October 28, 2005

Bush's communication breakdown.

A Miers post-mortem from the Wall Street Journal:
Nothing is more important than that President Bush preserve sufficient standing with the public to see this commitment [in Iraq] through. The Miers nomination threatened that standing, and its withdrawal restores the conservative political support he will need to defend him against daily opposition to his 9/11 presidency.

Still, there is a lesson from the Miers nomination relevant to whether the president succeeds in Iraq and with the policy beneath it. His government has to do a better job of communicating the necessity and the substance of this action. The troops deserve better on this score. Just as the Miers nomination was a mystery and was allowed to remain a mystery, the war in Iraq most of the time has been allowed to drift through the mind of the American public on not much more than al-Zarqawi's news budget for the Western media. Just as the Miers nomination failed because of inadequate explanation, Iraq too may falter for the same reason. It should not.
Well put. I think the Miers nomination was always a bad one, but the failure to explain it was even worse, and worse than that is Bush's failure to communicate persuasively about the war in Iraq. Why is he acting like a tired and beaten man? Talk to us!

58 comments:

Sloanasaurus said...

Did you not read Bush's speech from a few days ago?

How ridiculous! The Iraq war is virtually won. The January 31 elections proved that and the October 15 elections solidified it.

The message will be clear after the December 15th elections and the troops start pulling out. All of a sudden, people will start realizing that Iraq is a monumental victory. All of a sudden the troops will be home, the casualty rates will go to zero and Iraq will be an independent a free nation.

Don't people realize that the plan in Iraq is actually working? You actually had Iraqi's elect their own leaders who drafted their own constitution and ratified it 80% who are now going to elect their own permanent government. This in a part of the world that three years ago was in total darkness. This was the plan. And this plan is working. All the time tables have been met. Can anyone think of a historical comparative that was equally successful? There isn't one. Don't people realize that Iraq is going to be the model of success that all future endeavors will be compared to?

Step back for a moment and examine what is going on there from a wide view.

Come on! How many times more can Bush say it.

Ann Althouse said...

Sloan: He is not reaching people! It is partly the fault of the media, but he is just not doing enough.

Sloanasaurus said...

I am not sure if he ever will be able to get through the media filter. He will have to rely on direct communication during election season (as Ronald Reagan did). I think we need a few more years of the alternative media to equal the playing field. The liberal media still dominates, and they oppose the war and Bush.

In 2012, it will be very different.

olivia1 said...

Sometimes I feel that the previous and current presidencies are like Goldilocks and the three bears. Clinton could talk the talk...lordy, lordy...could the words flow but he didn't walk the walk. He had no backbone to make hard choices and stick with them. He just wafted about following the polls and trying to stay loved. George W. , of course, makes tough choices and is steadfast and resolute but, unless he is giving a pre written speech, his language and communication skills are abysmal. Next time around our country needs someone who is "just right". I guess that's why I lean a bit towards Rudy. I so yearn for someone who can handle a press conference or an interview and have words flow fluidly and thoughts expressed in complete sentences. Sigh.

JBlog said...

Difficult to reach people when the principle path is through media with a "gotcha" mentality about everything.

I can't wait for the Fitzpatrick indictments today -- my suspicion is that its going to be the biggest airball so far this century.

And frankly, I never thought Miers was a bad choice, perhaps not the best, but not bad.

By fighting the president on this, we've hurt our own cause and given the Democrats ammo to use against us -- when we make people like Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy (Ted Kennedy, for heaven's sake!)look even, moderate and reasonable, we have a problem.

Pastor_Jeff said...

Olivia,

Good points. I am glad that, given the choices, Bush is President. But I can hardly stand to listen to his speeches. He has never been that good in front of a microphone or speaking to large audiences. He has good things to say, but he just struggles to get them across in a powerful way.

And the job wears on you. In addition to all the usual responsibilities, imagine being called Hitler every day and how strong you'd have to be to put up with it.

Fundamentally, I don't think Bush was made for the modern, media-driven nature of the job in the way Clinton was. WJC loves speaking, loves being in the spotlight, loved being President and probably would still love to be. I think Bush will happily retire to Crawford and be glad of it.

Brando said...

It would probably help if the communication strateties Bush and his PR elves like Rove put forth had more connetion to reality and truthfulness. But no, Bush has relied on the "all spin all the time" and as a result he has lost all his credibility. Bush has nobody to blame but himself for his inability to connect to people. Quite simply, Bush is not a man of his word nor of integrity. People don't trust him, nor should they.

