They’re ordering knit caps and parkas in the underworld, because for once – for one brief, shining moment, the White House reporters decided to do their jobs (even if it’s about a virtually inconsequential story). If they’d behaved this way during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, there may not have been an invasion of Iraq.
When reporters back each other up by repeating the same questions until they get answers, one of three things happens:
1. The reporters look like a-holes (if the questions are frivolous, such as, oh, I don’t know — questions about oral sex in the oval office)
2. The White House spokesman gives up spinning and answers the questions.
3. The White House spokesman keeps on spinning but at least it becomes obvious he’s bullsh!tting.
Since I think this was a trumped up story to begin with, I’d say this is a combination of 1 and 3 (but mostly 3).
From Editor & Publisher:
Q: Scott, yesterday the White House was on red alert, was evacuated. The first lady and Nancy Reagan were taken to a secure location. The Vice President was evacuated from the grounds. The Capitol building was evacuated. The continuity of government plan was initiated. And yet the president wasn’t told of yesterday’s events until after he finished his bike ride, about 36 minutes after the all-clear had been sent. Is he satisfied with the fact that he wasn’t notified about this?
McCLELLAN: Yes. I think you just brought up a very good point — the protocols that were in place after Sept. 11 were followed. The president was never considered to be in danger because he was at an off-site location. The president has a tremendous amount of trust in his Secret Service detail. …
Q: The fact that the president wasn’t in danger is one aspect of this. But he’s also the commander in chief. There was a military operation underway. Other people were in contact with the White House. Shouldn’t the commander in chief have been notified of what was going on?
McCLELLAN: John, the protocols that we put in place after Sept. 11 were being followed. They did not require presidential authority for this situation. I think you have to look at each situation and the circumstances surrounding the situation. And that’s what officials here at the White House were doing. …
Q: Even on a personal level, did nobody here at the White House think that calling the president to say, by the way, your wife has been evacuated from the White House, we just want to let you know everything is OK?
McCLELLAN: Actually, all the protocols were followed and people were — officials that you point out were taken to secure locations or evacuated, in some cases. I think, again, you have to look at the circumstances surrounding the situation, and it depends on the situation and the circumstance. …
Q: Nobody thought to say, by the way, this is going on, but it’s all under control?
McCLELLAN: And I think it depends on each situation and the circumstances surrounding the situation when you’re making those decisions.
Q: Isn’t there a bit of an appearance problem, notwithstanding the president’s safety was not in question, protocols were followed, that today, looking at it, he was enjoying a bike ride, and that recreation time was not considered expendable to inform him of this.
McCLELLAN: Well, I mean, John mentioned 36 minutes after the all-clear. Remember, this was a matter of minutes when all this was happening. …
Q: But has the President even indicated that even if everything was followed that he would prefer to be notified, that if the choice is: tell the commander in chief or let him continue to exercise, that he would prefer to be informed?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, it depends on the situation and the circumstances. And you have to take all that into account, and I think that’s what people were doing here at the White House, as well as those people that were with the president.
Q: I think there’s a disconnect here because, I mean, yesterday you had more than 30,000 people who were evacuated, you had millions of people who were watching this on television, and there was a sense at some point — it was a short window, a 15-minute window, but there was a sense of confusion among some on the streets. There was a sense of fear. And people are wondering was this not a moment for the president to exercise some leadership, some guidance during that period of time?
MR. McCLELLAN: The president did lead, and the president did that after September the 11th when we put the protocols in place to make sure that situations like this were addressed before it was too late. And that was the case — that was the case in this situation. …
Q: I have one more question. When we walked out of this door yesterday, when those of us who heard that there was a situation, when we walked out of the door, we heard aircraft, jets overhead. There is a concern that that plane came closer to the White House than the White House said, more — it came within the three-mile radius, it was closer than you –
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I said that it came within three miles.
Q: OK, but you said three miles. How close –
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, it came within three miles.
Q: How close was it? Because someone has taken a picture of a plane being escorted on K street. How close was the plane?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I mean, if the Department of Homeland Security or FAA has any additional information, I’m sure –
Q: Scott, how close was it?
McCLELLAN: April, it was within –
Q: You know how close it was. Please tell us.
McCLELLAN: Yes, within three miles. I don’t know beyond that. Go ahead.
Q: Might there be something wrong with protocols that render the president unnecessary when the alarm is going off at his house?