Eye of the hurricane

Bush looks to spin Katrina in interviews

President Bush is granting interviews to two of the nation’s highest-profile TV journalists on the eve of the anniversaries of Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, two events that will define his presidency.

The president granted interviews to CBS’ Katie Couric and NBC’s Brian Williams in what strategists believe is a bid to take the initiative on national security and his administration’s handling of Gulf Coast reconstruction.

“The desire here is to go on the offensive with some very high-profile media and seize back the agenda,” said Eric Dezenhall, former Reagan strategist and head of crisis management firm Dezenhall & Associates.

“Interviews show you are an activist in addressing things people are concerned about,” he said.

The president sits down with NBC “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams in New Orleans on Tuesday, when he is expected to discuss the performance of the federal government in the rebuilding effort.

The following week, on Tuesday, Sept. 5, CBS’ “Evening News” will air excerpts of an interview with the president on Couric’s first night at the helm of the newscast. Her primetime special “Five Years Later–How Safe Are We?” will feature extended excerpts from the interview.

Williams’ interview comes during the president’s trip to the Gulf Coast with stops in New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., where he is touting the $118 billion in total federal aid, including tax relief, earmarked for the region.

Last year, Katrina hit while the president was on vacation in Texas and the handling of the disaster turned into a political debacle. The president’s poll numbers, especially on domestic issues, have yet to recover.

Fox and NPR political analyst Juan Williams attributed the president’s media offensive to an attempt to rebuild his image as a trustworthy manager and to connect with voters on domestic issues.

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