Scipio said...

JBlog,

Much as I revile Schumer, he's the only Dem to weigh in on the Miers nomination with any integrity.

And for the record, we didn't make Schumer and Kennedy look moderate. Bush's nomination of Miers did that.

To my mind, the Miers situation amusingly recasts the failed attempt of Mississippi's famously stupid and corrupt lieutenant governor Amy Tuck to become a lawyer. She failed the bar thrice, sued the bar to gain admission and lost, and failed to get a private bill passed in the state legislature to declare herself and a friend of hers lawyers by default.

Accepting that Miers is no idiot (unlike Tuck), consider how pathetic it would have been if the ABA declared her unqualified, since she was the primary architect of excising ABA qualification from the formal process of advise and consent. Now that would have been devastating; almost as devastating as the idea that the nominee needs to be a woman, and that we need to always have at least one black justice and two women justices. If Bush is not going to nominate the best candidates or a conservative superstar, then we're no worse off with a court full of Clinton appointees.

gj said...

How do we account for Bush's failure to adequately explain the Iraq War and the nomination of Harriet Meirs?
(a) He's not a very good communicator;
(b) They were bad decisions, and so they cannot be explained simply and satisfactorily;
(c) Both of the above.

Most of the commenters have been choosing (a), but isn't that akin to shooting the messenger?

Sloanasaurus said...

gi, So why was the Iraq war a bad decision? You seem pretty smart. Tell us...

Mary said...

sloanasaurus wrote:

"All of a sudden, people will start realizing that Iraq is a monumental victory. All of a sudden ... Iraq will be an independent a free nation."

"Don't people realize that the plan in Iraq is actually working? ... And this plan is working. All the time tables have been met. ... Don't people realize that Iraq is going to be the model of success that all future endeavors will be compared to?"
-----

Isn't it pretty to think so?

Continue to pray for the people of Iraq, poor pawns. Imagine what they're in for when our soldiers are gone for good.

Sloanasaurus said...

"...Imagine what they're in for when our soldiers are gone for good...."


I don't get that. What does that mean. On what basis can you make such a statement? Can you back up that assertion?

Mary said...

sloan wrote:
"I don't get that. What does that mean. On what basis can you make such a statement? Can you back up that assertion? "
----

Unfortunately, we won't see what happens to "Iraq" or the people living there after American soldiers are gone, until after our withdrawal.

I don't think "rebuilding" and "independence" respects a timeline.

I just hope we don't blame them -- Iraqi police and civilians -- too much for failing to be ready to stand on their own, once we're gone. That would be too much like kicking a downed man, for my taste.

JBlog said...

I agree -- if nothing else, we've given the Iraqi people a shot at democracy. We're doing what we can, but eventually they're going to take it and run.

It has the potential to be far better than it was, and pursuing it was far better than doing nothing.

But no outcome is a sure thing.

If you want a guarantee, buy a muffler.

ShadyCharacter said...

sloan, can't you see it? A ruthless dictator with a name like Haddam Sussein will rise to power and crush the shiites and kurds and rule with an iron fist for 20 years...

Wait, that's the status quo people like mary were fighting to maintain before the war, wasn't it?

Do tell us then, mary, what are those poor pawns (ps, would you ever call a european population pawns, or are pawns only those non-european people who are inherently not fit for self-rule?)have to look forward to.

:)

ShadyCharacter said...

What Bush identified as the "soft bigotry of low expectations" applies in this case as well. And it is bigotry. All these leftists who don't believe arabs or africans either deserve or are capable of maintaing a functional democracy are simply, well, you know...

Am I wrong mary?

EddieP said...

Mary, the people of Iraq will be fine. Our troops won't be gone in your lifetime. We still have troops in Germany and Japan after 60 years and in Korea after 50 years, Iraq is in the middle of a seething Middle East which is at least a couple of generations before it turns civil. It is in our own best interests to have them there. There will be fewer than now, but NO US president will want, or be able, to pull them out completely. I don't care what Kerry says.

ShadyCharacter said...

Mary writes:

"I just hope we don't blame them -- Iraqi police and civilians -- too much for failing to be ready to stand on their own, once we're gone."

So, these poor benighted natives can't stand up on their own once the white man leaves?

Is there another explanation for your comment here? I'd love to hear it. Seriously, what EXACTLY is your point?

