The Washington Post's Mark Leibovich highlights the disturbing and robotic message discipline of White House spokesman Scott McClellan (via Mark Dubois, a fellow grad student here at Duke):
On the Thursday morning after his reelection in November 2004, President Bush bounded unexpectedly into the Roosevelt Room of the White House, where about 15 members of his communications team were celebrating. He just wanted to thank everyone for their hard work on the campaign, he said, before singling someone out. "Is Scotty here? Where's Scotty?" Bush asked, half-grinning, according to two people who were in the meeting but asked not to be quoted by name because they were discussing a private event. Bush scanned the room for Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary.
"I want to especially thank Scotty," the president said, looking at his aide. "I want to thank Scotty for saying" -- and he paused for effect. . . .
At which point everyone laughed and the president left the room.This is one of those quips that distill a certain essence of the game. In this era of on-message orthodoxy, the republic has evolved to where the leader of the free world can praise his most visible spokesman for saying nothing.
...Last Friday reporters battered McClellan over a New York Times report that the president had authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without warrants on people in the United States. Over several minutes, McClellan emphasized that:
The president is doing all he can to protect the American people from terrorists (10 times);
The administration is committed to protecting civil liberties and upholding the Constitution (seven times);
Congress has an important oversight role, and the administration is committed to working with it on these difficult matters (five times); and
He would not discuss ongoing intelligence activities (five times).
For more on the message strategy of the White House, see All the President's Spin, especially Chapters 1 and 2.