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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

 
Tainted Love

by digby

Steve Benen notes that the Bush administration's attempts to confront the congress are not having the positive effect they thought it would:

When Bill Clinton was president, White House aides had a policy: when there was political trouble, and public support was on the wane, put the boss in front of people. Schedule a speech in front of a large audience; arrange for some high-profile television interviews, put together some kind of major White House event, etc. Clinton aides knew that the solution to most problems was letting Clinton talk to Americans.

Invariably, the strategy worked. As it turns out, the Bush White House has embraced the exact same approach. Unfortunately for the Bush gang, it’s not nearly as effective.


He goes on to discuss all the polls that show Bush's strategy is a big flop so far.

The president is on the wrong side of the country on this and so his challenge is much larger than it was for Clinton. But we should not forget that Bill Clinton was a master communicator who could make an intelligent, incisive and persuasive argument in language that anyone in the country could understand. It's a mistake to underestimate those gifts in our modern world of 24/7 mass communication. The Republicans thought you could dress up a ventriloquist dummy or a trained dog with some fancy packaging and nobody would know the difference and they've been proven fools in no uncertain terms. The ability to communicate and persuade are more important than ever and it's not something you can create out of whole cloth. It's a skill that any first rate modern politician needs to have.

People gave Bush the benefit of the doubt after 9/11 (and the media anointed him the next Winston Churchill for reasons that are still unclear to me) but his terrible public awkwardness helped destroy his presidency after Katrina. Someday someone will put together his press conferences in the first months after 9/11 and future generations will be shocked that a majority of this country agreed to follow this man into war --- they were stunningly inept. (That first major evening press conference scared the living hell out of me as I realized how over his head he was.) It was only the extreme deference of the press and the nation's deep need to believe that we were in competent hands that allowed him to get away with it.

He did fine in his well-written prepared speeches. Any person could. But his mind and speech were so slow and thick in his unscripted moments that all he really had was a sort of cliched TV cowboy attitude, which seemed to be enough for people for a little while:

Q Do you want bin Laden dead?

THE PRESIDENT: I want justice. There's an old poster out west, as I recall, that said, "Wanted: Dead or Alive."


There he was, "healing us" with his manly leadership.

A president must be more than just articulate, of course. But he or she is at a serious disadvantage if he cannot communicate across all the lines in a way that gives people faith that he knows what he's doing. I think this has been one of the reasons Bush fell so far. They had to sustain a very difficult illusion for a very long time --- you can be believe me or you can believe your eyes. It couldn't carry them forever.

When they send Bush out today and he speaks in his halting, unconvincing manner -- aggressive, slightly hostile and often incoherent --- it has the opposite effect they need it to have. Every time they see him now people are reminded that they were sold a bill of goods and they resent him and reject what he's saying.

If they want the nation's support for their policies, the last person they should use as their salesman is the guy who makes half the people cringe in embarrassment for their own past bad judgment and the other half intensely frustrated that he is in office in the first place. But there are so few Republicans with any credibility at this point, I honestly don't know who they can trot out to do it. The party's lockstep, slavering sycophancy to Bush's inept governance has left them without anyone people can trust.

I suspect this is why they are all so hot for Fred Thompson. He can at least act like he knows what he's doing. (Worked for Reagan.) Finding a Republican who actually knows what he's doing may be an impossible task.


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