Mary said...

My point is,

We should have respected them enough to leave them alone to work out their troubles in the first place.
---
I hope you're right, eddiep.

PatCA said...

What EddieP said!


Bush's last two speeches were tremendous--and I say that as someone who voted for him out of desperation. Unfortunately, the media didn't cover them. If he made these same addresses to the nation calling out radical Islam, would CAIR and the Dems really bury him? I don't know, but it's worth finding out.

All I hear from the opposition, even here, is that no war is worth it that takes longer than a couple of months or kills anyone. We can have this little war now or a big one later (with a nuclear Iran?). There is no bubble big enough to insulate us from the world. History teaches us that.

Goesh said...

The troops deserve a better explanation? They know why they are there, just ask them or read their blogs. They don't need some pundit speaking for them and they sure the hell don't regard themselves as victims. They are best trained, equiped and educated soldiers in our history, using some extremely complex technology with a sophisicated and efficient logistical support system backing them up. They know it and the jihadis know it and so does the rest of the world. Engage, kill, apprehend, disrupt, preempt and degrade enemy capability. Second to that is providing a security presence for reconstruction, training and actual hands-on, improvised reconstruction on behalf of the Iraqi people at the local level. Imagine Americans doing that for low pay while believing it is necessary. How fucking awful.

LarryK said...

Communication is never going to be Bush's strong suit, and he's not going to get a fair shake from the MSM, but the failure to communicate the successes of his administration has gotten ridiculous. He can learn from both Clinton and Reagan on this point i.e. like Clinton, send someone out to meet the press and take credit for anything good that takes place on his watch (like today's GDP announcement), and like Reagan, bypass the normal media channels and make regular, televised addresses that describe the progress on major initiatives like the War. It's easy for the public to lose sight of the big picture given the media's hostility, and the White House has definitely got to get more pro-active on this score.

Hunter McDaniel said...

Public speaking is not one of Bush's natural strengths. He does an adequate job, but his real strengths are in small-group settings - like where the President actually spends most of his working time.

I think Bush decided long ago that the media were actively hostile and he would not play the game by their rules. They have deliberately misunderstood both the justification for the Iraq war and the actual progress of the conflict in the field.

I wish it weren't so, but I can't see where Bush's assessment is incorrect.

Meade said...

Best case scenario: Cheney gets indicted (and is acquitted), Condoleeza becomes W's vice president, W resigns and retires to his Texas ranch.

vnjagvet said...

His speech yesterday was pretty good, as was the one this morning. These were not covered events. The one last week was excellent. Not a blip on the radar of the "national" press or television was heard. Cable news covered it pretty well, but that's about it.

Contrast that to the coverage of daily IED explosions in Iraq. There is a real barrier to getting any positive message relating to the war across to the general public.

Having said that, it is no excuse. More attention should be given to getting out the message for the sake of the troops who are fighting the battles. This is part of wartime political leadership. Wars cannot be fought without public support.

But how should that be done without looking like the government is setting up a ministry of propaganda? Private parties make the final decisions in this country about what gets out to the public. That is our understanding of the dictates of freedom of the press.

The dilemma, then, is how to accomodate freedom of the press in time of war.

This was not a problem during World War II because the press, hollywood and the government were all working together for the defeat of a common enemy. That was pretty much the same situation with Korea. Since Vietnam, the situation changed creating the dilemma, which continues to this day.

A charismatic leader like a Roosevelt, a Kennedy, a Reagan or even a Clinton, can reach out to the public by dint of their personality.

A less charismatic leader like a Truman, a Johnson, a Nixon, a Carter, a Ford or a Bush must find other means to cut through the barrier. Up to now, no one has found those means.

Mr. T. said...

I'm a supporter of President Bush, but as much as I want to bash the MSM, one can't help but notice that he's not good at articulating his positions. The Gipper faced a similarly antagonistic media, but he was generally able to go around it and connect with the people. Bush just doesn't have that skill.

Mr. T. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JBlog said...

Plame Grand Jury rulings are out -- Scooter Libby on five counts, ostensibly for forgetting when he first heard Plame's name

No charges that either he or Rove leaked Plame's secret identity.

Airball!

leeontheroad said...

I agree with those who point out that it's the President's *job* (directly and through others) to communicate a plan to implement what he promised just a year ago in the election, Further, having done so fairly recently, I don't buy that the problems now are the fault of the MSM.

