Skip to comments.Pump Up the Volume: Finally the "nonpolitical" White House gets wise
Posted on 12/03/2005 6:17:25 AM PST by Pokey78
WE NOW KNOW WHAT WAS behind President Bush's mysterious refusal for so many months to respond to Democratic attacks on his Iraq policy--a refusal that came at great political cost to himself and to the American effort in Iraq. It wasn't that Bush was too focused on Social Security reform to bother. Nor did he believe Iraq was a drag on his presidency and should be downplayed. Rather, Bush had made a conscious decision after his reelection to be "nonpolitical" on the subject of Iraq. It is a decision he now regrets. And has reversed.
Here's how a senior White House aide explains the decision not to answer criticism of the administration's course in Iraq: "The strategic decision was to be forward-looking. The public was more interested in the future and not the past, since it was just hashed over during the election." The president didn't ignore the subject of Iraq entirely. He delivered a half-dozen speeches on Iraq and the war on terror, including an evening, prime-time address, in the first 10 months of 2005. He just didn't rebut partisan attacks.
Harm was done. "Obviously the bombardment of misleading ads and the earned media by MoveOn et al. had an impact," the Bush aide says, "and culminated during the Libby indictment and the [Democratic] stunt of the closed session of the Senate" on prewar intelligence. "That's when we pivoted."
By then--and we're talking about early November--Bush's job approval had plummeted. So had public support for the Iraq war. And there's a direct correlation
between the two. The president stood at 51 percent job approval in the Gallup poll when he was inaugurated to a second term last January and 52 percent in the Fox News survey. Now he's at 37 percent in Gallup, 42 percent in Fox.
Support for his Iraq policy did not fall as precipitously, but it was in gradual decline, and that accelerated. Gallup asks interviewees if the Iraq intervention was worth it. Forty-six percent said yes last January, 38 percent in November. When only a little more than one third of the country believes the most important national security policy of the era is worth pursuing, the president has a huge political problem. Even Republican members of Congress were getting queasy. Bush, with less sway in Washington today than 10 months ago, has been hard-put to reassure them.
Though the White House hasn't said so, there was more to the president's no-response decision than aides have let on. In Bush's defense, he's never routinely responded to attacks. And the successful election in Iraq on January 30 was followed by several months of euphoria about Iraq. There was hope the insurgency would collapse. It didn't.
I think the president, after a contentious first term, wanted to soften the partisan edge of his image and be more statesmanlike. His speeches on Iraq, tough-minded as they were, reflected that. And so did his willingness to reject cues from his conservative base of supporters and to offer, in public concessions, to compromise with his opponents.
In short, it was a purple detour, a blend of Republican red and Democratic blue. A White House official insists there was no specific decision to be less hard-nosed on domestic issues in the president's second term and drift to the center. But that happened, just as his approach to Democrats on Iraq was easing up. A mere coincidence? No way.
Next to Iraq, the most controversial item on Bush's agenda, especially among Democrats, is tax cuts. At the outset of 2005, he decided to put off a drive in Congress to make his deep tax cuts permanent, a move that upset conservatives. Later, the Bush administration steered the presidential tax commission away from radical tax reform. He also put aside the proposed amendment banning gay marriage, another red flag to Democrats and liberals but a favorite issue of conservatives.
On Social Security reform, he broke with his own strategy for winning congressional approval. The plan was to agree, but only as a last resort, to raise the ceiling on the amount of personal income subject to payroll taxes. Instead, Bush announced early on that he'd agree to lift the ceiling. He also backed progressive benefits reduction--the well-off would be hit the hardest--which is opposed by conservatives.
In filling vacancies on the Supreme Court, the president chose conservative nominees who wouldn't ignite instant opposition by Democrats. He took responsibility for the slow response to Hurricane Katrina, though the mayor of New Orleans and governor of Louisiana were more to blame. And so on. Overall, while Bush is a conservative, he often didn't act like one.
