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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: Patriot from Philly

"The Republicans were a sorry, weak mess on that one too."

Unfortunately, the Republican Senate includes cry baby Voinobitch and Chuck "please love me CNN, I am really like McCain " Hagel

81 posted on 11/04/2005 2:59:49 PM PST by Rosemont
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To: Rokke
I would suggest the RNC (who is continually raising funds) put some of that money toward Ads - those like are trying to start up -

Ad's which re-inform the American public about the need to stay the course in Iraq - Ad's that begin to reestablish why we moved on Iraq and that removing Saddam had more to do then just about WMD's (the WH and RNC have allowed the MSM to rewrite history with regard to the WMD equation of the war in Iraq).

On the WMD issue point out the simple fact that now at least we "know"! - This is a huge fact that is continually sweep under the rug - We now know for certain that Saddam can now longer pose a threat via the WMD equation (be it from his threats of a bluff or not).

There were over a dozen solid reasons we moved on Iraq - Finding out the certainty / existence / nonexistence of WMD's was only one of those dozen reasons. Reexplain this fact to the American public.

We can nuke the DEM's and MSM with facts regarding the GWOT (which includes Iraq). The RNC and WH just need to be proactive and work! Moving on Iraq was essential to the long term success of the GWOT. Establish this fact with the American public.

Sure it won't always be easy considering the MSM influence. However, what we are asking of our soldiers 24/7 is FAR from easy as well - But I see no intensity out of the WH or RNC. None. And I find that pathetic.

With all this said, I still firmly believe (know) that the majority of the American people fully stand behind the GWOT (including Iraq) - The MSM silly weighted polls are meaningless (to a degree). However, the lack of intensity out of the WH and RNC still burns me up with regard to setting the record straight concerning the GWOT.

82 posted on 11/04/2005 3:00:13 PM PST by SevenMinusOne
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To: VictoryGal
Listen to you guys. Bush won two presidential elections by doing EXACTLY what he is doing now.

The vast majority of americans support him. (lying media polls not withstanding.) His tactic seems to be- let others defend him while he stays above the gutter wars. I don't like it either, but can any of you possibly deny that it works?

He placed Roberts on the SCOTUS and Alito is sure to follow. He is succeeding in bringing democracy to Iraq. He is much more help than hinderance to other Republican candiates, i.e. increasing majorities at all levels.

The media can sure make it sound as though he is in trouble. ("Can Bush rebound? With slipping poll numbers due to Katrina response, Iraq quagmire, Harriet Meiers fiasco, Libby indictment, Delay indictment, Frist investigation, etc....") But you have to know that the White House is doing its own polling and if the numbers were really that bad they would change tactics.

Doncha think?

83 posted on 11/04/2005 3:00:41 PM PST by getitright (There's no peace in appeasement.)
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To: RightWhale
The Pres shouldn't need to defend himself while he is in office. He has other, more urgent matters for his attention

But he's not attending to them either. The President has the biggest bully pulpit in the world. He doesnt have to do the negative work of defending himeself but he should be out there daily in a strong positive way pushing his agenda. Where has he spent his time recently? Touring New Orleans four or five times to make up for not watching TV, telling us that Ms Miers was the best qualified person in the US that he could find to nominate to the Supreme COurt, to say he was sorry to receive Scotter Libbys resignation, to say he cant comment on Rove because there is an ongoing investigation, talking about taking people's tax deductions away from them to come up with a simpler tax, and talking about Bird Flu (half dont believe its an issue and will blame Bush regardless of what he does, other half are scared shitless about it and immediately tune him out). DOesnt sound like a positive program to me.

84 posted on 11/04/2005 3:02:43 PM PST by Dave S
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To: Rokke
Exactly what can the WH and RNC do with regard to the PR war and Iraq that they aren't already doing? Remember, they don't own the media.

Well if the President went to all these safe places where we are doing so much good in Iraq you can bet the press would be there with him. And as long as they werent hit by a missle or IED, the reports would be pretty positive. The press would have to cover it otherwise they wouldnt have any thing to give their network to account for their time that day.