It may be that the Pres. would like to retire ot the ranch , but he ran for re-election, there are more than a hundred thousand troops at war: "I'm tired" is not acceptable.

I didn't vote for the man, but I also didn't expect a series of bungles, especially from the vaunted media machine that has been this white house team. And it's very easy to replace those team members; they're appointed and many are not subject to confirmation, either.

The impression of tiredness and distraction bodes ill for foreign and domestic policy.

JBlog said...

Is he tired and distracted?

Or is that he just doesn't give a crap what people who hate him think anyway?

If so, how refreshing.

anselm said...

Bush is a man without strong convictions, other than his personal evangelism. He is also allergic to detail. Yet conviction and appreciation/communication of detail are what he needs to highlight the positive aspects of his own policies.

Right now, he could be barreling his message through, as a stronger leader would: focusing in on Iraq and the economy, whacking these issues back into his detractors' court. But the flack is too heavy, and he sees it as a P.R. slog. If he "doesn't care what people think", it's more because he's unwilling to work to make his case.

The man is willing to take risks, and some of them are paying off, but at the end of the day he is still a dilletante!

Jake said...

JBlog;

I had a long explanation on Bush but you said it much better than I did. He could care less what the MSM or the crazed left says about him.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

There are only five men alive who know the burdens of the office of President...and only one--WJC--who knows the burden of a second term.

I think it's time to send in the female schpin-mistresses: Karen Hughes, Peggy Noonan, Mary Matalin, etc. The administration needs a salesperson in front of the cameras EVERY day. And I just tune out when it's the talking points in the press briefing room behind a podium, in front of the blue curtain.

JBlog said...

A risk-taking dilettante?

Isn't that kind of a contradiction in terms?

I don't think you're using that word correctly.

Sloanasaurus said...

"...We should have respected them enough to leave them alone to work out their troubles in the first place...."

There were quite a few Iraqi's who wanted us to come and help kick out Saddam. I guess you must be talking about the ones who wanted to keep Saddam. Bummer for them I guess.

Ann Althouse said...

When Bush originally ran for office in 2000, there were reports of him needing a lot of rest time and getting tired. I was for Gore back then, and I really thought Bush would fail because he just wouldn't hold up through the campaign, especially with the debates in the end. Now, I'm worried again that he has a problem with getting tired.

JBlog said...

To Ruth Ann's point -- I'd proposed the opposite.

Instead of send more and better salespeople to talk to the MSM, I'd send fewer.

And establish other methods of communicating from the White House, via blogs, podcasts, etc.

The president delivering a weekly podcast or having a daily blog. Can you imagine?

Mary said...

"Now, I'm worried again that he has a problem with getting tired."
---
Before you start a job, you have to honestly evaluate if you have the resources, if you have it in you, to finish properly.

If not, you really shouldn't undertake the project until you have the time and resources to see it through. This often involves a realistic plan of action.

All the cheerleading in the world won't make up for a realistic plan of action. Once you have such a plan, you go out and sell the people whose help you will need to see it through to the end.

Sounds like many things in this administration have not been properly thought through...

Pastor_Jeff said...

JBlog,

I think Anselm's use of dilletante is accurate and appropriate. Bush seems to be dabbling. I think he he's willing to take risks, but he seems less interested in the daily details needed to keep the project moving forward. It's easy to lose sight of the big picture and let others set the agenda. That's where the leader has to keep communicating the vision, celebrating successes, and addressing challenges.

I think the White House wants to keep selling the same vision without workinh hard enough at showing successes or candidly addressing what has been perceived as setbacks.

I think it's fair to say Bush is not a detail person. It may be that he loses interest and energy when the discussion moves to the details. The MSM is focusing on selected details in Iraq. He's being nibbled to death by ducks, and it seems like he's letting it happen.

JBlog said...

Well by my definition, risk-takers don't dabble, and dabblers don't take risks.

Dabbling, to me, implies an aversion to risk and a failure to commit. I don't think either of those hold in the case of the president.

You could claim he's not as familiar with the details as he should be, but I don't that's the same as dabbling.

One can become TOO mired in the details too, incidentally -- shades of LBJ in the White House basement at midnight picking North Vietnamese bombing targets.

Tom said...

