Dana Milbank today takes a look at the tradition of releasing bad news on Friday, a tradition that the Bush White House has taken to new extremes:
Last Friday afternoon, President Bush announced that he was circumventing the Senate confirmation process and appointing controversial judicial nominee William H. Pryor Jr. to the federal bench. It was the second such recess appointment to be made late on a Friday, following last month’s appointment of Charles W. Pickering Sr.
The Friday before the Pryor nomination, the White House had two other late-day announcements: word that Bush would testify privately to the 9/11 commission, and a 7 p.m. dump of hundreds of documents from Bush’s National Guard files. Other Friday surprises in recent months include the Justice Department’s approval of a Texas redistricting plan expected to give the GOP as many as seven House seats; a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency not to regulate dioxins in sewage sludge; and the news from the Commerce Department that household incomes had declined for three years in a row and 1.7 million people had fallen into poverty — the first time such statistics were announced on a Friday.
It is an old political tradition to dump unpopular news on Friday, because fewer people are reading newspapers or watching television news over the weekend. But the Bush administration has been using the trick so routinely that it is losing effectiveness. “They’re not as successful now in hiding these Friday stories,” said Robert Lichter of the nonpartisan Center for Media and Public Affairs. “Everybody does it, but this administration has done it too much for their own good.”
Indeed, Friday has become a Bush favorite both for dropping bad news and for making announcements that appeal to the president’s conservative base, not necessarily the general public. It was on a Friday, for example, that the administration disclosed its long-awaited decision that it would eliminate requirements that thousands of the nation’s dirtiest coal-fired power plants and refineries make anti-pollution improvements as they upgrade facilities. On another Friday, the administration announced new rules giving new rights to fetuses. Yet another Friday brought an announcement virtually ensuring that Republicans would prevail in a dispute over the 2000 census count.
Better make sure you read that Saturday paper, eh?