My day, at least editorially, started just after I'd chosen a spot on the couch for the 9:30 a.m. editorial daily planning meeting. I arrived early and was finishing up the newspapers when an e-mail came into my BlackBerry -- it was from a producer in our control room, watching the incoming feed from Iraq. The President was minutes away from what was billed to us as a "give and take...a back and forth" with soldiers on the ground in Iraq. The e-mail said they were rehearsing their answers to the President's questions. It went on to say they were receiving coaching from yet-unnamed government officials on HOW to deliver their lines once the President appeared.
We've all been party to media events and blatant photo ops. Members of the media have known full well when events in the past have been thoroughly scripted to bring about the desired response. While this kind of thing gets reported when germane, it's a given in political campaigns, just as it was a given during the series of town meetings this President held, the guests were invited and questions were at very minimum strongly encouraged by subject manner, if not outwardly planted. It's what the home team gets to do. It's part of politics and both parties have made it something of an art form. In this case, however, the advance billing and final execution were at odds. And what we witnessed -- the comments first rehearsed then repeated verbatim with minor deviations once the President entered the discussion -- was rather stunning to see on television, as viewers will see on our air tonight.
The story developed steam as the day wore on, and as more in the media realized what they'd just witnessed, and the White House briefing reflected it. Press Secretary Scott McClellan has since admitted to our own Kelly O'Donnell that he did NOT know the extent of the situation and how it played on television when he answered reporters' questions about it today from the podium. Beyond that, I'll let the reporting of Andrea Mitchell speak for itself on tonight's broadcast.
We also have solid reporting tonight on the run-up to the Iraq elections, the flooding here in the Northeast and the continued suffering in South Asia. And since the suffering continues in the South...two terrific bits of reporting on what people are doing for shelter having lost all in Katrina. For now, duty calls...off to a story conference, and we hope you can join us tonight.