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NEW YORK STATE OF MIND

We're back home tonight, and after two days of heavy Katrina coverage, the news today is mostly dominated by a particularly violent spike in Iraq. We will also look at the politics of the war -- and what appears to be the emergence of a new message from the Administration. Also tonight, we know more about the final moments before takeoff for the ComAir flight that crashed killing 49 souls on board in Lexington, Kentucky. The investigation is quickly pointing out the cracks in our aviation system -- while those of us who follow the industry closely were quite familiar with them. There is other news today as well, and additionally tonight we'll have another installment in our continuing series on Baby Boomers in America.

We'll run another new (to our audience) portion of our conversation with the President on tonight's broadcast.  I returned from New Orleans to find thousands of emails (I often ask that they be printed out so that I can take them home, travel with them and go through them quickly, while sticking to my vow to read them all) neatly divided into two main categories: our Katrina coverage (overwhelmingly positive) and our interview with President Bush. 

On the latter topic, I was taken aback somewhat by what seems to be the prevailing (70/30) opinion -- apparently echoed today by Rush Limbaugh -- that I was somehow "disrespectful" in the interview. 


Several things here: While I don't know the President outside of the parameters my job, he has always shown me great kindness, we've always gotten on well, and when we parted company yesterday, he was of good cheer and seemed satisfied with our time together (and notably was in NO hurry to end the interview) as were members of the White House staff. My job, remember, is to report...ask questions...and serve as advocate for our viewers who don't get the chance to ask questions of the President themselves. Any charge of "disrespect" deservedly gets my attention, because of my profound respect for the office and its occupants. In fact, one of the topics of conversation any time I'm with the President is our shared interest in Presidential history -- which we discussed during some private time yesterday. I note that one viewer has written complaining of "unprofessionalism" in my "tone of questioning and facial expressions." 

Perhaps some background will help. What we aired yesterday, and will again tonight, was a rather spontaneous, strolling interview in the hot afternoon sun in New Orleans. It was to have been taped an hour later, but the President was understandably anxious to greet the people who'd been waiting for him and Mrs. Bush in the heat -- so we gladly obliged, and things got underway very suddenly. He is, as has been widely reported in this space and elsewhere, a man who truly seems to enjoy the give-and-take and verbal "combat" that often comes with good conversation. He indicated to me more than once yesterday that he was anxious to have a robust discussion. Perhaps because the backdrop and circumstances of yesterday's interview differed so much from the norm -- the conventional presidential interview we've become used to seeing -- people saw something different that struck them as negative in some way. Asking tough questions is one thing, but I am constitutionally unable to be disrespectful around the President of the United States.