AP Calls BushCo on Its Spin

Tell me. When you saw this headline in the WaPo today, who did you think wrote the story?

Bush Aides Put Upbeat Spin on Summit

Dan Froomkin, perhaps?

Nope. It was an AP story, tracing, in detail, the Administration’s efforts to get the press to back off its conclusion that Bush’s summit with Vladimir Putin was a disaster.

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE — White House officials waged an extraordinary campaign during an 11-hour Air Force One flight to put a positive spin on the outcome of Sunday’s summit talks between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Four times on the long flight back to Washington from Sochi, Russia, Bush aides trooped back to the press cabin to make the case that the summit had turned out well, particularly on missile defenses.

It was the heaviest lobbying campaign veteran reporters could recall ever occurring on the president’s plane. Press accounts of the summit had been sent to Bush’s plane and administration officials thought they were too negative. Clearly, Bush’s aides were disappointed.

Some of the officials’ statements were on the record. Some of them were off-the-record _ not to be used _ or on "deep background" _ not to be attributed to anyone in the administration. Some were on "background" _ to be attributed to a senior administration official. It was hard keeping track of the conditions.


There had been an anticipation in the White House press corps that Bush would invite reporters up to his conference room on the plane to reflect on the trip, as he has done on occasion. Four additional reporters were allowed to fly back with Bush, heightening those expectations. But it did not happen and White House officials did not dispute that Bush was steamed with the coverage.

AP reporter Terence Hunt goes on to explain the Administration’s desperate efforts to get Putin to agree to say Bush Administration efforts at assuaging his concerns about the missile defense plans for Europe have, indeed, assuaged his concerns. He describes Stephen Hadley going to absurd lengths to redefine the definition of what success looks like.

Wow. Imagine such reporting on the machinations aboard Air Force One if it had come from the week of July 7, 2003 (though, to be fair, Matt Cooper tried to write just such an article, though without the necessary cooperation of John Dickerson).

My only complaint about this article (an admittedly churlish one) is that it doesn’t, then, explore why Bush went to such lengths to try to spin the press. The America news public, after all, ought to think about what it means that Bush is insisting Russia has agreed to the construction of a missile defense system in Europe when–Putin has made crystal clear–Russia has only agreed to Bush’s pathetic fig leaf intended to cover up just how deep Russia’s disapproval for the missile defense system really is.

The story is–as Hunt has shown well–that the Administration wants to pretend the summit was something it wasn’t. But it’s also why the Administration is so desperate to pretend it scored a victory when it hasn’t–and what the implications are for long-term stability in Eastern Europe.

21 replies
  1. Loo Hoo. says:

    Bush expects the press corps to behave as though they’re stupid. It’s worked so well for so long, you can’t blame him. Maybe this is a sign of good things to come.

  2. Rayne says:

    Yeah. I wondered about that, after seeing these:

    Bush, Putin begin farewell meeting 05-APR-08

    Putin edges in on NATO talks 05-APR-08 (angle covered here at EW’s place)

    What a disparity in attitude.

    But then there’s this op-ed in advance of the meeting:

    Europe owes a huge thank you to skilful, patient President George Bush 03-APR-08

    Not to worry, it’s blunt and the president thanked is not Dubya.

    Boy howdy, if Dubya read that last piece, he was already extremely torqued off before he got to Romania.

    • JohnJ says:

      Thanks for that link on Bush Sr. It backs many of the impressions I had of Sr.

      To wigwam @ 4

      which is even more profitable to the military industrial complexes on both sides.

      That was basically what my conservitive parents taught me about the cold war. A war government as the mandate to spend to protect FIRST, then worry about how to pay for it later, assuming you survive.

    • brendanx says:

      I don’t think Bush is reading the Guardian, or even having it read for him. Garton-Ash is a frequent contributor to the Polish press, by the way, and a scholar of Solidarity.

      What a disgrace Bush is. Putin really fucked with his head. It’s clear Bush doesn’t have the physical constitution to handle contradiction or defiance. He is a hysteric, or a neurasthenic (that’s why all the compulsive exercise), and when challenged he actually has to remove himself bodily from the scene. I happend to see footage of his attempt to leave that Chinese box in Beijing recently and the preface to the hilarious contretemps with the door was mortifying: Bush wasn’t impatient or peeved at the lectern — he was ashen and stunned, as though the Chinese had really clarified how things stood, and even threatened him.

  3. brendanx says:


    I was surprised by the supposed NATO endorsement of a missile shield and found a critique here. I was curious what your take on this “endorsement” is.

    My other question is a general one — why the eagerness on the part of Czechs and Poles? I assume it’s bribery, as well as a champagne-enhanced affinity for America induced at think tank soirees, that explains these countries’ behavior, but, really, the whole thing baffles me. The stated raison d’etre for the shield (Iranian missiles) is ludicrous on its face, while I can’t see how it provides any real security against Russia, particulary against its oil weapon — meanwhile, as a “bargaining chip” it’s diminishing in value along with our currency and the “capital” of our lame duck war criminal president. Who, outside the U.S. interests, is gaining from this?

      • brendanx says:

        I don’t get your point. That link just reiterates the extent of Polish collaboration in U.S. schemes.

        • Rayne says:

          You asked, “why the eagerness on the part of Czechs and Poles?”

          As you said, bribery.

