I’ve now heard several commentators, including Charles Krauthammer and John Podesta, invoke the supermarket scanner story from 1992. Sigh. Here’s an excerpt from a piece written by Brit Hume — then the ABC News WhiteHouse Correspondent — for the American Spectator in 1993 (sub req’d):
…The notion had taken hold that George Bush had spent his childhood in comfort and his manhood in motorcades and was simply out of touch with the average citizen.
This notion got plenty of nourishment from the news media, which love stories about rich and powerful people and their alleged insensitivity to everybody else. It is one of the oldest forms of journalistic demagoguery, spectacularly illustrated in this instance by the front-page New York Times story about Bush’s astonishment when shown an ordinary supermarket checkout scanner during a factory tour. It was a fascinating story, but it turned out to be almost wholly untrue. Bush’s wonder was mostly politeness and the scanner, far from being ordinary, was a new and different device of which the company was especially proud. The reporter who wrote the Times story had not witnessed the event, but had taken his information from a “pool report.” (Because the White House press corps is too large to accompany the President everywhere, a rotating “pool” goes with him on such events as plant tours. The pool reporter prepares a detailed account for his colleagues.) Only the Times drew from that pool report the picture of Bush as a man awed by a supermarket scanner. It may be the only time on record where anybody got an exclusive story out of a pool report. Such is the Times’s influence, however, that the story became part of the legend of a President who just didn’t know how things were out there in the real world.