The Washington Post reports on the consequences of coddling Bush. Here are some highlights:
During a campaign forum in the Cleveland suburbs last month, President Bush was asked whether he likes broccoli, to disclose his "most important legacy to the American people" and to reveal what supporters can do "to make sure that you win Ohio and get reelected."
. . .
Wayne Fields, a specialist in presidential rhetoric at Washington University, said the first debate showed Bush had been overprotected. "If you don't talk to the press and deal with audiences with some degree of skepticism, you can't build understanding so people have confidence in you in hard times," Fields said. "His handlers think they're doing him a favor, but they're not."
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The president has stopped taking questions from the small pool of reporters who cover his photo opportunities, and he has answered questions from the White House press corps twice since Aug. 23, both times with interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi at his side. His last prime-time news conference was April 13.
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Tonight's town-hall audience of about 100 will ask 15 to 20 questions and will consist of an equal number of voters who say they lean toward Bush or Kerry but could change their minds, plus a few who say they are undecided. Bush's debate negotiators had sought to eliminate the event from the debate schedule because they were concerned that partisans could pose as uncommitted voters and slip in with tough or argumentative questions.
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Mike McCurry, who was Clinton's press secretary and is a senior adviser to Kerry, said Bush was hurt in the first debate because his aides do not appear to recognize the benefits of having reporters "regularly ask the hard questions that are on the mind of the public."
"They have been very effective and disciplined at managing a message and getting through," McCurry said. "Until now, they have not paid any real price in their press coverage. They have mostly been getting out of the news every day what they wanted to."