Pinning Down the President About - What?

The Associated Press calls itself "the essential global news network." We'd suggest adding "the official home of the 2008 election-related non-story."

The Associated Press calls itself “the essential global news network.” Might we suggest an added tag:

“The official home of the 2008 election-related non-story.”

It’s a well-earned title, if a tad unwieldy for a marketing slogan. Time and time again we’ve chronicled the AP’s compulsion to cover the least consequential bits of (non-)news about the 2008 presidential election.

And it happened again today, in a piece by reporter Terence Hunt.

Hunt conducted a “wide ranging” interview with President Bush yesterday aboard Air Force One. Several topics were discussed — Bush’s thoughts on Exxon Mobil Corp’s record profits, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and Hunt’s attempts to get Bush to define his legacy “in one word,” to name a few — providing Hunt with an array of possibilities for a lede (which, last time we checked, is supposed to contain the most important and/or newsworthy bit from an interview).

And yet Hunt opted to begin his story in this dog-bites-man fashion: “President Bush believes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she says she does not want to be president …”

The part Hunt restrained himself from writing was “… but I, Terrence Hunt, do not believe Rice when she says she does not want to be president — I mean, I’m dying to cover Condi v. Hillary in ‘08 — and therefore I am making Bush’s non-denial denial my lede.”

What’s next?

Try to get Rice on the record, of course.

Yes, the AP already has Rice on record insisting she is not interested in running in ‘08. “I’ve spoken to this. I know what I’m good at, I know what I want to do and that’s not it,” Rice told the newswire back on January 16. But there’s always the chance that Rice has changed her mind in the two weeks since she made this comment. Plus, she said this while traveling in Monrovia, Liberia and, as we’ve pointed out before, the AP has long track record of pinning politicians down about their ‘08 ambitions, specifically while said politicians are in Europe. So we say to Hunt and his colleagues: Rice was in London earlier this week. Where were you?

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.