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Fight Back, Mr. President: Shouldn't the president defend his honor?
Weekly Standard ^ | William Kristol

Posted on 11/04/2005 1:55:54 PM PST by jmc1969

Last week, I suggested that the Bush administration's second-term bear market had bottomed out. Since then, we've been pummeled by polls showing Bush in continued decline. Perhaps my bullish call on Bush was a bit early. Or perhaps it was wrong. Which is it?

That's up to the Bush administration. Over the next few months, the Bush team will put this bad year behind them, and regain their footing. Or it will be a long 39 months--a very long 39 months--for Bush and his supporters.

How to recover? Begin by facing reality.

The Miers episode did more damage than one might have expected. It raised doubts about Bush's judgment, on top of the Katrina-related doubts about White House competence, which have lingered. But Miers, and Katrina, are over. Now the task is to get Samuel Alito confirmed--using his confirmation process not just to get credit for a fine pick, but to make the case for judicial restraint and constitutionalism, and to lay the groundwork for additional winning battles on behalf of conservative appellate and (maybe) Supreme Court nominees.

The failed Social Security reform effort did real harm, too. The political capital expended, and the depressing effect of the wet-blanket-like message of imminent generational doom, undercut the credit Bush should have received for a strong economy. Now Social Security is over, and Bush can return the focus to economic growth. He can campaign on making the tax cuts permanent--and he can explore some of the broader, pro-family, pro-human-capital policy proposals suggested elsewhere in this issue by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, and by John D. Mueller.

And the administration paid a price for its virtual silence on Iraq during the spring and much of the summer. Now the administration seems to understand not just that they have to do everything they can to win in Iraq--but also that they must make, and remake, the case for the war. Do they also realize that they have to aggressively--not to say indignantly--confront the "Bush lied" charge now emanating from leaders in the Democratic party?

Last Tuesday, Harry Reid took to the floor of the Senate and asserted that the Bush administration had "manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions." This is a serious charge; if it were true, it might well be an indictable offense. But it is, in reality, a slander. Shouldn't the president defend his honor?

After all, the bipartisan Silberman-Robb commission found no evidence of political manufacture and manipulation of intelligence. The administration's weak and disorganized attempts to respond to Joe Wilson's misrepresentations put the lie to the existence of any campaign to "destroy" opponents of the war. In fact, the administration has done amazingly little to confront, and discredit, attacks from antiwar Democrats. It was a shock last week when White House spokesman Scott McClellan emerged for a few moments from his defensive crouch to point out that Clinton administration officials and Senate Democrats also believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

Will he, and others in the administration, return to this theme? Will they call the now antiwar Democrats on their disreputable rewriting of history? Incidentally, are the Democrats ready to defend the proposition that we should have left Saddam in power? Is it okay with them if Zarqawi drives us out of Iraq? Will the administration challenge them as to what their alternative is? Will the administration take the time to put spokesmen forward, and recruit surrogates, to make the case for victory? Or do they enjoy being punching bags at the White House?

Bush has been in a similar position before. We forget how much trouble he seemed to be in early in 2004. Then Kerry was nominated, and the Bush team focused the country on the real choices before it. In the contrast, Bush did fine. Bush once again needs to fight for support for his policies and to draw a contrast between his policies and those of his opponents. If you do not defend yourself against your critics, your political standing is going to erode. Bush owes it to himself, to his supporters, to the soldiers fighting in Iraq, and to the country to fight back.

TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: 109th; bush43; kristol; reid; term2
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To: Black Tooth

Actually, I'm a Charter Member of the Vast Ring Conspiracy. Where were you back then? I repeat a number of you recent sign ups are here to bash Bush.............

121 posted on 11/04/2005 3:51:38 PM PST by Patriotic Bostonian
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To: Patriot from Philly
Well said. I love it when critics of Bush are automatically labeled trolls and so forth by the bots.

I don't like Kristol but deep down every conservative wishes that Bush would be more blunt instead of this new tone or compassionate conservatism crap.

122 posted on 11/04/2005 3:52:57 PM PST by Extremely Extreme Extremist (Harmful or Fatal if Swallowed)
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To: Rokke
OK. I'd agree that the RNC could use some money to fund an ad campaign in support of the war. But how effective are ads put out by political national committees? What are your indications that such ads are necessary? Is it current polling numbers? Do you really believe them? With regard to the intensity of the Whitehouse, what is your gouge? Certainly Bush hasn't indicated he has lost his intensity. His most recent speeches regarding the War on Terror have been some of his best yet. What can the Whitehouse do to show it remains deeply committed to both the War on Terror, and the men and women in the military who are fighting it? As a military person myself, I have no doubt about either Bush's commitment or his concern for my welfare.

We are in 100% agreement concerning our CIC - I know for certain this man is 100% committed to our Armed Forces -

My fight is more with the WH PR staff and that of the RNC.