I don’t think Bush is much interested in communication because Bush doesn’t care what anybody else thinks. He’s going to do what he wants, and what he thinks God wants him to do, regardless of opinion, and that has both good sides and bad sides. This lack of interest didn’t hurt him much after Sept. 11, when most Americans were willing to hitch their wagons to his pick-up and give him the benefit of the doubt. But now that the crap is really starting to pile up, most Americans want more than just “trust me,” and he needs to realize that if he wants to maintain an authoritative presidency. But as Scowcroft and Sununu pointed out recently, that lack of interest in what other people think often borders on disrespect, and I’m not sure he’s really interested in communicating with anyone outside the choir he’s already been singing to. As he sees it, he doesn’t need to explain himself to anyone but God. The problem is, while that might work in religion, it doesn’t in politics.

And as to the hostility of the media, yes, that’s true, but it’s a fact of post-Watergate life in America, as Carter, Reagan, 41 and Clinton can attest. But Reagan and the post-Gergen Clinton figured out how to work around that hostility and had mostly productive presidencies as a result. Carter and 41 could not, and are not remembered terribly fondly as a result (although I was amused, when watching the post-season baseball games played in Houston, to see Barbara and her shock of white hair in the upper right hand corner of the screen whenever they showed a shot from the centerfield camera).

knoxgirl said...

I agree with commenters who say it's an uphill battle against a media who is completely anti-anything-and-everything-Bush does. But I am also very frustrated and agree that Bush needs to try harder.

I feel bad for Bush because he's probably like, "Things in Iraq are actually not going too badly now, and the media STILL acts like it's DoomsDay. Nothing's good enough!" But guess what, he's president, he needs to suck it up... or his handlers need to get on the ball and get the good news out there. Unfortunately, whether it's "spin" or passionately held convictions, republicans suck at communicating their message.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Jblog--I'd be fascinated by a presidential blog or podcast. It's a good idea, but his problem is HIS communication, so putting HIM out into the blogosphere or pod-cast-osphere would just be putting him in the same trick-bag. And he does a weekly radio comment, but who listens to that? I recall reading that he was an avid emailer with his daughters, until he ran for president and had to cease all electronic communications [safety? identity security? legal issues? Can't recall why]. Recently, wonderkid blogger Patrick Ruffini went to work for either the GOP or the White House [again, can't remember which] to set up a policy blog.

But as to W's Blog,to quote 41: 'not gonna' do it. Wouldn't be prudent.. at.. this... JUNCture.'

Synova said...

Firstly, it always seems as though what is *now* will continue into the future. I honestly think that Miers will be forgotten quickly, maybe a matter of days, certainly no more than a couple weeks. (She's not a cute blond co-ed, afterall.)

Brando: "...he has lost all his credibility."

Not at all true. You have to have credibility before you can lose it. Those who thought he was credible before, still think so. Those who don't think he has any credibility, never did.

That doesn't mean people are happy with him all the time. That's a different issue.

Mary, if you worry about what will happen to the Iraqis when we leave, might I assume that you lobby to make sure we don't abandon them?

JBlog said...

True -- radio -- that's SOOO last century.

But a Podcast might be cool -- my company is doing them on a series of issues -- specifically NOT trying to sell product -- and people are downloading them.

As to the blog thing and security and stuff -- those are technical issues. They get fixed.

In the current environment, the White House couldn't get a positive message into the media with a pry bar, so I think they've hunkered down while quietly addressing the Miers nomination and waiting for the Plame affair to blow over (which appears to be happening).

I'm not sure I buy the premise that the problem is that Bush is a poor communicator -- granted he's no silver-tongued devil. But I think the larger problem is he couldn't save orphans from a burning building without the media finding fault with it.

So if he disintermediates the media and takes his message directly to readers, viewers and listeners, and I think he's at least got a shot. Note that his televised speeches typically do pretty well.

anselm said...

He's not an inept commmunicator, but he has no intellectual versatility. He is the talking points president, reciting the same phrases that suggest a specific strategy.

Clearly that has been bluntly effective at times, e.g. on the campaign trail against a squishy, long-winded opponent, or hammering home the case for the GWOT.

But ironically, he has to be quicker on his feet in claiming incremental successes and picking up gradual support, than when taking on the whole world over largely ideologically-driven issues.

It's a bit late for him to act "above the fray", or for his supporters to make such an excuse for his failure to engage. Despite appearances otherwise, I believe that he can "turn the corner," and that some of his haters will let WMD bygones be bygones, if he can calmly bludgeon his detractors with facts and pragmatism.

