White House ‘Barney-cam’ Is a Hit

By: Sandra Sobieraj, Associated Press Writer

(AP) The White House’s “Barney-cam” is a holiday Web hit, drawing 24 million online tourists the first day of its dog’s-eye view of the White House Christmas decorations.

The video was taped at Barney’s eye level as President Bush’s little Scottish terrier scooted around the White House state rooms. Its debut last Thursday marked the third-busiest day for the White House Web site — after Sept. 11, 2001, (44 million hits), and last month’s launch of the “Life in the White House” online video series (38.5 million hits).

How can the White House be sure all those hits weren’t the self-promoting mischief of Barney himself?

“Barney is what you might call a ‘publicity hound,'” spokesman Ari Fleischer deadpanned. “But he was unable to watch his own video because he hit the ‘paws’ button.”

When it comes to answering questions about serious national security and political crises, Bush is hiding behind skirts — first Barney’s, then the Spanish prime minister’s (figuratively speaking, of course).

During a holiday photo session with Barney and some schoolchildren on Tuesday, Bush sternly waved off a reporter who wanted to know whether Senate Republican leader Trent Lott can still effectively lead, given the firestorm over his pro-segregation comments.

And on Wednesday, Bush warily eyed a reporter sidling up to him and Spain’s Jose Maria Aznar in the Oval Office.

“You look like a guy who wants to ask a question, I won’t be answering any,” Bush said. “I’ll make a statement, [Aznar] will make a statement; that’ll be all we’ll be doing today.”

Shooing away one who dared to ask about Lott, Bush barked, “Let’s go!” and, in Spanish, “Can’t you hear?!”

Bush has dodged journalists’ impromptu questions for just shy of two weeks.

During a Cabinet Room meeting on Dec. 5, the president answered a single query from a White House reporter — but not again since Iraq turned over its high-stakes arms declaration, or since Lott got himself and the GOP in trouble, or since North Korea reactivated its nuclear weapons programs, or since the administration began vaccinating some Americans against a possible smallpox bioterror attack.

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