85 posted on 11/04/2005 3:06:47 PM PST by Dave S
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To: jmc1969

Bush needs a new spokesperson. Sorry Scott, but you're not getting the job done with your limp wrist treatement of the White House press crops...

86 posted on 11/04/2005 3:07:17 PM PST by steel_resolve
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To: Steve_Seattle
Bush DID make a pretty good WOT speech about two months ago, but the media basically ignored it.

Well how did it differ from the other forty or so such WOT speeches? News is that, its new(s).

87 posted on 11/04/2005 3:07:34 PM PST by Dave S
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To: samtheman
I'm not saying Bush should be personally getting into nitpicking arguments with every lying snot-nosed NYT reporter --- or even every lying snot-nosed RAT senator, for that matter --- but he should occasionally try to smack them down, as a group, once in a while

Donald Rumsfeld for White House Press Secretary?

88 posted on 11/04/2005 3:07:59 PM PST by getitright (There's no peace in appeasement.)
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To: Dems_R_Losers

Karen Hughes is magnificent. Where's she been?

89 posted on 11/04/2005 3:10:21 PM PST by getitright (There's no peace in appeasement.)
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To: getitright
The vast majority of americans support him. (lying media polls not withstanding.)

Other than WOT he never had more than just a few percent over 50%. That is far from a vast majority and its clear that his support is well below that now.

90 posted on 11/04/2005 3:11:18 PM PST by Dave S
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To: Patriot from Philly
"Apparently, we are not doing enough in either Syria or Iran because insurgents continue to pour across the border from Syria and just today, we announced that explosives are coming from Iran. That may account for the increase in deaths of our troops by IED's in October."

You say you are stating facts? What facts? Give me some facts to back up statements like "insurgents continue to pour across the border from Syria." How many? Is it more or less than one year ago? How many are Syrian? More importantly, is the Syrian government more or less stable today than it was one year ago? How about the Iranian government? Don't give me MSM talking points. Lets discuss actual facts.

"You need to realize that if Bush continues to slide in the polls he will lose his effectiveness with our allies, with the American people, with the Republicans in Congress."

And you need to give up your faith in phony media polls. Polls that weight democrats 50% and Republicans at 38%. If you believe these polls, you are quite literally ignorant. Educate yourself beyond the media storyline. If Bush made decisions based on phony media polls and popularity contests he'd be proclaiming the therapeutic wonders of cross dressing and the health benefits of late term abortions.

"I would have preferred that the ambassador remind our Spanish friends that the US has an American Service member Protection Act and will enforce it. Or advise them that we will increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on their government if they don't void the warrants. Promises of enduring friendship didn't cut it with me."

I think it is safe to say you know nothing about international diplomacy. What is said in public usually has nothing to do with what is stated in private.

"That's weakness. That's President Bush in November of 2005. I want it to change"

Again, you might call it name calling, but that does not change the fact that you are in many respects ignorant about what you are talking about. Bush hasn't changed. You are spending too much time listening to the media.

91 posted on 11/04/2005 3:12:31 PM PST by Rokke
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To: My2Cents
but who, really, is THE point person in the Senate to support Bush's nominees?

John McCain?

Arlen Specter?

Jim Jeffords?

92 posted on 11/04/2005 3:13:32 PM PST by getitright (There's no peace in appeasement.)
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To: getitright
But you have to know that the White House is doing its own polling and if the numbers were really that bad they would change tactics. Doncha think?

You say that after Bush presented Miers as the best qualified person he could find to nominate to the Supreme Court. I dont know if the WH is doing any polling but Rove must be too busy with his lawyer to be interpreting the results for the PResident.

93 posted on 11/04/2005 3:14:14 PM PST by Dave S
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To: Patriotic Bostonian
You are not a Bush supporter.

I'm not a Bush supporter. I guess that makes me a right wing conservative, and you a big government, left leaning Republican.

94 posted on 11/04/2005 3:14:34 PM PST by Black Tooth (The more people I meet, the more I like my dog.)
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To: CommieCutter
These Rats need to pay for their treason. This is pathetic!!!

Yes, and so is President Bush.

I am ashamed for him.