No one who is willing to be intellectually honest can deny there has been a complete lack of a coherent response to the "no WMD's" spin put out 24/7 by the MSM / DEM's - A complete lack of a coherent and consistent message telling WHY Iraq is essential to the GWOT. Explaining that Iraq was very much indeed in support of al Qeade and other terrorists organizations prior to Sept 11th (and up until 2003)

When the fact is we moved on Iraq / Saddam for more then just the WMD equation. That was just one reason in a list of them. And even with the result of finding no WMD's least that question has been answered! - We now know Saddam does not pose a threat (via real or bluffed) from WMD's -

The WH nor the RNC seem to be able to articulate this simple fact!

How effective are ads put out by political committees? Well I would suggest the $$ half a billion plus that everyone through into the last election seems to suggest people know they are effective.

Furthermore...FACTS are always effective. And there is my point. If people hear facts and then spin (by the MSM/DEMs) they will more often then not fall back on the side with the facts (GOP).

I am tired of the notion that we need to out spin the DEM's right before "each" election. I am for informing the public on a 7 day a week basis. Once people are informed they aren't easily fooled anymore by the MSM / DEM's -

There are all sorts of creative ways to show the success of which are Armed Forces are achieving. Ways in which the MSM would have to give air time to. The WH and RNC should put together a systematic process of implementing this.

Additionally the PR people the WH puts out and those within the RNC continually go on news programs and NEVER set the premise correctly. On issue after issue relating to the GWOT...the MSM set a false premise and those from the RNC (including Senators) never correct the false premise. They simply try and talk from a position of weakness...considering a false premise has been established by the MSM in the questioning.

123 posted on 11/04/2005 3:53:49 PM PST by SevenMinusOne
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To: Cicero
1. He HAD to go to Argentina. How would it look if every other head of state in Latin and North America, including Chavez, showed up and Bush didn't? This is BASIC foreign policy. Try to imagine the headlines if he stayed home.

2. President Bush may not make any headway on Social Security. However, he deserves credit for talking about the issue, and I will tell you that in 5 years, when the system is shown to be in increasing trouble, Republicans then in office will be glad to have President Bush's efforts to point to and democrat obstructionism to blame.

124 posted on 11/04/2005 3:56:13 PM PST by Miss Marple (Lord, please look after Mozart Lover's son and keep him strong.)
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To: Rokke
You have no idea what a pain in the ass it is to bring VIPs into a combat zone. Our men and women in Iraq have MUCH more important things to do than support a Presidential PR campaign. Bush knows that. He is letting the military do its job

100% correct here -

125 posted on 11/04/2005 3:56:46 PM PST by SevenMinusOne
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To: Dont_Tread_On_Me_888
"Bush's Mr. Nice Guy approach has harmed the Republican Party--possibly fatally. While the RATs wage jihad against Bush, Bush "reaches across the aisle' and tries to be "bipartisan", and that has set back the Republican Party 20 years."

Yeah, I guess that would explain the increase in Republican Senators and Congressmen in every election since 2000.

Where do you people come from?

126 posted on 11/04/2005 3:57:03 PM PST by Rokke
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To: Extremely Extreme Extremist
I love it when critics of Bush are automatically labeled trolls and so forth by the bots.

Well, I'm a card-carrying charter member of the "Bushbots," and proud of it, but even I'm getting a bit of grief from people for stating the obvious: the Bush White House doesn't do a good job defending its policies.

Image hosted by

127 posted on 11/04/2005 3:58:09 PM PST by My2Cents (Dead people voting is the closest the Democrats come to believing in eternal life.)
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To: My2Cents
The actual basis of our freedom and democracy, which we have trouble actually defining, is private property rights. I can't see someone mounting a massively popular campaign based on upgrading the recorders office and freeing up zoning and building code; not one that would get the citizens jumping with excitement. It's also tough to sell liberty to certain sub-groups of the citizenry when they know they have liberty and at the same time don't.

I would like to see a candidate sell the idea of capitalism all over the world. Link that to prosperity and peace forever. Someone with the gift of gab could go all day on that.

128 posted on 11/04/2005 4:00:30 PM PST by RightWhale (Repeal the law of the excluded middle)
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To: Theresawithanh
I'm with you

And events going down in France will very soon provide the excellent reasons for the Bush decision to combat islamic terror forward deployed in Iraq
129 posted on 11/04/2005 4:05:12 PM PST by Rooivalk
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To: Extremely Extreme Extremist

It's the media. The media was terrible during the whole 2004 campaign. The Bush folks thought they had overcome that with their victory. The fact is, Bush should have won that election by 7 points.

The media was depressed for a week or two after the election, but then went on the attack and never stopped. I think the Bush folks thought there would be a lull after the election.

The media defines their success by how poor Bush is doing.

130 posted on 11/04/2005 4:05:21 PM PST by Patriot from Philly
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To: Rokke
Bush hasn't changed.

No, Bush hasn't changed.

