Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 30, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

LIAR, LIAR, HAIR ON FIRE...Does George Bush dye his hair? Maybe, but Megan McArdle thinks the whole question is silly:

Left and right: you have taken leave of your senses when you are trying to interest journalists, or the reading public, in the question of the president's dye job.

Surely, Megan, you haven't been blogging all this time and not noticed that hair is practically an obsession with journalists? Just off the top of my head:

  • Remember when Jimmy Carter started parting his hair on the opposite side?

  • Remember when people asked if Ronald Reagan used hair color?

  • Remember when Bill Clinton supposedly shut down LAX in order to get a haircut?

  • Remember the endless fuss over Hillary's ever-changing hairstyle?

  • Remember when John Kerry was accused of getting a $150 salon cut?

  • Remember when Gerhard Schrder went to court over reports that he used hair dye?

"Trying to interest journalists" indeed. Who needs to try? I think that if Pat Nixon had switched to being a redhead in 1973 it would have crowded Watergate off the front page entirely and the Trickster would have spent his golden years as an elder statesman instead of an international symbol of political scandal.

But for what it's worth, I agree with Megan on the substance: I suspect the whole thing is a trick of light. But I wonder if anybody has asked Ari about it yet?

UPDATE: Apparently not. But as I was checking I noticed that sometimes the White House holds "press briefings" and sometimes it holds "press gaggles." What's the difference?

UPDATE II: According to an email from an "ex-White House grunt":

"Gaggles" historically refer to informal briefings the press secretary conducts with the press pool rather than the entire press corps. They used to happen in the morning, they were more or less off the record, and their purpose was mostly to exchange information - the president's schedule and briefing schedule, from the administration side; heads-up on likely topics or early comment on pressing issues, from the news side. Briefings were what everybody knows them to be.

In previous administrations, when the President traveled, sometimes the press secretary would hold a gaggle with the press pool that travels on Air Force One - not every time, but sometimes, and always informally. In this administration, Ari does a gaggle on the plane every time the President goes out of town, and a transcript is made available for press corps members who weren't on the plane. These mid-air mini-briefings are the "gaggles" you can find transcripts of on the White House website.

He goes on to note that "Now you have one additional bit of wholly useless information to find space for." Hell, that's practically the definition of blogging....

Kevin Drum 2:44 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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