Media's Role in the Presidency and How Term Paper

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media's role in the presidency, and how different newspapers portray the President. Specifically, it will analyze the way the President is being treated by the media. The media can support or detract from any presidency, and the media always has an opinion. George W. Bush suffers in some media, and is championed in other media, and that is to be expected for such a public and visible figure.

The President and the Media

President George W. Bush's presidency has been shrouded in controversy since the Presidential election of 2000, and the voting fiasco in Florida. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Bush's popularity with the public soared to an 89% approval rating (Dickerson and Tumulty 30), but his popularity has dwindled as the latest War with Iraq continues. Some of this public approval or disapproval stems from Bush's treatment in the media, for the American public knows mostly what it sees on television or reads in the media, and certain media are certainly more favorable to the President, while others are not. It is well-known that most large metropolitan newspapers are quite open about their political opinions and affiliations, and much of the media is more liberal, and so tend to be Democratic in their affiliations and political thought, which is one reason so much of the media may portray President Bush in a harsher light. There are many newspapers however, that are more conservative in their politics, and these tend to portray President Bush in a more positive light.

For example, Washington Post reporter Mike Allen was one of only a select few journalists invited to ride along on the President's recent top-secret trip to Baghdad to visit American troops on Thanksgiving. While the newspaper tends to take a Democratic or liberal tone, Allen's story went behind the scenes on Air Force One to show just how the Bush team pulled off the top-secret mission. He shows how dangerous the mission really was when he says, "Much of the president's staff donned camouflage tops and bottoms, both for security reasons and to avoid spoiling the pictures. The reporters were fitted for "ballistic vests" en route" (Allen A47). Notice that even in this highly complementary article, Allen mentions the staff wanted to "avoid spoiling the pictures," which of course would be quite prevalent once the President was safely back in the air after his visit. Bush is portrayed as a gung-ho war monger in many media, and the Washington Post, while not going quite so far, does raise serious questions about the Bush administration and its' tactics in several other articles. Their support for Bush seems to be grudging at best, and while they are not afraid to acknowledge his good deeds, they are equally unafraid to point out his weaknesses as a leader.

As TIME writers Dickerson and Tumulty note,

Republican and Democratic voters now disagree on nearly every important measure of Bush's presidency - on weather he has enhanced this country's stature in the world, whether he's been too partisan, whether he has a good grasp of the issues, whether he favors the rich, whether he has been too quick to inject his own moral and religious beliefs into politics" (Dickerson and Tumulty 30).

This split between Democrats and Republicans is equally evident in the media. As Bush's popularity decreases, more media are willing to "take a shot" at him, so to speak. In addition, many of his decisions have been questionable at best, such as the May announcement that the "mission in Iraq was accomplished," which is quite clearly not the case. His tax cuts that have left the country in a terrible budget deficit have also added to the displeasure of many, and to his loss of approval. With his approval slipping, it is easier for the liberal media to point out what they see as his flaws.

In the same vein, New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller also writes about the President's trip to Baghdad, but couches it with some criticism of Bush's policies in the Gulf, and here at home. She writes,

The trip, which administration officials began planning about six weeks ago, came at a time when the president is under sharp criticism about the attacks on American troops in Iraq and for his absence from the funerals of American soldiers killed in the conflict. To that end, it showcased Mr. Bush's personal connection to the struggle (Bumiller).

Clearly, the Times sees itself as a liberal paper - ready to report the President's comings and goings, but also ready to point at the controversy surrounding the President even during his daring visit to Baghdad. The media is supposed to give a balanced view of events, however, in most large newspapers it is not difficult to pick up their political affiliation after a few readings, and the Post and the Times are no different. It is quite clear these two papers have liberal tendencies, and so, show disapproval for the President and many of his actions. Just reading the political articles for a few days clearly points this out in both papers. The President is certainly more visible than many other politicians are, and so he, and the White House staff receive more coverage, but the President also faces the closest scrutiny by the reporters because he is such a visible public figure, and because no one is going to agree with everything he does.

The Miami Herald is a bit more difficult to pin down on their feelings about President Bush. The state leans toward conservatism, and Bush's brother Jeb is the popular Florida governor, so coverage tends to lean toward the Republican Party line, but the Herald uses many national Associated Press reporters for their political coverage, and so, their politics are a bit more difficult to figure out. All of their coverage of the President's trip to Iraq was from Associated Press reporters, and so is an article discussing Bush's campaign financing trips to Michigan and New Jersey. This article does show some liberal tone, which is a bit odd for this paper, which does seem to lean toward the conservative in its coverage of other news. In this article, Bush's campaigning is showed as a bit too involved in fund-raising, to the dismay of many of Bush's critics, who feel he should be busier running the country. AP reporter Lindlaw writes, "Touchy about criticism he devotes too much time to re-election fund raising, Bush urged donors here to spread the word that 'right now the president is working hard to make sure America is secure and strong and prosperous and free'" (Lindlaw). This is clearly going to be a recurring campaign slogan during the upcoming Presidential election, that Bush is quite busy keeping America free and safe, and that it appears in this Florida paper seems somehow fitting. Florida gave Bush problems during the 2000 Presidential election, but its voters now seem to be leaning heavily toward Bush, and would reelect him if the vote were today, as the Herald reported in a poll they took recently. This newspaper is probably the most conservative of the three studied here, and so the articles take on a different slant, and the entire tone of the paper is different.

All of these articles show how differently the media can construct their reporting, and how they can show their own thoughts and political affiliations in their news and reviews. President Bush seems to be fairly treated in the media. Anyone in such a high office must expect both censure and approval, and he finds both in the media. All of his actions are under scrutiny, and you certainly cannot please everyone with everything you do. The President is a popular figure, and so, the media follows his every move. Some look…

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