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White House press strategy: we control Russert, no one sees news from Friday afternoon

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The Scooter Libby trial provided an illuminating look at the inside world of the Bush press machine yesterday. Verified some of the things we thought -- and helped further undermine the credibility of one of the witnesses at the trial, Tim Russert. Inside the White House, they think Russert is a pushover:

Memo to Tim Russert: Dick Cheney thinks he controls you.

This delicious morsel about the "Meet the Press" host and the vice president was part of the extensive dish Cathie Martin served up yesterday when the former Cheney communications director took the stand in the perjury trial of former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Flashed on the courtroom computer screens were her notes from 2004 about how Cheney could respond to allegations that the Bush administration had played fast and loose with evidence of Iraq's nuclear ambitions. Option 1: "MTP-VP," she wrote, then listed the pros and cons of a vice presidential appearance on the Sunday show. Under "pro," she wrote: "control message."

"I suggested we put the vice president on 'Meet the Press,' which was a tactic we often used," Martin testified. "It's our best format."
Also, Ms. Martin verified that the White House uses the trick of putting out bad stories late on Friday afternoon:
And bad news is dumped before the weekend for the sole purpose of burying it.

With a candor that is frowned upon at the White House, Martin explained the use of late-Friday statements. "Fewer people pay attention to it late on Friday," she said. "Fewer people pay attention when it's reported on Saturday."
Yes, it works over and over and over because the media never caught on.

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