December 29, 2005

The shift in Bush's Iraq rhetoric.

According to the WaPo:
President Bush shifted his rhetoric on Iraq in recent weeks after an intense debate among advisers about how to pull out of his political free fall, with senior adviser Karl Rove urging a campaign-style attack on critics while younger aides pushed for more candor about setbacks in the war, according to Republican strategists...

Although Rove raised concerns about giving critics too much ground, the younger-generation aides prevailed. Bush agreed to try the approach so long as he did not come off sounding too negative. Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University specialist on wartime public opinion who now works at the White House, helped draft a 35-page public plan for victory in Iraq, a paper principally designed to prove that Bush had one....

Writing off 30 percent or more of the public as adamantly against the war, his advisers focused on winning back a similar-size group that had soured on Iraq but, they believed, wanted to be convinced victory was possible....

The humility theme was woven into speeches, often in the first two minutes to keep viewers from turning away. Aides had noticed that anger at Bush after Hurricane Katrina subsided somewhat after he took responsibility for the response. The idea, one senior official said, was like fighting with a spouse: "You need to give voice to their concern. That doesn't necessarily solve the division and the difference, but it drains the disagreement of some of its animosity if you feel you've been heard."
I guess spouse-fighting chez Rove is an ugly affair. Nice of the younger-generation aides to think the we could actually appreciate something other than pure pep talk.

I wonder if there's some implicit advice in this for the President's opponents: The straight dyspep talk is offputting. Defeat your inner anti-Rove.


Art said...

I like the line---"defeat your inner anti-Rove."

Luke had to avoid joining Darth Vader on the dark side.

It's why Jesus told us to love our enemies.

37921 said...

The idea, one senior official said, was like fighting with a spouse...

It has occurred to me that the level of animosity some people have toward the president is similar to the animosity between spouses in a failed marriage. During my divorce, my wife seemed to take great pleasure in believing me a liar, and everything I did provided more confirmation. For instance, if I said I was going to take the kids to the park, and then it rained that day and I took them to a movie instead, it was evidence that I was "lying to the children".

I have seen lists on various websites of Bush's lies, and many of them seem to be of the same caliber. It makes me think that Americans invest too much emotion in their presidents. I can't imaging anyone hating the president of their company (or their university) in the way that some people hate George Bush (or Bill Clinton). And yet the company president probably has a much more immediate impact on one's life than the president of the country.

Ann Althouse said...

37: Yeah, and Clinton was not helped by the fact that we had to see him as a bad husband.

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

The idea, one senior official said, was like fighting with a spouse. This made the following image flash in my head: President Bush appearing on national television, saying, "I don't get it. What'd I do?" Followed by the Democratic response: "Oh come on, you know what you did!"

Simon Kenton said...

LetMeSpellItOutForYou -

Close. Very close. You need a few more years of marital time. The actual line is, "If you cared at all, you'd know what you did."

PatCA said...

When you have the facts, you argue them, right?

I also think that the relationship of governed to government is like family. We want to love our spouses or parents, but sometimes they make it hard. It's beyond reason, but the natural impulse to love is always there. How else can you explain forgiveness and reconciliation in a damaged marriage or family?

Maybe the same thing is happening in politics. Most of the voters are floaters, not attached to either party. They will not follow or criticize blindly; they want the real deal. Bush is answering them back, using their language, correcting their errors (like the last letter of soldier Jeffrey Starr) in a respectful way. The younger aides should be congratulated.

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

Simon, you're absolutely right. Only seven years in, you know. ;-)

LarryK said...

Isn't the left fond of saying that the personal is political? Now, it seems, the political is also personal.

david bennett said...


I'm afraid neither of the partisan sides wanted to argue facts. Bush was forced to by the "coup" from the defence establishment which included General Scowcrofts comments, General Pace's corrections of Rumsfeld and over a year of changing direction.

Thus the president admitted that the bulk of the insurgency was Iraqi not foreign terrorists which had been the previous line. He acknowledged the uneveness of development and other problems. Probably not much real choice with the wonk success of "Assasin's Gate."

While I think the press has done an adequete job of touching on many complexities of this issue, most don't even scan the back pages, couldn't tell you what SCIRI stands for or why many are concerned of their role in the new Iraq. And indeed the right can get away with proclaiming that the united States supported the elections rather than being forced into them by Sistani and actually supporting the firing of General Garner for supporting them along with other tendencies to follow the old military plans.

We get to the point where those who claim we should unify behind the war falsely claim the Senator Clintons and Sen Biden were opponents. No recognition of the continued bipartisan support is given. To the right it has been a public relations game based on faith based reality, thus when Senator Clinton called for more troops over 2 years ago which could have been used to do things like secure ammo dumps, borders and regins before they flipped out of control; she was accused of undermining the effort. Of course we brought in more troops this year.

The right has shared the spot light with war critics who are no more sophisticated than the Limbaughs. They do not grasp that this is a vital interest, far more than Vietnam was, and that withdrawal may be as risky and complex as getting in. The place could dissolve in genocidal civil war, it could become a center of conflict in the middle east, disrupting oil supplies and spreading carnage.

Juan Cole has been attacked by the left for arguing that some sort of stabilizing force must be mantained. Meanwhile rightwing bloggers routinely assume he advocates complete and rapid withdrawal.

Thus the complexity of opinions is suppressed. When rightwingers attack war critics as defeatist leftists do they really think this applies to General Zinni, General Odom or Colonel Lang?

Probably because their persective is that we are winning, we are always winning, I think "The Belmont Club" has declared complete victory 30 times, and any concern is double plus ungood energy which messes up the happy, happy reality.

That Bush is thinking beyond this is a hopeful sign. It's amazing how little he has to do to resurrect faithin the presidency and the nation. Most of us want success in Iraq, we hope he turns out to be a great president.

So yes he's being given the benefit of the doubt.

We're tired of the administration that fired Lawrence Lindsay for saying the war could cost several hundred billion because faith based reality said it would be less than a third of that. We want an administration that admits problems and solves them.

PatCA said...

David, your opinion of Bush's motives or why he is talking now and not then and what the rightwingers are doing or not doing is your belief and opinion, and you are welcome to express it. No one is "suppressing" dissident opinions; they're criticizing them.

And, yes, the war is or was a big mess, but every war is a mess. I'm glad we both want success in Iraq.