Until then, blaming the media is as logical and effective as blaming the weather.

gj said...

Sloanasaurus, you ask why was the Iraq war was a bad decision.

I think the burden of proof should be in the other direction. If a leader cannot articulate a compelling case then the war should not be engaged.

I don't believe that war should be the default option.

Mary said...

"Mary, if you worry about what will happen to the Iraqis when we leave, might I assume that you lobby to make sure we don't abandon them?"
---
No time to actively "lobby." I am busy taking care of myself out here. I do offer my words of wisdom in conversations and in written comments whenever possible though. I vote too, for what it's worth.

I do not support Sen. Feingold, Sen. Kerry, or any administration official or senator that is ready to pull the plug on this mission though.

To do that, and then look down on the Iraqi policemen and soldiers for not being up to the job, is despicable, in my opinion. It's unrealistic and the easy way out, to dump this on this and run. It would leave the region ripe for exploitation by foreign fighters.

Mary said...

correction:
to dump this on "them" and run...

We destroyed the infrastructure; we stay until we rebuild what we destroyed. The money being funneled there, instead of confronting other potential threats around the globe, must stay committed there. Somebody else, some other country, will have to step up to quell other threats now. You can't be the world's policeman without prioritizing where you can and will respond.

knoxgirl said...

gj.

Just because someone asks you to explain your opinion doesn't mean they think war is the default answer. Do you read this blog much? If you did, you wouldn't say that.

whit said...

If only W. could communicate like this:

But Ahmadinejad may have inadvertently initiated a shift in the prevailing winds. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was dismayed: “There has been a long time in which I have been answering questions on Iran with everyone saying to me: ‘Tell us you are not going to do anything about Iran.’ If they carry on like this, the question people are going to be asking us is: ‘When are you going to do something about this?’ You imagine a state like that, with an attitude like that, having a nuclear weapon.” He condemned the call for Israel’s destruction: “I have never come across a situation (where) the president of a country (says) they want to wipe out -- not that they’ve got a problem with, or issue with -- but want to wipe out another country. This is unacceptable, and their attitude towards Israel, their attitude towards terrorism, their attitude on the nuclear weapons issue isn’t acceptable. If they continue down this path, then people are going to believe that they are a real threat to our world’s security and stability. How are we going to build a more secure world with that type of attitude? It’s a disgrace.”

Synova said...

gj, what you've pretty much said is that the Iraq war was a mistake because war is icky and should be avoided if at all possible. I'm not picking on you, it's a common enough way to think about it. Inkwell http://www.iwf.org/inkwell/default.asp has a link today to an article about the relationship of diplomacy to warfare. Viewing warfare as a failure of diplomacy is logical, but they are really different sides of the same thing. It's counter-intuitive. That misunderstanding, though, is why we are prone to view war as justified only as an extreme last resort.

Should war be avoided, oh absolutely. But in cases where it can't be or even *shouldn't* be avoided, the reasons aren't going to be what most people think they should be. "Prove to me that diplomacy failed" isn't the right question. "Prove to me that sancions failed" is not the right question.

For a great many people, articulating a compelling case is going to be explaining how, exactly, this is a necessary police action. Quite frankly, that's not and never was the right question. If it *were* we'd end up with saying it was justified to topple Saddam but not to continue to occupy Iraq. (And I've heard anti-war people make that exact claim, consequences be d*mned.)

As a police matter, Saddam had to fall. As a matter of State, of diplomacy, of the world our children will inherit, the middle east needs to be remade. It needs to be transformed into something we can live with. (literally) Removing Saddam is only one step, not the end goal.

How does one explain this to the portion of the population that sees our military as a police force rather than an organ, just like the diplomatic corps, to enact foreign policy?

About now, I know I've freaked out a whole lot of people. And frankly, it's because we're accustomed to using our non-military tools haphazarly and without thought, so a whole bunch of people think I think that the military should be used the same way. Not so.

Should Bush be able to explain this better? I've heard what he's said, and it's pretty clear, except for the fact that many people don't hear what they aren't prepared to hear. When he explains that it's about a free Iraq, that's exactly what he means. His big picture ideology *is* the justification for Iraq, but what people *want* is to hear how we've got cause according to some criminal code.

His big picture ideology *requires* that the Iraqi people are able to live in a democracy that protects all of its people. It requires that the Iraqi people are able to act contrary to some few elements of their culture, to decide to do things differently, to understand an opportunity and take it. Assuming they *can* there is no way this is a mistake.

