Increasingly, Bush Escapes the Media Pack





On one of the scariest days yet in the five-year battle with terrorists, President Bush prepared to make a speech to reassure the American people. But the White House press corps was 1,000 miles away in Texas.

Bush had left his ranch vacation and jetted north for a scheduled closed-door fundraiser. No press plane accompanied him. And so when news broke that Britain had broken up a major terrorist plot, the only ones there to convey the president's reaction were a handful of local reporters and a few pool journalists who ride in the back of Air Force One.

The idea that Bush could travel across the country without a full contingent of reporters, especially in the middle of a war, highlights a major cultural shift in the presidency and the news media. In the four decades since the assassination of John F. Kennedy, presidents traditionally have taken journalists with them wherever they traveled on the theory that when it comes to the most powerful leader on the planet, anything can happen at any time.

But increasingly in recent months, Bush has left town without a chartered press plane, often to receptions where he talks to donors chipping in hundreds of thousands of dollars with no cameras or tapes to record his words for the public. Barred from such events, most news organizations will not pay to travel with him. And so a White House policy inclined to secrecy has combined with escalating costs for the strapped news media to let Bush fly under the radar in a way his predecessors could not.


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