bush’s policy speech was not going to be as advertised, but was instead a tirade against Kerry, did that still constitute news? And the more pressing question for the cable outlets is: When are they going to give Kerry nearly an hour of uninterrupted time to ridicule and mock Bush’s record?

Matthew Yglesias wonders: “Is the press really going to stand for that?” To which he adds: “(don’t answer).”

Ezra Klein at Pandagon goes even further, saying that such a tactic isn’t the best way to win fans in the media (as if that’s a concern of the administration.) As for what it all tells about the Republican camp, he writes: “After just one debate, the Bush folks are seriously off-balance.”

The folks at National Review have other things on their minds, not surprisingly. Coalition-building, among them. Jonah Goldberg, noting that France and Germany are unlikely to join John Kerry’s “grand coalition” in Iraq, writes, “So does this mean he will still form a grand coalition? And if so who does he think will join it who has not already? The Romulans? The Klingons? The Cardassians? Oh, I know. The good men of Gondor.”

In a marginally better stab at humor, Goldberg’s colleague John Derbyshire offers up a little cartoon, featuring “Taxman and Tortboy.”

Susan Q. Stranahan

Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.