Not that the format of Bumiller's reporting prevents color. On the contrary, she tries several times to add a touch of "lightness" to her reporting. But in each of those occasions, the "light touch" turns out to be a witty aside made by Bush himself on a podium somewhere.
Speaking for himself and for Laura at a fund raiser for evil reptile Sen. Frank Murkowski, in Alaska: 'We're having the time of our lives."
Then there was Bush's public massaging of Elizabeth Dole at a speech in North Carolina:
'Mr. Bush came close to endorsing Mrs. Dole in a speech in Winston-Salem when he recalled how he had recently invited her and her husband, former Senator Bob Dole, to dinner, but "unfortunately, only the husband could come."
'"We got stuck with the short straw in this couple," Mr. Bush said, "because the wife was here doing hard work in North Carolina."
'His hope, the president added to laughter, "is that we'll be able to dine frequently."'
I would like to know what life is like in the Presidential entourage, but every time I read a Bumiller article, I have less and less of an idea of it. She advances past Garry Trudeau, whose series of Enron-themed strips in the past two weeks were less horrific than usual (although a Sunday strip featured a "cool" teen who is joining the CIA to help the fight against terrorism). The Times continues to roll.
Thomas Friedman (2), New York Times , def. William Safire, New York Times
Thomas Friedman once wrote a column in which he speculated about the actual physical weight of the GDPs of various countries. It was the kind of pointless, infantile exercise that only a retard teenager would ever indulge in any place more public than inside his own room, behind a locked door. But Friedman did it in the op-ed page of the world's most influential newspaper.
He does this kind of thing from time to time. Not quite understanding his role as the mindless lapdog of the globalization movement, the mustachioed tool of chuckling corporate interests, he has clearly come to believe over the years that his success is rooted in his literary style and his personal magnetism. It's a little bit like a husband who's so used to his wife's habitual affections that he comes to believe over time that his paunch and his bald spot are actually sexy. And so every now and then he'll parade around the house in a pair of bikini briefs, or spray whipped cream on his nipples, never suspecting and never in danger of finding out just exactly how ridiculous he looks.
Friedman went out in his tightie-whities again last week. His Feb. 13 column, 'Crazier Than Thou', was a Friedman classic. You don't know whether to laugh or cry when you read this thing. The thesis of it is that the fact that Donald Rumsfeld is insane and unpredictable is greatly in America's favor, because now the rest of the world will fear us that much more. Here's his conclusion:
'No, the axis-of-evil idea isn't thought through - but that's what I like about it. It says to these countries and their terrorist pals: "We know what you're cooking in your bathtubs. We don't know exactly what we're going to do about it, but if you think we are going to just sit back and take another dose from you, you're wrong. Meet Don Rumsfeld - he's even crazier than you are."
'There is a lot about the Bush team's foreign policy I don't like, but their willingness to restore our deterrence, and to be as crazy as some of our enemies, is one thing they have right.'
When people in other countries read stuff like this, they can only have one thought: "Nuclear Weapons. Now. It's our only chance."
Safire, in contrast, had a pretty slow week. About the most notable thing he did was make not one, but two bad puns out of the name of Chinese politician and heir-apparent ruler, Hu Jintiao. The headline of his Feb. 14 column was "Who's Hu in Beijing," and the piece closed with another zinger:
"Bush should make this pitch while looking only at Jiang. But we all know Hu's on first."