White House Woes

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," October 24, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Tense times at the White House as the president's political woes grow, so is his temper getting to be difficult, at least reportedly. FOX's Alisyn Camerota has the back story for us now. Hi, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. As you know the president is normally pretty upbeat and positive, but there has reportedly been a shift in his mood lately. Indictments are looming in the CIA leak case, there is a rocky road ahead for Harriet Miers' Supreme Court nomination and a grim milestone creeping closer of possibly 2,000 American soldiers killed in Iraq.

So how is the president dealing with all of this? Well, if you believe the press he is coming unglued, yelling at staffers. He's irritable and casting blame on everyone from top adviser Karl Rove (search) to Vice President Cheney. At least that is what is being reported Monday in The New York Daily News.

How does the writer know all of this? Let's ask him. Thomas DeFrank is also the Washington bureau chief for The New York Daily News. Thomas, thanks for being here. So, how are you getting information about what's going on behind the scenes at the White House, when this is a famously tight-lipped administration? I noticed you don't name any of your sources.

THOMAS DEFRANK, NY DAILY NEWS DC BUREAU CHIEF: Well, first of all, let me correct, as Don Rumsfeld (search) would say, let me correct one of the flaws in your opening there. The Daily News story you're referring to does not talk about the president becoming unglued. You have overstated that, number one.

Number two, the story does talk about that he is sometimes cheerful, sometimes serene, but he is always sometimes peevish, snappish, angry and even occasionally bitter. So, unglued is way over the top.

CAMEROTA: But you do say — ok, that's fair, Thomas. But, you do say that he has begun yelling at some of his aides and not just the senior aides, some junior ones as well.

DEFRANK: That's exactly right. The phrase was "lashing out" not yelling. But, the president, and again I have been dealing with President Bush for a long time, since 1987, long before he was governor, much less president and I think I have got a pretty good sense into his personality.

He has always been a guy who likes to keep staff in their place and a little bit off balance, and he has a history of doing this with senior guys. And several people said to me, he does this for senior guys because he knows they can take it. It seems to have happened a little bit lately, now and then, he has lashed out at some of the junior staffers around the White House too and that is different from his usual M.O.

CAMEROTA: OK. But, Thomas, where are you getting your sources? I mean, if these are folks inside the White House, why are they talking to you?

DEFRANK: Well, I think it's a combination of things, but I don't want to talk about sources or methods. I don't think any reporter should do that. I will say, while some at the White House would prefer to believe that these sources are disgruntled, these are not disgruntled people.

I think the thing that struck me was that these are sources who would be defined as Bush loyalists. These are people who love him, who like him, and who recognize, as any of us might be in this kind of a situation, that he is under a little bit of strain. Things have not gone so well lately. We don't need to do the litany but there has been Iraq, there's been Katrina.


DEFRANK: And all these sorts of things and so it's very understandable that the president at times would not be a happy camper. On the other hand, the notion that he is coming unglued, I think, is overdone.

And I also think as a veteran of covering the Nixon White House and Watergate (search), Nixon was referred to by even some of his own aides as a brutal recluse. George W. Bush is not a brutal recluse, but, as one might imagine, these are not the happiest days of his presidency.

CAMEROTA: OK. Thomas DeFrank Washington Bureau Chief for The New York Daily News thanks for all that information.

So, John, it's also possible, of course, that these are just, you know, second-term blues. I was interested to read that every president since Lyndon Johnson has had approval ratings that drop as low as the 30s at some point during their time in office.

GIBSON: Yes, sure and well, he has had a rough time but it is nice to hear Thomas DeFrank at least saying he is not the guy going around talking to the portraits and becoming unglued. Alisyn Camerota, thank you very much.

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