Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Worm Begins To Turn

David Frum's column today over at NRO is an interesting read. Excerpt:
By now it should be clear that President Bush's words on the subject of Iraq have ceased connecting with the American public. His speech yesterday to the Veterans of Foreign Wars is the latest - and one of the most serious to date - manifestations of the problem. The polls tell us that the American public is losing heart. A substantial majority (56%) now say that the war is going either "very badly" or "moderately badly." More than 50% now regard the war as a mistake. One-third want an immediate and total withdrawal. Maybe most fatefully: a plurality now say that they believe that the president deliberately misled the country into war.

Supporters of the war can argue that the public is mistaken, overly influenced by biased news reporting. Yes, yes. But mistaken public opinion is just as powerful as sound public opinion.

Again, supporters of the war can do our bit to try to change minds. But the biggest megaphone in the country belongs to President Bush - and much depends on whether he uses it well or badly.

He is using it very badly indeed.
The link is here. Frum posts a bunch of e-mails he's received from readers, and the tone is quite interesting. Take a few minutes to read them. Remember folks---this is essentially "The Base."

My take-away on this? Not surprisingly, Frum contends that this is not much more than a problem of "communication"---almost laziness, actually---and that by merely using a few different phrases (focus on the car-buying boom in Iraq!) or injecting a little more pep, the president can turn things around. Dr. Frum's prescription is to take a handful of new spin pills and call in the morning. But what if there's simply nothing new to say, and the strategy itself is fatally flawed?

What if there's no strategy at all?

33 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's begging Karl Rove to craft a new message.

8/23/2005 2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

couple of points here.
1, the media bias sure as hell slants to money, not reality. the myth of the liberal press he is perpetuating is so worn and threadbare it can be seen through by the myopic who are willing to look.

2, bush's disconnect has a history. he wanted this war and people are starting to notice. there is no reality in bushland other than dear leaders.

he should be very concerned because his base is now turning on him. saw a poll yesterday stating his approval rating was 36%. the man is a war criminal and deserves impeachment. we need to show the world that we as a nation are not his administration and we will correct our mistakes as best we can.

8/23/2005 2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very interesting book on the life of a soldier in Iraq: "The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell : An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq", by John Crawford. This is why I always thought the Swift Boaters were hypocrites and ugly. War is hell; God awful things go on; And sometimes things are good; but overall it is gut-wrenching, world turned upside down.

I think Bush is a salesman, not a leader; thus he was able to sell the war, but the implementation was a major screwup. I often wonder if this isn't the result of never having to work for anything. They thought Iraq was going to be easy, why not, everything else in their life was. We have to remember that Bush was molded and created by Rove; so what you see isn't what you get.

I don't know. I'm bothered by anyone having to "sell" policy; to me that means exaggeration, hyperbole. If a cause is right, it is right based on the facts, and we saw what Bush admin did to facts.

If we assume Iraq is about democracy, nation building, why did Bush campaign against Nation Building in 2000? Which was a big selling point!

snippet:
"During a debate with then-Vice President Al Gore on Oct. 11, 2000, in Winston-Salem, N.C., Bush said: "I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building. . . . I think what we need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations. Maybe I'm missing something here. I mean, we're going to have a kind of nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not."'

Isn't that exactly what we have - a "nation-buiding corps from America"?

8/23/2005 4:35 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

I have this fear that they will spin it back into public favor, while the fissures continue to worsen.

8/23/2005 5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even way back in Canada, Frum has always been a putz and a neo-con wanna be. He's nailed it what's wrong, but not what will fix it.

The emperor has no new clothes to wear. He's a once trick pony that can only fail or succeed. And, since he's never succeeded at a damn thing in his life without riding the tails of others, he doesn't know what else to say except "carry on."

He's living the ruination of his future right now. I just hope that my family and the country don't get any further sucked along for the ride!

8/23/2005 5:24 PM  
Blogger 277fia said...

