A good start -- Bush's speech
Tim Birdnow, writing on his blog today, has some good thoughts on Bush's speech last night.
My own reactions pretty much echo Tim's, who sees a need for a stronger media message from the Bush administration regarding the war, among other things.
I wish, for instance, that the Bush administration would make better use of Dick Cheney, who always makes a convincing case and does it with a sense of calm and competent authority that is sorely lacking in any of his other representatives. He needs to be brought out of his secure location and put front stage and center to make the administration's case.
This would go a long way toward easing the sense that the Bush administration has moved on and is letting the war play out without much attention to the public reaction to it. If they are not careful, this reaction will redound badly on the Republicans in the mid-term election. Even die-hard supporters of the effort in Iraq can't be expected to weather the storms of endless negative media spin on their own without regular pep talks from representatives of the administration -- if not from the president himself on a regular basis. (Remember Churchill and Roosevelt during WWII? They knew that half the battle was keeping up morale at home.) Once the spin and the propaganda gets out of control where public opinion is concerned, as was so well stated by Herb Meyer in his recent "An Open Letter to the President", the war can be lost at home even while we may be winning on the ground. In this sense, perception is more important than the reality on the ground. As Herb points out, that is what happened in Vietnam -- we won the war on the ground -- but lost it in the media coverage and the public perception.
Social Security reform has been a big flop in the public relations department, and Bush should stop flogging a dead horse with these staged Social Security road shows and move on.
During last night's speech there were uncomfortable moments when it seemed that Bush was delivering his speech by rote -- gazing into the middle distance and reading a prepared script without his heart being in it. On a few occasions he seemed to become emotionally engaged and waxed passionate on a few of the points he was making and actually seemed to be talking TO the audience, rather than simply reciting a familiar laundry list of reasons why we are in Iraq.
It was during those moments that I too found myself becoming engaged and listening more closely. I was hoping he would make some new arguments or offer new information which would make his case more convincingly for those Americans, who, even though they support the war effort, may be flagging in their belief in the effort and may be discouraged by the daily barrage of negative information from the mainstream press and the mounting casualties. We are human -- the daily death toll wears on our souls and breaks our hearts. We are a compassionate people. We must be convinced that the administration is aware of this national mood and shares our concern -- but is confident in eventual victory and is laying out a convincing plan that will achieve it. The administration must formulate a consistent and effective war of ideas and messages to counter the endless defeatist propaganda that we wake up to daily. The president should have addressed this head on.
It makes me feel uneasy that my Commander in Chief appears to be somewhat disengaged and uninterested in the progress of a war which is still underway. I'm afraid Bush's speech didn't do much to allay that sense I have that his heart is no longer really in it, and that he is content to let the generals finish the job while he moves on to other issues. He should be framing the issues on the war on a daily basis, either personally or through competent surrogates, as Tim said -- we need a media war to match the war on the ground. A speech every six months is not going to do it -- but
it was a start -- but the President still has a long way to go.
Here are Tim's thoughts:
It was a good speech, and he made a pretty compelling case-John Tabin agrees in his article at TAS today. Still, I don`t understand why the President refuses to address the border issues; most of our recent military operations have occured in westernmost Iraq, where we have been attacking terrorists trying to get across the border into (and out of) Syria. I maintain that we will not be able to secure the country as long as Iran and Syria act as sanctuaries for Jihadists. For some maddening reason Mr. Bush does not want to point this out, or deal with it.
. . . Meanwhile, PBS dragged out every moth-eaten relic from Vietnam who managed to deny reality in ways I didn`t think possible. They denied Jihadists were working in Iraq, they denied we had made any plans, they denied we were gaining any ground, they claimed that the President`s use of the word terrorism was wrong because these were locals fighting for liberty (an echo of Michael Moore-on`s Minutemen comment). Even Rich Lowery from National Review seemed to have the life sucked out of him, making weak and innocuous comments so as not to disagree with the `60`s love in. It was disgraceful.
4. The President`s speech may help in the short term to boost public support, but he has got to develop a better communication team for his administration. This has been the problem Bush has had all along, and he doesn`t seem to get it. Condi Rice is not the person to use as a point-man for the Administration`s media face. Clinton, ever media conscious, had a slew of people whose sole purpose was to put a happy face on his misadventures. Carville, Begala, Morris, et. al. hovered about to deal with the media in times of need, while Bush tried to use Powell (he is a nice man, but has the personality of a stone), Rice, and other, well, DOERS. They are not professionals at manipulating the media, and it has always shown. Couple that with the fact that President Bush has an easygoing management style (he does not crush dissent in his administration) and you have a recipe for propoganda disaster. The President just can`t overcome the bias in the press with a group of amateurs. He needs a professional staff which is media-savvy-and he needs to reinforce his message regularly.
All-in-all, I would say the President helped his case last night. However, he still has much to do.