To call it a mistake, a person has to believe that they *can't*.

gj said...

I didn't intend to enter this conversation to discuss the specifics of the war in Iraq. Rather, I was trying to answer the implicit question in Ann's posting: why did George W. Bush have such a hard time explaining the Miers nomination, and why does he have such a hard time communicating effectively to the American public about the war in Iraq?

Ann seemed mystified by this. Most of commenters wanted to blame it on the MSM. But it seemed to me that everyone was avoiding the most obvious answers to that question: the reasons he's having a hard time providing Americans with a convincing explanation for the nomination of Harriet Miers (or the execution of the war) is either (a) he's just not very good at providing convincing explanations, or (b) a convincing explanation is not possible, because the facts stand in such utter contradiction to the contention.

This is probably easier to see for Harriet Meirs, because it is a less charged subject, and there is more agreement on the subject across the political spectrum. There was a lot of concrete evidence Ms. Meirs was simply not up to snuff. The fact that she had never written anything of consequence on constitutional law ; the fact that she showed made a gross mis-statement about the 14th amendment; the fact that she failed to adequately answer questions from the Senat Judiciary Committee. None of that was the doing of the MSM. And even the most brilliant communicator at the top of his or her game would have had trouble effectively communicating the fact that she was the best person in the United States to sit on the Supreme Court. Because it simply was not true.

The situation with the Iraq war is somewhat more complicated, and gets into tangential issues: the proposition that you should only enter wars that you believe you can engage in effectively and competantly, and that a requirement of doing so is having a leader who is able to communicate effectively to gain the population's support for the war; or that the presence of multiple shifting justifications for a war may signal an underlying weakness or potentially absence of any true rationale.

But as I said, those are tangential, in my mind, to Ann's original posting and to the comment I was trying to make, which essentially was that if something is hard to justify, that's probably because it's wrong.

Ann Althouse said...

GJ: Thanks for focusing on my original question. I disagree with your analysis though. When one has the job of defending a bad decision, one can still do a better or worse job of it. Others defended the incredibly bad Miers choice much better than the White House did. Lawyers defend weak positions all the time. Sometimes you find yourself in a weak position. If you are not at the point of abandoning it, you are able to justify it at least to yourself. Why can't you convey your own commitment believably? When we are talking about a President, we are talking about someone who has convinced many people over the years to support him and who has a great deal of expert help making his decisions. He should be able to make a good case for what he is doing, and he should care about convincing people.

As for Iraq, think of how Tony Blair defends what we are doing. There are many good arguments, even if you think they are quite wrong.

I simply can't accept the notion that Bush's poor communication in the last few months is a matter of indefensible positions.

Synova said...

Okay, I apologize for going off on a military theory rant. Sorry about that. :-)

I can't say anything about Bush lately, but I'll take Ann's word for it that he seems less articulate than usual.

Yes, a president ought to be able to explain and support his policies.

The rest of us, though, (possibly excepting lawyers,) are sometimes not so good at justifying ourselves just because we're not very good at it, even when we're right.

PatCA said...

Another possibility is that he belives the war was a good decision, but he won't articulate that because of politics. His last two speeches on the subject have been excellent, but they will never convince the Bush haters, so why go on TV at 6 p.m. and try? However, by naming the enemy last week for the first time in four years, he removed a huge block of doubt from my shoulders and reassured me that he knows what is at stake. I actually shed tears when he said it. So maybe his speeches are directed towards people like me, worried indepenents.

If he had made that speech before the war, would it have convinced the left? I don't know.

Sloanasaurus said...

Maybe some people are just too intellectual to understand Bush.

At the same time, however, most people don't listen anyway...or just beleive their own conclusions... and then they call him a bad communicator.

JBlog said...

In the long run, the war was unavoidable -- we were going to end up taking Saddam out at some point whether it be two years ago, now, or five years from now.

Sanctions weren't working, the Oil-For-Food Program was wholly corrupt, and the UN was never going to address the problem.

Why wait until Saddam gave Anthrax to terrorists, who would then release it in the New York Subway system?

Better to take him out at a time of our choosing, when we have the upper hand.

Not to say the war would ever be quick, easy and painless -- they never are -- but I suspect casualties are far lower than they would have been if we waited.

But frankly, most of the general public -- and certainly the media -- doesn't have the patience and the attention span for that.