Soft bigotry, low expectations

SOFT BIGOTRY, LOW EXPECTATIONS…. It’s come to this. Expectations for the president have fallen so low, the New York Times devoted an entire piece to Bush’s recent claim that he read a newspaper article.

Is there hope for newspapers after all? Readers may be abandoning the printed versions, but over the last couple of years, at least one person seems to have started reading them, at least sometimes. He lives in the White House.

President Bush declared in 2003 that he did not read newspapers, but at his final news conference of the year last week, he casually mentioned that he had seen something in the paper that very day.

Asked for his reaction to word that Vice President Cheney would be called to testify in the C.I.A. leak case, the president allowed: “I read it in the newspaper today, and it’s an interesting piece of news.”

If the president had read something in the newspaper, it is a break with his admitted habits. In September 2003, Bush told Fox News’ Brit Hume, “I glance at the headlines just to kind of [get] a flavor for what’s moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are [sic] probably read the news themselves.”

For that matter, Bush talked to the Washington Times’ Bill Sammon a year later and boasted about his news-consuming habits, or in this case, lack thereof: “I get the newspapers — the New York Times, The Washington Times, The Washington Post and USA Today — those are the four papers delivered,” he said. “I can scan a front page, and if there is a particular story of interest, I’ll skim it.”

(When most of us see a newspaper article that we think might be interesting, we read it. When the president sees a story of particular interest, he’ll “skim” it. How reassuring.)

With this in mind, when Bush casually mentions having read something in a newspaper, it’s literally newsworthy. Talk about your soft bigotry of low expectations.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.