Talking Points: Bush Scores Big With the Press

If I am a little beat evening, please forgive me. It's been quite a week traveling around the country, and it was topped off by the Radio and Television Correspondents dinner in Washington, starring President Bush. That's the subject of this evening's Talking Points Memo.

The dinner is an annual event, where the elite and some not so elite media gather together to hear what the president has to say and to schmooze with each other. Now, last year President Clinton was brilliant, tossing verbal darts at the press. The guy has impeccable timing, no matter what you think of him. This year, nobody knew if President Bush could follow Mr. Clinton, but he actually topped him.

Mr. Bush was perfect. His script was tight and funny, his delivery as good as Leno or Letterman. Many in the audience were shocked. We'll show you some of the speech in a moment.

Now, I've said all along that President Bush was unfairly portrayed as a stammering fool, that his main problem was his sloganeering, memorizing trite responses and trying to spit them out on the fly. That never works, and the president often mangled his rehearsed answers.

At the dinner, Mr. Bush had a script, but he loved the script, and he enjoyed saying the words, so they became his words. And he put them over perfectly.

The lesson to everyone is don't say anything somebody else tells you to say unless you're enthusiastic about it, and always, always speak from the heart.

The Fox News Channel and The Factor got a lot of attention at the dinner. It was very interesting. Even Senator Kennedy shook my hand. The only person who was completely put off by me was the wife of Alan Greenspan, NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell. If looks could kill, there would be an Irish wake today.

As you may know, we are furious at Mr. Greenspan for his lack of accountability to the American people.

Anyway, I was trying to figure out if President Bush actually likes the press. His speech avoided us, except in the beginning. Here are some highlights.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I appreciate the members of the press. I think you serve a very useful purpose, especially tonight. As you know, we're studying safe levels for arsenic in drinking water to base our decision on sound science, the scientists told us we need to test the water glasses of about 3,000 people. Thank you for participating.

John Ashcroft, by the way, attributes the way I talk to my religious fervor. Fact, the first time we met, he thought I was talking in tongues.

Then there's my most famous statement: "Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning?" Let us analyze that sentence for a moment. If you're a stickler, you probably think the singular verb "is" should have been the plural "are." But if you read it closely, you'll see I'm using the intransitive plural subjunctive tense. So the word "is" are correct.

Finally, let's see you wordsmiths out there diagram this sentence I said. This may sound a little West Texan to you, but what I'm talking about -- when I'm talking about myself and when he's talking about myself, all of us are talking about me.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, you have to admit, in my sentences I go where no man has gone before. But in closing -- but in closing, the way I see it is I am a boon to the English language. I've coined new words like "misunderstanding" and "Hispanically." I've expanded the definition of words themselves, using "vulcanize" when I meant "polarize," "Grecians" when I meant "Greeks," "inebriating" when I meant "exhilarating."


So the president scored big with the press.

Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

Time now for the Most Ridiculous Item of the day.

As you may know, it's been 20 years since John Hinckley shot President Reagan. And Hinckley remains confined to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, DC. You may also recall that Hinckley said he was stalking the actress Jodie Foster.

Well, at last night's Correspondents Dinner in Washington, keynote speaker Ben Stein did a humorous bit linking Hinckley to the Clinton pardons.


BEN STEIN: I bear with me a letter that I was given by a friend who worked at the Clinton White House.

John Hinckley, St. Elizabeth's Mental Hospital, Washington, DC: "Dear Mr. Hinckley, Hillary and I wanted to drop you a short note to tell you how thrilled we are that you have made a full and complete recovery. I send along with this attached a full and complete pardon. And I wish you the best possible luck in your future career, whatever it may be. Sincerely, William Jefferson Clinton. P.S. Bill O'Reilly is dating Jodie Foster.


So I'm the punch line of that. Ridiculous? You decide.