Greenfield chided Rep. Wexler for rebutting SOTU address before Bush delivered it, ignoring White House advance release of speech excerpts

››› ››› JOE BROWN

CNN's Jeff Greenfield chided Rep. Robert Wexler for releasing a rebuttal of President Bush's State of the Union address without actually seeing the speech. But as it has in past years, the White House made excerpts of the speech available well before it was delivered, leaving Wexler ample time to read the excerpts before issuing his response.

In covering President Bush's January 31 State of the Union address, CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield chided "one opposition congressman" -- presumably Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) -- for releasing a rebuttal of President Bush's address, Greenfield said, before Wexler could actually have seen the speech.

But, as it has in past years, the White House made excerpts of the speech available well before it was actually delivered, presumably so broadcast media would preview it and journalists, pundits, and politicians could begin to formulate their reactions to the speech in advance. In fact, during pre-speech coverage on Greenfield's own cable channel, CNN White House correspondent Dana Bash read a direct quote from the speech excerpts. A two-hour window between when the excerpts were first made available and when CBS News chief White House correspondent John Roberts -- during CBS' post-speech coverage -- said he first saw Wexler's statement presumably gave Wexler ample time to read the speech excerpts before issuing his response.

During the 9 p.m. hour of CNN's State of the Union coverage, Greenfield stated: "At least one opposition congressman has put out a scathing attack on the speech." Citing CNN political correspondent Candy Crowley's assertion that she received a copy of the document "about ... an hour ago," Greenfield stated: "In other words, there wasn't a chance in the world that this congressperson had seen the speech, but he condemned it as filled with empty rhetoric and failing to address our problems." Crowley's statement that the author of the document criticized President Bush for "fail[ing] to apologize for his, quote, 'cronyism,' 'corruption,' " makes it clear that she and Greenfield were referring to Wexler's rebuttal, which was headlined: "President Missed Opportunity to Apologize to the American Public for his Cronyism, Corruption and Incompetence."

The Washington Post posted the excerpts on its website at 5:15 p.m., leaving Wexler ample time to read them before issuing his rebuttal, which Roberts said he received "at quarter after seven [p.m.]" and Crowley -- at approximately 9:10 p.m. -- said she received "about ... an hour ago."

Roberts mentioned Wexler's press release during a segment in the 10 p.m. hour of CBS' State of the Union coverage, when Roberts purported to address the question, "Can the president get any bipartisanship this year?" As "early indications of that," he cited Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean's rebuttal of Bush's speech, adding, "He's the Democratic flame-thrower-in-chief. You might expect that." Roberts then stated:

ROBERTS: But here's my favorite, Robert Wexler, a Democrat of Florida, issued a statement saying President Bush's speech tonight was filled with empty rhetoric. That crossed my desk at quarter after seven, Bob [Schieffer, CBS anchor], an hour and 45 minutes before the president started talking. So that might be an indication at how things are going to go for the rest of the year."

From the 9 p.m. hour of CNN's State of the Union coverage, hosted by Wolf Blitzer and Paula Zahn:

BLITZER: Paula, as we watch these people receive the president of the United States, it's one of those moments where, at least briefly, albeit for maybe only a few seconds, some of the bitterness that we've seen so available in Washington seems to go away.

ZAHN: And I think we were talking a little bit earlier where there aren't too many spontaneous moments here. Jeff was describing how perhaps some of the reps you see here with unassigned suits -- excuse me, seats, have been here for many, many hours trying to stake out a position on the aisles so they can actually get a handshake from the president or in some way have their picture taken on a wide shot with the president.

GREENFIELD: The other thing you should know -- Candy was the recipient of this. At least one opposition congressman has put out a scathing attack on the speech. When did you get it?

CROWLEY: I got it about, oh, an hour ago or so.

GREENFIELD: In other words, there wasn't a chance in the world that this congressperson had seen the speech, but he condemned it as filled with empty rhetoric and failing to address our problems.

CROWLEY: Right, the president, he said, failed to apologize for his, quote, "cronyism, corruption."

BLITZER: If they do that, the hometown newspaper is going to press, probably pretty soon.

CROWLEY: Exactly.

From the 8 p.m. hour of CNN's The Situation Room:

BASH: So, Mr. Bush will try to battle the bad news coming at them nearly every day -- the bad news about Iraq, about Katrina, about high gas prices, and what aides will call -- are calling an upbeat speech. Even the president himself said he intends to be upbeat tonight.

But he'll also try to remind Americans of the threat of terrorism and say that, big picture, he does think Americans should continue to take a leadership role around the world. He will say -- quote -- "In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders."

Now, last year, you remember, of course, his big initiative was Social Security. Don't expect anything like that -- of course, which failed. Expect some small initiatives on things that they think people really care about.

From the 10 p.m. hour of CBS' State of the Union coverage:

ROBERTS: I just want to reflect back on something you were asking me about earlier. Can the president get any bipartisanship this year? We're getting early indications of that. Howard Dean said tonight President Bush's failed policies and waning credibility were on display for all Americans to see. He's the Democratic flame-thrower-in-chief. You might expect that. But here's my favorite, Robert Wexler, a Democrat of Florida, issued a statement saying President Bush's speech tonight was filled with empty rhetoric. That crossed my desk at quarter after seven, Bob, an hour and 45 minutes before the president started talking. So that might be an indication at how things are going to go for the rest of the year.

Network/Outlet
CBS, CNN
Person
Jeff Greenfield, Dana Bash, John Roberts
Stories/Interests
2006 State of the Union, State of the Union Addresses
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