Add CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux to a list, started by Columbia Journalism Review's website The Campaign Desk, of members of the media who have kept President George W. Bush above the fray by "doing the dirty work that the candidates don't want to touch themselves," in the words of Campaign Desk "Spin Buster" Brian Montopoli. Malveaux did what Montopoli accused Reuters and CNN's Judy Woodruff doing ("putting words in Bush's mouth") -- by spelling out for viewers what Bush purportedly meant when he uttered an implicit criticism of Senator John Edwards (D-NC).
The Campaign Desk's Montopoli set the stage:
President Bush made himself available for a few questions from the press this morning, and, not surprisingly, reporters were champing at the bit to talk about John "charming, engaging, a nimble campaigner, a populist, and even sexy" Edwards.
When asked how the aspiring veep stacks up against the present vice president, the president was brief: "Dick Cheney can be president. Next."
In the course of purporting to explain Bush's veiled dig, as Montopoli wrote of Reuters and Woodruff, Malveaux mouthed the Republicans' chief talking point about Edwards: "The clear implication," Malveaux intoned, "is that the president is echoing what many Republicans have been saying. They do not believe that Edwards has the experience or the gravitas to go against Cheney and particularly in the event that he were to become president."
Huh? As Montopoli noted, nowhere in the transcript is there any indication that Bush explained why he thinks Edwards cannot be president. There could be any number of reasons; yet, by simply giving voice to the RNC's characterization of Edwards as "unaccomplished and inexperienced," Malveaux is sparing Bush the need to attack Edwards directly or explicitly. Montopoli concluded, "With this sort of instant extrapolation of an unfinished thought, the press joins forces with the oppo research camps of the political parties in doing the dirty work that the candidates don't want to touch themselves."