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Did you see that 10 big-shot conservative talk radio hosts visited the White House the other day? Yep. According to the New York Daily News:
For the second year in a row, President Bush called some of his closest radio friends to the White House for an off-the-record briefing and discussion.

Mark Levin and Sean Hannity of WABC (770 AM) were among the 10 conservative talk-radio hosts who met with Bush in the West Wing yesterday, according to Talkers magazine.

The others were Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Hugh Hewitt, Scott Hennen, Bill Bennett, Michael Medved, Lars Larsen and Janet Parshall.

Bush met with five hosts last fall, including Boortz, Hannity and Medved, Talkers noted, "to discuss issues and gauge the conservative talk-radio audience's feelings about issues and policies."

And bloggers immediately knee-jerked with negative feedback. Blatherwatch said:
They went in to get a fluffing and pick up some talking points straight from the fluffer-in-chief.

The catch was that despite they could ask their best questions, but there were no recordings or even direct quotes allowed, which is the administration's favorite interview model.

And PattyAnn wrote:
I'm sure they were there to receive their Action Alerts, or whatever the conglomerate of conservative talk radio hosts call them. We all know they work from one huge list of talking points that are handed down to them from the White House.
I can see where their criticism is coming from to a point. This is one of those stories that immediately makes you wary or is a Thing That Makes You Go Hmmmm. But then, once you get past that initial "Hmmmm" you can get someplace productive.

Sure, Bush wouldn't entertain Randy Rhodes or The Young Turks or Sam Seder. That's ridiculously obvious. But why shouldn't he sit down with 10 sympathetic souls who have the ears of millions of Americans? Furthermore – and this may be wishful thinking – what if what transpired was an actual conversation, where the hosts would share their concerns and what they were hearing and how Bush was displeasing the conservative radio audience? We've all read the stories about Bush's Bubble and how he doesn't really get input from people who aren't named Cheney or Rove or Rice or Hughes – heck, he even backhandedly dissed his own dad to Bob Woodward, saying "... there is a higher father that I appeal to."

Maybe Bush gave the hosts a pep talk. Maybe he and his communications office gave them talking points for the upcoming months. But maybe, just maybe, the hosts were also able to give him feedback about what real Americans are saying – and not just "Nancy in Tulsa loves you" – that poked a little pinprick in that bubble on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, allowing real air in.

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