The art of saying nothing

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan ponders his right index finger. A hangnail perhaps?

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Reading the daily White House press briefing is a little like watching a piece of toast brown. Although, I think watching a piece of bread turn into toast is maybe just a little more exciting than watching White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan bob and weave his way through non-answers to the media’s questions.

In my very limited dealings with the White House — maybe 15 calls to the press office as a reporter and perhaps three of those calls were returned with comments, or returned at all — I have come to believe that the Bush administration has mastered the artform of saying nothing. If some White House spokesman such as Taylor Gross actually returns your call, his answer will largely be nonsense. And if you read the press briefings that Scott McClellan holds, you’ll find an entire session full of even more nonsense.

Today, the White House did not want to talk about the Supreme Court ruling that says government can take your property through eminent domain for economic development purposes. Here is an actual exchange at today’s press briefing between McClellan and a reporter:

Q Suppose that McLennan County, Texas, decides that a center for slot machines would bring in much more revenue than the Bush ranch. Would the President try to fight the eminent domain, as now legalized by five members of the Supreme Court, by means of the Aderholt-Shelby bill, or how?
MR. McCLELLAN: You know, I don’t know of any attempt by McLennan County to do such a thing, first of all. And, second of all, if they did, it’s a matter for McLennan County to deal with. But I know of no such effort.
Q He would fight it, wouldn’t he?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I think the President has made his views clear when it comes to private property rights. In terms of Supreme Court decisions, we obviously have to respect the decisions of the Supreme Court.
Q Does the President feel as strongly about that lady in New London, Connecticut, who will be forced out of her home where she was born and has lived for 87 years, does he feel as strong as Justice O’Connor feels, and does he believe this decision will help with his nomination of new justices?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, we just haven’t talked about it, but the President is always concerned about the American people and their well being.
Q He really is concerned about this lady, isn’t he?

Well, of course Scott didn’t answer that question either. So it makes me wonder why we have a White House press office at all? Why does McClellan and his functionaries even bother showing up for work each day. They might as well stay home and say nothing and get paid for it. Hey, I could do that. If you pay me not to say anything I will be quieter than Harpo Marx after a snootful of Ativan.

Perhaps we will find out some of the answers to our questions after Bush leaves office and some other president hires a bunch of jackasses to say nothing to the American public through the media. Or maybe your grandkids studying history will find out what the hell these people were all up to one day. I wouldn’t bet on it though.

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