Just before 9 o'clock Thursday evening, CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer offered a typical post-news conference wrapup of the president's remarks on Iraq, North Korea, education and, especially, Social Security. Except that it wasn't a post-news conference wrapup. It was a mid-news conference wrap-up. Bob reflects.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This is On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. Just before 9 o'clock Thursday evening, CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer offered a typical post-news conference wrap-up of the president's remarks on Iraq, North Korea, education and, especially, Social Security.
BOB SCHIEFFER: The president came on television tonight because he wanted to talk about Social Security, and I think it's fair to say he did not step on his own story. I think there was no bigger headline than what he said about their urging these reforms in Social Security tonight. So, that is our CBS News coverage…
BOB GARFIELD: A reasonable summary - except that it wasn't a post-news conference wrap-up. It was a mid-news conference wrap-up. The event was still in progress when CBS, NBC and Fox deemed it necessary to break away for critical developments in Survivor, The Apprentice, and The Simple Life with Paris Hilton. The networks had already prevailed on the White House to move up the start time to 8 p.m. - lest too much precious sweeps period inventory be sullied by trivial questions about torture of terror suspects, nuclear-tipped Korean missiles and partial privatization of the retirement safety net. Even President Bush seemed nervous when he realized he had over-stayed his welcome.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Free Korean peninsula. Final question - Hutch? I don't want to cut into some of this TV shows they're getting ready to air. [LAUGHTER] For the sake of the economy.
BOB GARFIELD: Then, at 9:10, he left too - maybe to catch a little Survivor before bedtime. But don't be too disgusted with the sacrifice of reality at the altar of reality television. The news conference was show biz, too - a vain and bizarrely deferential press corps not so much being journalists as playing ones on TV, briefly punctuating the president's 70 minute political commercial - sort of Survivor, Washington - rigged so that nobody gets voted off the island. [MUSIC]