95 posted on 11/04/2005 3:14:57 PM PST by carenot (Proud member of The Flying Skillet Brigade)
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To: Dave S

Tip of the iceberg. We knew what we were going to get, but we had to choose in '00. He is a moderate, no question about that. His power is surprisingly limited. If we wanted a bully pulpit guy, we could have elected Kerry; we could elect Hillary in '08 for the same reason. Maybe we should be glad we have somebody that doesn't need to beat us every day with his bully pulpit like Clinton did. So he is not a huge intellect and never read Cicero and never heard of Scipio: Americans don't go for that kind of thing anyway. Rather than cutting him down, shouldn't we be looking ahead? We will have to go through this election process again very, very soon, and it doesn't look like anybody is getting up for the job ahead. Time is wasting.

96 posted on 11/04/2005 3:15:58 PM PST by RightWhale (Repeal the law of the excluded middle)
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To: jmc1969

The Republican leadership except for DeLay seems weak. Why was Sandy Burglar let off the hook so easily? Why was the Rockefeller memo not exposed to the degree it should've been? Why the "my feelings are hurt" defense to the Reid/ Dick Turban temper tantrum? Why not point out that Hillary, Kerry, Lieberman... were AT LEAST as hawkish as GWB on Iraq. There is no reason to be afraid of the Dems and their angry, abortionist, judicial activist, race baiting, socialist, Gay Left base. The fact that Howard Dean and S.F. Democrat Nancy Pelosi can put the majority party on the defensive is embarrassing.

97 posted on 11/04/2005 3:16:52 PM PST by Rosemont
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To: Dont_Tread_On_Me_888
In short, Bush is Mr. Nice Guy in an arena where nice guys finish last.

My recollection of the past to presidential elections is quite different from yours. In fact it seems to me that he won them both by doing exactly what he is doing now. The darn weakling.

98 posted on 11/04/2005 3:18:29 PM PST by getitright (There's no peace in appeasement.)
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To: jmc1969
I think it was in Bush's first year as president that I came to the conclusion that he is the "Anti-Clinton" -- that is to say that GW Bush is everything that Bill Clinton isn't, and wasn't: honest, moral, sincere, humble, serious, focused, substantive, determined, and relevent. But there is one characteristic of Clinton's presidency where he excelled over GW Bush, and that's in waging the PR battle. The one thing that characterized Clinton's presidency is that it was an eight-year, 24-hour/7-day a week political campaign. Clinton was always on the stump. He had his "War Room," and his daily message. He put great effort into getting his message out each day, even when for eight solid years, that message was vacuous drivel. While this was Clinton's one "strength," in truth I think it was another weakness, in that a president is elected to lead, not self-promote. As with everything about him, Clinton obsessed about getting out his message. But say what we will about Clinton, most would have to admit that guy knew how to campaign -- which is why his entire term in office was nothing but a perpetual campaign. He was good. Which is why Clinton is viewed by some as being a good president, even though he accomplished absolutely nothing during his presidency.

While Clinton obviously went over-board with the self-promotion, I think the Bush White House could at least learn some lessons from him: develop a talking point, and hammer it home until is begins to resonate with the people. And it isn't valid to simply throw up our hands and say, "Well, the media is against him." The media was against Reagan, too, but Reagan had the ability to talk over the heads of the news media, directly to the people. Bush has shown flashes of brilliance and eloquence when he speaks directly to the American people. He's not as much of a doofus in the ability to express himself that some of his supporters seem to believe. He has the skills, vision, and leadership qualities to win support for his policies. But it isn't happening. It's not an impossible objective, but someone in the White House needs to figure out a way to sharpen their overall PR ability, or Bush's presidency will end up like Truman's -- faintly supported at the end of its term in office, only to regain stature and respect a generation later.

99 posted on 11/04/2005 3:19:02 PM PST by My2Cents (Dead people voting is the closest the Democrats come to believing in eternal life.)
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To: getitright

Certainly not Arlen Specter.

100 posted on 11/04/2005 3:20:01 PM PST by My2Cents (Dead people voting is the closest the Democrats come to believing in eternal life.)
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