Not to demean the seriousness of the topic here but where the hell are all of those Iraqis getting the money to buy cars? I thought that Iraqi unemployment was at least 35% and that Iraqi pre-war annual income averaged $2k per capita.

Are these cars bought on credit?
Who owns Iraqi car dealerships?
Is the US in any way financing this boom in car ownership?

Just curious.

8/23/2005 7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jon Stewart talked about this with Seymour Hersh.

Like Thomas Friedman said, at the beginning of the Bush war, "it is the right thing to do (?), but we just got there the wrong way". So Tom Friedman thinks it is okay for our government, the President and Commander in Chief to deceive the public and soldiers about war and then even made fun of the reason.

Most people again, now that we went, think it needs to be implemented correctly (i.e., enough soldiers and support, etc). It does seem to be one screwup after another, and our kin are paying the price with their lives.

Jon brought up an interesting point, the question isn't whether we should withdraw, but rather can we trust the people who have seemed to misread this situation at every turn to continue prosecuting it in a way that doesn't get any success. There are no changes; no one is ever held accountable. I think Bush would rather kiss Rumsfeld rather than fire him.

Their strategy is just hold on and think positive thoughts; there doesn't seem like there is a plan to deal with anything.

If Bush were a CEO, with this kind of performance, how long do you think he'd be around?

8/23/2005 9:17 PM  
Blogger Mark Jones said...

I saw “American Beauty” the other night, and the line by the Ricky Fitts character applies to people like David Frum: “Never underestimate the power of denial”. You would think that after all that has transpired over the last 2-1/2 years, there would be some sort of reckoning among the Neo-cons, but instead we get this from Mr. Frum:

“If a president has nothing new to say, he can add freshness and interest to his previously stated views by presenting them in a new way. He can give an interview or a press conference, supplementing familiar arguments with new facts and stories - and showcasing his own attention to and knowledge of the situation on the ground”

Let’s see, where to begin. First, the President “has nothing new to say”, because there is nothing new to say! The last year has been a repeat (only worse) of the previous year. And, it is very difficult to “add freshness and interest to his previously stated views” because his “previously stated views” have proven to be total bullshit. Pretty hard (even for Bush) to add “freshness” to the shithole that currently exists in Iraq. This goes for the “supplementing familiar arguments with new facts and stories”. I mean, come on, give us a fucking break, already. And, finally, “showcasing his own attention to….”. What attention??? Bush was finally (after 2-1/2 years) able to bring himself to even mention the casualties in Iraq. His avoidance of the subject is obscene, and has clearly showed him to be a frightened and incompetent leader. Like the Fitts character said, “never underestimate the power of denial.” I’m just hopeful that the American public is starting to emerge from their collective denial, even if the President of the United States can not.

8/23/2005 9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fox and Limbaugh made me sick. There are some people I turn off right away, Frum is one of them; certainly Coultier and Robertson; and sometimes Moore. Stern but for other reasons. So I get a lot of my news from Comedy Central. I was pleased to hear Bob Costa turn down his Larry King sub-position, which included talking about the Alabama student missing in Aruba. Finally someone said enough already! I do listen to Democracy Now radio. There is a new TV network coming out and it looks interesting, Independent World Television or IWT. I always got a kick out of the movie, "With Honors". Brendan Fraser's character loses his thesis on government. He argues that in these days of specialization that the business of government should be left up to the experts, while the citizenry go about their lives, unconcerned (certainly a position Coultier and others have exclaimed many times). One of the problems with "experts" is they have book knowledge but not real-life experience, which was described as one of the problems in Iraq. Young Americans, in position of US clout, book learned, were telling senior Iraq's how to run their country with no regard to the Iraqi culture. Many in this administration have no real life experience in war (well, maybe avoiding it), and if their knowledge is only from books, then people, at least at an individual level, are expendable. Remember Bush had not even traveled outside the US prior to becoming President. Did Bush even know where Iraq was on a map? No, I don't think they have a plan and they are just winging it.

I can't wait to read the book, "Active Liberty", by Justice Breyer.

I think our biggest problem today is fundamentalism, and I don't care whose it is.