131 posted on 11/04/2005 4:06:33 PM PST by carenot (Proud member of The Flying Skillet Brigade)
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To: Dont_Tread_On_Me_888
Ah, I see that you are back to bash Bush. Since I know that you are only 24 years old, you do not have the remotest idea of how Reagan operated or what criticism he took from the right for some of his actions.

In addition, the media has changed since the Reagan era. No longer can a president command air time on the netwowrks without PROVING that his speech will be "newsworthy." They simply refuse to cover the speeches.

President Bush campaigned on bringing a new tone to Washington. He is fulfilling a campaign promise, as well as following scripture, which instructs us to heap praise upon our enemies, which will fall like hot coals upon their heads.

You need to learn patience, and also to learn that there is more going on than meets the eye. Just because you don't see it on TV doesn't mean it isn't happening.

132 posted on 11/04/2005 4:08:44 PM PST by Miss Marple (Lord, please look after Mozart Lover's son and keep him strong.)
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To: Miss Marple

Yes, I realize he had to go to Argentina, although maybe he could have cut back on the time commitment a bit by pleading press of business. I don't know if he had any way of leashing Specter, but it was an awkward place to be when Specter, presumably with malice, announced that he wouldn't give him his Christmas present.

133 posted on 11/04/2005 4:12:54 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: Patriotic Bostonian
Actually, I'm a Charter Member of the Vast Ring Conspiracy.

Ring conspiracy? Must be some kind of leftist group.

134 posted on 11/04/2005 4:15:20 PM PST by Black Tooth (The more people I meet, the more I like my dog.)
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To: DevSix
"A complete lack of a coherent and consistent message telling WHY Iraq is essential to the GWOT."

I disagree. I think the WH has been very consistant on this message. But for every WH statement repeating the truth, you hear 20 media statements repeating lies. It is similar to the current "outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame" refrain. Despite it now being completely obvious that Valerie Plame was not "outed", the media continues the refrain from hundreds of outlets all over the country. It is a lie, but how can the WH compete? No matter how many times the WH states the facts, if the media chooses to repeat a lie and ignore the truth, there isn't much the WH can do short of buying its own 24/7 news channel.

I agree that facts are persuasive, but one of those facts is that our only real source to indicate a shift in American opinion is media polls. And it is also a fact that those polls are fraudulantly biased against the administration. It is better to ignore those polls than dedicate a lot of money and effort to combat what is essentially a ruse.

The American public is a fickle beast. According to Rasmussen 35% of Americans think our country is in a recession! The approval rating of the Supreme Court is 40%! The same polling source indicates a mojority of Americans believe things are fair/good/excellent in Iraq, and 54% believe it would be harmful to pull our troops out of Iraq. Where should the RNC or the WH direct its media effort when the American public seems to be all over the map about everything? If our effort in Iraq has broader support than the Supreme Court, perhaps spending a lot of resources trying to influence opinion wouldn't be that useful.

135 posted on 11/04/2005 4:18:41 PM PST by Rokke
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To: RVN Airplane Driver
I have met the boy and he is good people

You see?
That is pitiful. Calling the President "boy".

136 posted on 11/04/2005 4:18:48 PM PST by carenot (Proud member of The Flying Skillet Brigade)
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To: Dont_Tread_On_Me_888
Now I have come on a further comment by you, and I see that you weren't paying attention in the last two elections. In 2000, two of the things that President Bush campaigned on was "No Child Left Behind" and prescription drug assistance for Medicare patients.

Quit trying to rewrite history.

137 posted on 11/04/2005 4:19:43 PM PST by Miss Marple (Lord, please look after Mozart Lover's son and keep him strong.)
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To: Rokke

You are in a time warp. We are talking about the present and future, not the past.

The near riots over Bush's pick of Harriet Miers showed that many conservatives were like a pressure valve that was building up and building up pressure over the illegal alien invasion, spending, etc., and when Bush picked Miers, the valve blew.

Today's poll rating of Bush is not due to the breeding of new RATs, but it is from conservatives who are fed up with Bush's Mr. Nice Guy approach that is harming this nation. We want a firm leader with firm conservative principles with a sane fiscal policy.

138 posted on 11/04/2005 4:23:11 PM PST by Dont_Tread_On_Me_888 (Bush's #1 priority Africa. #2 priority appease Fox and Mexico . . . USA priority #64.)
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To: Dolphy

Dolphy, exactly! Kristol is the same as the Dims....'it's Bush's fault'. So Bush is responsible for Kristol's "bullish call" either being early or wrong? When things are going well, Bill is there with that little smirk (I told you, so) but when things are not so good, according to him, he joins the negative chorus.

139 posted on 11/04/2005 4:25:36 PM PST by 4integrity
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To: Cicero
The problem with Specter is that he doesn't really answer to President Bush; he answers to Frist, who is NOT doing a good job.

I think Specter will change his schedule again soon. I imagine there will be a meeting in the Oval Office to make a few things plain to him. I don't take his statement as the last word.

140 posted on 11/04/2005 4:26:51 PM PST by Miss Marple (Lord, please look after Mozart Lover's son and keep him strong.)
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