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The President and the Media - Bill Clinton and George W. Bush's First Three Weeks.

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POLS 384: "The Presidency" Lecturer: Rick Dunn Paper by Stephan Ortmann Sunday, April 22, 2001 The President and the Media Bill Clinton and George W. Bush's First Three Weeks The president of the United States of America, it is said, has his best chance of enacting a domestic legislation in the first 100 days, which are also known as the Honeymoon period because the press supposedly gives the president a less critical coverage in these first few months. Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, however, wrote on January 31, 1993, that journalists "(w)ith their relentlessness focus on the short term, the backstage conflict, the flap of the day, [they] may be unduly magnifying Clinton's woes." (Kurtz, 1993, p. A1) On the same day another article on the front page of the same newspaper said that the White House had been unable to control the media effectively and it was therefore the White House's own mistake (Balz and Devroy, 1993). During Clinton's first months the media did not let go as one editorial cartoon illustrates. The cartoon shows Clinton as game that is carried away by savage hunters (Sewell 1996). The question this paper will address will be whether the press was especially harsh on Clinton and whether this was due to an inability of the White House transition team to control the media or whether the media just did their job in investigating a new administration. The first three weeks of the front-page Washington Post coverage after the inauguration will serve as a means for finding out how harshly the media has treated the president. For the purpose of comparison the first three weeks of George W. Bush's presidency in 2001 will also be analyzed. The question that will be considered here is whether the Bush administration received a better, worse, or same treatment from the media. Finally, there will be a discussion of whether the 100 days theory still holds true today if it ever has been true. ...read more.


For the Ann Devroy from the Washington Post, this sounded more like scaling back the whole program, which she put in her predominantly negative article (Waldman 1995). Overall positive articles dealing with Clinton's agenda were in the minority, as articles that either dealt with relatively unimportant issues such as the gays in the military issue or with serious problems such as the Baird nomination or other areas in which Clinton could not follow his campaign promises. The coverage of George W. Bush, at least in the Washington Post, is a contrast, which could not be starker. Even those few articles that I have considered negative do not have a similar negativity as the Clinton articles in 1993. Even though during the nomination, the issue of Bush's loss in the popular vote made the headlines, the overall articles tended to be overall positive. The first article that I have classified as negative deals with vouchers and was published on January 24. My decision to put it in the negative category was motivated by the fact that the article seems to emphasize the negative aspects of the idea that would give vouchers to parents of failing schools. Mathews writes: "Educators worry, though, that Bush's package could cost them money." (Mathews 2001, p. A1) There was no overriding theme in the coverage and numerous campaign issues received positive coverage, such as abortion, education, and the economy as well as tax cuts. One reason for the positive coverage could be that Bush just did not commit as many mistakes as Clinton in his first few weeks. Another reason could be, however, fact that the Washington Post, as well as other news organizations, sent new reporters to the White House ("White House"). It has often been asked what kind of a role the media plays or should play in the democratic system. Journalists have argued at times that their function was as someone who informs the people and at other times they have given themselves a "watchdog" function. ...read more.


National Journal 33:2, p. 118 (Infotrac). Maltese, John Anthony.1992. Spin Control - The White House Office of Communication and the Management of Presidential News. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press. Manheim, Jarol B. 1979. "The Honeymoon's Over: The News Conference and the Development of Presidential Style." The Journal of Politics 41:55-74. Mathews, Jay. 2001. "Testing, Yes; Vouchers, No, Say School Officials in Area." The Washington Post, 24 January, p. A1. Marcus, Ruth and Dan Balz. 1993. "A Campaign Promise Has Clinton Cornered; The Attorney General Saga." The Washington Post 10 February, p. A1. Marcus, Ruth and Helen Dewar. 1993. "Pact on Gay Ban Remains Elusive; Judge Orders Pentagon to End Policy." The Washington Post 29 January, p. A1. Marcus, Ruth and Michael Isikoff. 1993. "Clinton Withdraws Baird's Nomination." The Washington Post 22 January, p. A1. Pfiffner, James P. 1996. The Strategic Presidency - Hitting the Ground Running. 2nd ed. Lawrence, University Press of Kansas. Procter, David E. and Kurt Ritter. 1996. "Inaugurating the Clinton Presidency: Regenerative Rhetoric and the American Community." pages 1-17 in The Clinton Presidency: Images, Issue, and Communication Strategies edited by Robert E. Denton, Jr. and Rachel L. Holloway. Westport and London: Praeger. Rozell, Mark J. 1993 "The Limits of White House Image Control." Political Science Quarterly 108:453-480. Sewell, Edward H. Jr. 1996. "The Bad Days Are Part of It: Editorial Cartoonists on Clinton's First Year." pages 77-103 in The Clinton Presidency: Images, Issue, and Communication Strategies edited by Robert E. Denton, Jr. and Rachel L. Holloway. Westport and London: Praeger. Simendinger, Alexis. 2001. "Early Action, Early Trouble." National Journal 33:2, p. 132. (Infotrac). Weisskopf, Michael. 1993. "Energized by Pupit or Passion, the Public is Calling; 'Gospel Grapevine' Displays Strength in Controversy Over Military Gay Ban." The Washington Post 1 February, p. A1. Waldman, Steven. 1993. The Bill. How Legislation Really Becomes Law: A Case Study of the National Service Bill. New York: Penguin Books. Woodward, Bob. 1994. The Agenda - Inside the Clinton White House. New York et. al.: Simon & Schuster. "White House Press Corps." NPR's On the Media, January 6, 2001. http://www.wnyc.org/new/talk/onthemedia/transcripts_010601_whitehouse.html. Ortmann, 1 ...read more.

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