Learning to use the "bully pulpit" is the prerogative of all presidents, but President George W. Bush has managed to fine-tune that power to such an extent he's brought new meaning to the term "managed news".
One only needs to look at his domestic campaign to change Social Security to see his 'managerial powers' in full effect.
As he travels around the nation to make his pitch that Social Security is in a crisis, the president is limiting his congregation to screened, sanitized audiences.
Why does he sermonise on the subject only to carefully selected audiences?
Simply because these are the people who are vetted to make sure they agree with the president's views. If they pass that test, the local Republican Party or the groups sponsoring the event then issue tickets to the so-called "town meetings" or "conversations with the president."
Asked why the president speaks only to his supporters, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush's intention is to "educate" the people.
What he actually means is to "indoctrinate" the people.
Which raised the question, is this the president of all the people -- or just some of the people who agree with him?
Bush is preaching to the choir so to speak, hardly the way to "educate" the public.
The exercise of controlling his audience was a prime goal of Bush's 2004 presidential campaign, when anti-war protesters were barred from his public appearances. While those who openly disagreed with him were quickly hustled out of the hall.
That same audience control is being put to practice when President Bush speaks about Social Security.
The Secret Service and White House aides apparently spend a lot of time trying to handpick those permitted to hear him.
Bush seems satisfied that he has made Social Security a worry to people - the goal of his sky-is-falling campaign.
Every administration tries to manage the message that the news media convey to the public about presidential policies, problems and successes. But the Bush White House is pioneering new methods that steer message management into outright government propaganda.
The New York Times on March 13 published an in-depth report on how the administration is cranking up its public relations campaign to manipulate broadcast news by distributing pre-packaged videos prepared by several federal agencies, including the Pentagon.
These videos use phony reporters to tout the administration's position on major issues. Thinly staffed TV stations are only too happy to receive the free videos, which they then pass along to viewers without any acknowledgement that the images and messages are government issue.
The government agencies say it is up to the broadcast stations to attribute the origin of the report, if they want to do so.
The Government Accountability Office -- a congressional investigative unit -- has ruled that such government videos represent "covert propaganda." The GAO declared that agencies may not produce pre-packaged news reports "that conceal or do not clearly identify for the television viewing audience" that they were made by the government.
But naturally the White House rejected that opinion and handed reporters a memorandum from the Justice Department and the Office of Management and Budget directing the federal agencies to ignore the GAO verdict.
The memo contends the GAO does not differentiate between propaganda and "purely informational" news reports and claims there is no requirement for a federal agency to label its disguised broadcasts.