The bird lives
A president showing disdain for the media is nothing new. But doing it with a contemptuous gesture that is offensive to millions does not just insult the press. It insults anyone who relies on the press to tell us what our leaders are doing. When presidents flip off the press, Americans get the finger.
But you can't expect Americans to care if the press doesn't.
The networks and most newspapers ignored Bush's Big Bird, and only a handful of papers printed stories about the incident. Most were light, gossipy and inconclusive, giving the thumb theory more weight than it deserves (try mimicking the video with your own hand; only one finger will do). White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan gave a limp denial: "I'm not going to dignify that with a response," he said the next day. "I mean, I haven't seen the video that you're talking about, but I know the way the president acts."
Yes, we know how he acts. He has flipped the bird before.
"The president knows his way around his middle finger," says John Aravosis, a Washington consultant and liberal blogger (he runs Americablog). Aravosis has helped keep the presidential finger story alive, and the White House took the unusual step of calling him to try to convince him that the videotape features Bush's thumb, not his middle finger. A weirdly elongated and misplaced thumb.