The nonpolitical strategy was a failure. Democrats picked up on none of his overtures. Once they began a campaign of accusing Bush of lying to the country about prewar intelligence to justify invading Iraq--an impeachable offense--Bush abandoned the strategy. The pivotal moment came after nine months of unanswered charges by Democrats
concerning prewar intelligence. The president was a slow learner.
On Veteran's Day, November 11, Bush fired back. And he and Vice President Cheney have continued to do so quite effectively. His poll numbers, measured by Fox News after the president's speech last week laying out his "plan for victory" in Iraq, showed strong improvement. Sure, it's only one poll, but his approval rating jumped six points in the Fox News survey, from 36 percent to 42 percent.
Is this the start of a Bush comeback? Could be. And there's even stronger evidence of a turnaround. Until Democrats began rallying to the call for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the debate was between Bush and the facts on the ground. Now it's between the president, who wants to withdraw troops when conditions in Iraq allow, and Democrats, who want to set a fast timetable for pullout and stick to it, no matter what. This debate Bush should win.
Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.
Republicans learn to defend themselves. Again.
Amazing, isn't it that the "strong on defense" party can be such wimps when it comes to fighting back against the "let's get along with every murderous dictator in the world but destoy every Republican with lies and slander" style Democrats?
Rove has Baseball Fitz after him. Still is...a little distracting.
He reminds me of Nixon, the poker player.
I predict that by midterm elections 2006, Bush and the Republicans will be flying high again.....troops will be leaving Iraq and the economy will continue to boom at 4% GDP.
IT IS ABOUT DAMN TIME.
What on earth were they thinking? The 'Rats are like AlQaeda: they view politeness and manners as weaknesses to be not only taken advantage of, but despised. People like these respect only one thing: power. Do not confuse "respect" with "like"--they are not the same.
The number one thing the President needs to learn from this and folks like Limbaugh have been saying for eons. If you make nicey nicey with Democrats, they never reciprocate, they attack. So move forward. Defend your position Mr. President and the American people will follow. It is that simple.
What the Hell were they thinking?
"The strategic decision was to be forward-looking. The public was more interested in the future and not the past, since it was just hashed over during the election." The president didn't ignore the subject of Iraq entirely. He delivered a half-dozen speeches on Iraq and the war on terror, including an evening, prime-time address, in the first 10 months of 2005. He just didn't rebut partisan attacks".
What wimps the GOP are! They are so pathetic, nerdy, sad, its embarassing. They are more afraid of the RATS than the terrorists.
This article ingored the 900lb gorilla. Guess? It starts with an "I" and ends in an "N"
Oh, yes they did. Each and every one.
They simply rejected them.
Is GWB getting "go along to get along" advice from GHWB II?
I think we are on the same page.
I thought this white house does not do "ploys"??? Whatever their stupidity, their idiotic plan was a "miserable failure"
and a joke.
As soon as GWB relaunched his shamnesty plan in February of this year, he was done and lame duck. He has no one to blame but himself.
We are definitely on the same page.
It runs in the family.
GHWB somehow managed to lose to Clinton despite winning the Cold War and Iraq I.
He raised taxes to appease the leftists and they turned around and used it against him.
The fact that Democrats are perverted baby killing socialist un American crooks is not something that has been recently dsicovered.
The only thing irresponsible is the White House PR department.
It could start correcting its absurd performance by accusing Kerry by name of giving comfort to and emboldening our enemy.
Then they could demand the identities of the 8 red bastards that supplied miltary secrets on pscyh ops to the LA Times (U.S. Military Covertly Pays to Run Stories in Iraqi Press) and jail the reporters if they don't comply.
Make the leftist press as much an enemy in the minds of the public as the ragheads.
The PR war will be won, but not by this group.
This is an interesting explanation for why the president let support for the war fall so dangerously and sadly low. Rove must have been more distracted that we thought because we haven't seen many mistakes like this one made by the administration.
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