It was a perfect moment for the media to use President Bush's speech from New Orleans against him.
ABC correspondent Dean Reynolds corralled about 10 evacuees and put them in chairs in the parking lot of Houston's Astrodome where they watched the president's nationally televised address. Afterward, they were asked to comment.
All of the evacuees were black and apparently poor. Given the template of news coverage - a majority of blacks are said to believe aid was slow in coming because white people like George Bush don't like them - one might have expected a unanimously negative verdict to the president's address.
The verdict was unanimous, but it was unanimously positive. One by one, the evacuees replied to Reynolds' questions. "What did you think of what the president said tonight?" he asked one woman. She replied, "I think the speech was wonderful." Did she find anything hard to believe? "No, I didn't," she answered.
Reynolds put his microphone in front of another evacuee. Surely the previous one must have been a fluke. What did the next person think of the president's promises? "I really believe what he said. I believe. I got faith," she said.
A slight note of desperation seemed to creep into Reynolds' voice. Quickly, the microphone went to another evacuee. Reynolds tried another tactic. Would the woman like to criticize the slow response of the federal government (meaning the Bush Administration) to the carnage left in Katrina's wake? The woman blamed state and local officials for their slow response, not the president.
A question to all: Wasn't there anything that anyone could object to in the speech? Apparently not. Back to you Ted Koppel.
This delicious moment, which came after the other broadcast networks had quickly returned to regularly scheduled programs, speaks volumes about the media coverage of Katrina and the edited messages they have tried to shove down the public's throat.
Those messages are: White Republicans hate blacks; big business and big Republican government are evil and won't help blacks; Democrats are good and are the only ones who care for black people.
Reynolds' interviews were live, so no one could edit the content. Viewers saw and heard for themselves what at least these black people felt and believed. The ABC guest booker must have had his or her own assumptions about how such an interview would go. Surely the assemblage of black evacuees would mean unfettered criticism of President Bush. Who's racist now?
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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