Tide turning. On a roll.


Turning point. Resurgence.


Turnaround. Bounce.


Pendulum swinging. Bump.


However they choose to phrase it (and the above are all examples of how they have phrased it), cable news reporters and pundits are frantically asking themselves and each other whether President Bush is, or might soon be, experiencing a phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes moment — based, it seems, on a confluence of recent “good news” moments for the administration (including, in chronological order, the killing of Zarqawi, the president’s surprise appearance in Iraq and Karl Rove dodging the bullet of indictment).


How are they answering themselves? It’s a mixed bag. But if a question gets asked often enough in the media, the answer begins to (almost) not matter. And before long the question mark is dropped entirely and a narrative is born.


Tuesday afternoon, CNN’s Kyra Phillips asked colleague Bill Schneider whether Bush might “get a lift from his surprise visit to Iraq,” noting, “there’s a big strategy going on here from talking about Al Zarqawi’s death to this surprise visit and you even mentioned Karl Rove’s speech, right?” Schneider, however, was skeptical: “The American people did not see the elimination of Al Zarqawi as a significant event or turning point in Iraq. The administration is saying we’re going to seize the moment on this and try to turn it into a turning point …”


By the time Paula Zahn Now aired Tuesday night, CNN’s on-screen caption, at least, seemed to signal less skepticism: “Bush Boost.” But reporter John Roberts still had doubts, which he expressed to Zahn with the help of a football analogy: “One Republican strategist I talked to today said this is the closest the administration has come in the last two years to being on a roll. They know it is not going last very long. The blush of the Zarqawi death is going to come off in a matter of weeks if not days, depending what happens in Iraq … It will be interesting to see if this is any more than a first down in this big game of football that they’re playing on the political gridiron here. A lot of people think that it is just that — it is not a Hail Mary pass that will get him into the end zone.”


Come Anderson Cooper 360 time, a question mark had mysteriously made its way on to CNN’s screen (caption: “Bush Bounce?”). At the start of the show Cooper mused, “The president makes a top secret trip to Iraq as his top advisor Karl Rove is cleared of any wrongdoing in the CIA leak case. Is this the beginning of a Bush bounce?” Later in the segment, that same pesky John Roberts weighed in with this: “The thing to remember, say partisans and analysts alike, is Zarqawi’s death was out of the White House’s control and that President Bush was simply the beneficiary of fortunate timing with this trip to Iraq. The political pendulum may have swung, they say, but there is every expectation that something else out of the White House’s control could easily swing it back.”


Cooper posed a similar question — “How optimistic is this White House that this trip to Baghdad, the [Zarqawi] death, could actually be the beginning of a bounce, of a turning point for them?” — to Suzanne Malveaux who cautioned that “it’s a little too soon to tell whether or not it’s a turning point …” Later in the show Cooper spoke to David Gergen about “the president’s fortunes” and Gergen was anything but cautious. “The president and his team are on a roll now and Karl Rove has now become part of that roll,” Gergen opined. Asked Cooper, “What do you make of this White House? Is this bump, Is this resurgence for real?” Replied Gergen: “I think it’s a White House with more discipline, more just sort of click and certainly better orchestration. They’re toned up, playing a higher level game than before and it’s showing up in all sorts of ways.”


What of Fox News?

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.