          It’s not unlike Dubya’s sudden and overwhelming charity towards the African continent, offering up 30B during his SOTU this year to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, when by coincidence the US has no African Command on the continent and was pushing hard for one. (By comparison, the U.S. allocated only 6B on HIV/AIDS for the U.S., and most of the money has not been dispersed.)

  4. wigwam says:

    ABM systems are very expensive, and very profitable for the aerospace industry. Moreover, if we install an ABM system in Europe, so will Russia thus necessitating a new generation of missles to get through those ABM systems, which is even more profitable to the military industrial complexes on both sides.

    • brendanx says:

      That sounds like it’s addressed to my question. The problem is, the Russian government is opposed, while EU seems indulgently tolerant of it, at best. Those governments, unlike the U.S. aren’t merely military-industrial complex interests — there are obvious downsides to this missile defense.

  5. emptywheel says:


    I haven’t taken my rusty czech out for a ride yet this spring. But I think the reasons are several.

    First, as the work behind the torture palace reveals, BushCo are using NATO to make secret agreements with NATO members after invoking common defense. The ability of the US to do so is fairly broad, particularly with newer members.

    Second, such installments are going to bring a lot of money. You’re basically auditioning to take over from Germany as the recipient of a lot of the US’ DOD budget. Both countries can sure use the investment.

    Third, there is still a real paranoia about having someone big to back up Poland and Czech Republic, which this guarantees (particularly since there’ll be US personnel attached).

  6. GeorgeSimian says:

    The summit was a success. Bush seems intent on getting the cold war started again, and it seems, with this, that he’s done it. Why on earth would Putin endorse a network of nuclear missiles in Europe aimed at his country?

  7. Rayne says:

    Third, there is still a real paranoia about having someone big to back up Poland and Czech Republic, which this guarantees (particularly since there’ll be US personnel attached).

    I suspect that there is paranoia on the Czech/Pole side, too, and it’s likely related to energy resources that transit their borders; they are caught between the source (Russia) and the demand (Western EU). See pg. 4 of this report; you’ll note that the OPAL pipeline under construction connecting EU with Russian natural gas runs through Czech Republic, and that Poland has had the highest concentration of natural gas transit from Russia. This puts both countries at risk when Russia gets cranky; I’d certainly use it as leverage if I were negotiating with Czechs/Poles.

  8. al75 says:

    I remain mystified by the appeal of “missile defense”. The idea was demonstrably untenable when Reagan proposed it in the 80’s:

    a) the American physical society detailed the many simple ways that a defense system could be fooled;

    b)numerous economic analyses have shown that missiles are much cheaper than missiles designed to shoot missiles down – thus any defense system can be overwhelmed.

    c) the very real threat is from “portable” nukes delivered by shipping container or truck – which, unlike ballistic missiles leave no return address and could allow the user to strike without the annihilation in response.

    Why then is missile defense such a seductive and perennial dream?

    • brendanx says:

      That’s evidently not the way the Russians feel. But I have the same kind of question. Given that — for a country like Poland, particularly — it’s not really a “defense” against Russia (while something like Ukrainian membership in NATO really would be), what is it? It’s like a form of currency in the relations between powers — sometimes it’s a promise or enticement of investment and contracts, sometimes a bargaining chip, sometimes a threat. I really don’t get it.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Methinks it’s because stories like Hunts may start a trend of, you know, reporting. I imagine they’re also desperate to create the image that someone isn’t totally ignoring the president.

    Apart from faking it that Bush retained influence over the man whose soul he looked into and found it good, this fantasy would cloud the purpose of his “missile defense system”. Like the domestic Star Wars project and other DoD budget items, it doesn’t seem intended to keep anyone safe (potential enemies are unidentified or their identities are lied about). The intent seems to be to keep paying the aerospace firms whose lobbyists keep CongressCritters solvent and voters employed.

  10. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    The story is–as Hunt has shown well–that the Administration wants to pretend the summit was something it wasn’t. But it’s also why the Administration is so desperate to pretend it scored a victory when it hasn’t–and what the implications are for long-term stability in Eastern Europe.

    It only stands to reason that all sane, non-partisan, members of the press are utterly fed up with being spun.

    Nice to see AP start to break out of the static, unhealthy dynamic the WH has been able to use to keep the press in servitude these many years (since early 1980s).

    Kinda like watching a kid who’s had his nose bloodied repeatedly by the schoolyard bullies learn a little jujitsu and defend himself elegantly, without descending to bully tactics. Very heartening.

    EOH, re: ‘the man whose soul he looked into and found it good.’ FOTFLMAO ;-))

  11. kspena says:

    I read a couple of pieces a week or so ago that bush had lost to Putin even before the meetings started. There would not be a missile deal and Ukraine and Georgia would not be admitted. A pumped-up bush came to ’sell’ his will (assuming he would) and ran into a stone wall (actually one after another). It took him a while to realize it. I’ll look for the links.

    • kspena says:

      Froomkin summarizes bush’s expectations on April 1, 2008
      Bush’s ’success’ is that he gets the radar but not the missiles.

      “But Bush could claim success in persuading NATO to endorse his missile-defense plan in the face of Russian objections. Yesterday, an agreement was signed with the Czech Republic to build radar for the system.”

      Post meeting: International Herald Tribune 4/4/08

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