On February 8, an Associated Press article and a San Francisco Chronicle article reported, in the words of the AP, that "[t]he White House on Thursday defended House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] against Republican criticism that her desire to fly in an Air Force transport plane is an extravagance," without noting that the Republican National Committee (RNC) had nearly simultaneously issued a press release attacking Pelosi.
As Media Matters for America has previously noted, the Bush administration has a pattern of purporting to take the high road during controversies while surrogates smear political targets.
The AP article noted that "Republicans are taking issue with the size of the plane Pelosi would need to fly in to reach her hometown of San Francisco without refueling," but that Snow defended Pelosi on February 8, stating, "This is a silly story and I think it's been unfair to the speaker." The AP article further noted that, contrary to Republicans' suggestions:
Snow on Thursday said the negotiations over Pelosi's transport have been conducted solely by the House sergeant-at-arms and the Pentagon, with no direct involvement by the speaker or her office -- or the White House.
But, the AP did not report that around the same time Snow was "defend[ing] Pelosi against Republican criticism," the RNC was issuing a press release attacking her. Under the banner "Pelosi Power Trip," the press release accuses " 'Non-Stop' Nancy" of "[s]eek[ing]" a "flight of fancy." The RNC further accused Pelosi of "want[ing] [a] non-stop military aircraft for herself, staff, family, and other members in California Delegation;" of requesting a plane that "includes [a] private bed, entertainment center, and costs $22,000 per hour to operate;" and of "go[ing] beyond what prior Speakers requested." The RNC is currently chaired by Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), who was reportedly recruited by Bush to fill the position.
Similarly, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that what is "especially notable about the Bush White House coming to Democrat Pelosi's defense is that many House Republican leaders have been the most outspoken critics of the negotiations that have been going on between the House sergeant at arms, a GOP appointee, and the Air Force over what plane Pelosi should have access to," but did not note the RNC was still launching an attack on Pelosi.
When asked about the RNC press release at the daily White House press briefing, Snow stated the White House's "position, which is, as Speaker of the House, she is entitled to military transport, and that the arrangements, the proper arrangements are being made between the Sergeant of Arms office in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Department of Defense. We think it's appropriate, and so, again, I think this is much ado about not a whole lot. It is important for the Speaker to have this kind of protection and travel. It was certainly appropriate for Speaker Hastert. So we trust that all sides will get this worked out." When asked later if the RNC press release was "inappropriate," Snow responded: "[Y]ou know what my position is. I will let you draw whatever conclusions you may, but our position is pretty clear on this one." When asked if "the RNC [is] now beyond the President's purview? If you think it's a silly story, is there -- they're able to just operate if they want to attack like that on their own," Snow replied: "Well, apparently they did this time." When pressed further if there was "no message coordination between you guys and the RNC," Snow stated: "[T]here is from time to time, yes. But in this particular case, we've got a clear view."
In contrast with the AP and the Chronicle, CNN Political Ticker producer Alexander Mooney noted in a February 8 CNN.com post:
The Bush White House and the Republican National Committee are known for their consistent coordination of message. But when it comes to the latest flap over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's request for a military aircraft to take her home, the two GOP entities could not be further apart.
Some Republicans have taken issue with the size of the plane Pelosi requires to fly to her San Francisco district without stopping to refuel. The No. 3 House Republican, Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida, said Pelosi's desire for a large transport plane is "an extravagance of power that the taxpayers won't swallow."
But White House spokeman Tony Snow took a different tact, telling reporters Thursday morning, "This is a silly story, and I think it's been unfair to the speaker."
Shortly after Snow's comments, the RNC fired off a press-release calling the California Democrat "non-stop Nancy" who is seeking a "flight of fancy."
When asked about the apparent disagreement between the White House and the RNC over the issue, Snow wouldn't comment besides reiterating the stance that "it is important for the speaker to have this kind of protection and travel."
Asked if the RNC is able to operate a media attack on its own, Snow quipped, "Well, they did this time."
In addition, Time magazine national political correspondent Karen Tumulty pointed out the discrepancy in a February 8 post on Time's Swampland weblog. Tumulty noted that Snow called the story "silly" and "over-hyped," then added: "He should tell that to the Republican National Committee, which has been fanning said silly, over-hyped story, and which this morning put out a news release titled: PELOSI'S POWER TRIP 'Non-Stop' Nancy Seeks Flight Of Fancy."