I don't know if an independent media can be a home for intellectural honesty and no spin, but it ought to be an interesting try; and hopefully other people will have a voice and these folks won't get so much time.

8/23/2005 11:51 PM  
Blogger James Finkelstein (Ga.) said...

Perhaps we should be getting a little bit nervous. The last time the Bush Administration faced nothing but self-made disasters and other bad news was in 2002- WorldCom and Enron crashed from fraud from Bush's friends and mentors, Bin Laden was still loose, joblessness and energy prices were rising (California had just gotten jacked around by Enron's traders), and Bush faced losing the House and more seats in the Senate, which was barely Democratic.

And what did we get? The relentless drumbeat to war- against the unlikeliest regime in the Middle East, already surrounded by our military and covered by our air force and no fly zones, and decimated by a blockade and sanctions. But Bush & Co. used the scare tactic of warning that if we waited for evidence of the smoking gun, it would be a "mushroom cloud."

So what does Rove have up his sleeve to distract us next? A war against Iran or N. Korea? Another terrorist event in the U.S. (not even I believe he'd sink that low)? More McCarthy /Ashcroft style of internecine warfare against treasonous Democrats?

Don't think he will just give up and quietly go away, losing all of the gains from the last 5 years.

8/24/2005 1:23 AM  
Anonymous Doug said...

Kurtz: "Are my methods unsound?"

Willard: "I don't see any method, at all, sir."

Anybody have a more succinct summary?

8/24/2005 3:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With 150,00o troops stuck in Iraq, the only blessing is that Bush won't have any more bodies to spare for future adventures. Sure he'd like to prove his manhood against the mullahs and the Dear Leader, but we're stretched as it is and you know there's no way Rove will let him float the idea of a draft.

8/24/2005 5:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frum says:

"- the president will agree to give what is advertised in advance as a major speech. An important venue will be chosen. A crowd of thousands will be gathered. The networks will all be invited. And after these elaborate preparations, the president says ... nothing that he has not said a hundred times before.

If a president continues to do that, he is himself teaching the public and the media to ignore him . . . "

Man, I'm glad he pointed this out. I thought it was just traitorous defeatism that was making me think the same thing.

8/24/2005 11:36 AM  
Anonymous howard said...

"what if there is no strategy?"

there is no strategy....

8/24/2005 12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the push for war started, I stopped listening to the government and the media, because I knew that the administration was going to have its war, by-hook-or-by-crook, and there was no point in listening to the debate. Call me a paleo-con if you wish, but the 'new men' always think that they can make the world do what they want using military force, and they are usually wrong.

GWB's biggest problem right now is credibility. He pushed us into war using threats of WMD, but there were no WMD. The fact that the intelligence agencies were wrong is beside the point for two reasons: 1) he cherry-picked the intelligence; and 2) he's the leader, it's his fault if he doesn't figure out that the intelligence was wrong. Or are we wrong for blaming JFK over the Bay of Pigs fiasco?

If you sell the public on a war you better win. Failing that, you better come up with a better strategy. Failing that, you need to make your case convincingly that it's not as bad as it sounds. But if you can't even do that, and the public remembers how you got us in the war in the first place, they are going to lose confidence, and you only have yourself to blame.

I was already concerned about the fate of the economy as we go into the latter half of the year. Now there is the additional variable of public confidence in the leadership. If we do run into trouble, this lack of confidence is going to hurt us badly.

8/25/2005 4:56 PM  
Blogger mjs said...

Bush is a spoiled child with a very short attention span. He was told he wanted to invade Iraq, he did it and now that it turns out to be, in his words, "hard work" that forces him to "think about Iraq everyday" he is bored - he just wants to play on his make believe ranch. He really is a lot like Michael Jackson in that he has his very own Neverland Ranch in Crawford, TX.
Bush's problem is much more fundamental than simply not being able to communicate his strategy effectively - it is that there is no strategy to communicate. If Bush were truthful, honest, honorable, dare I say, Christian, he would have owned up to his mistakes long ago. But, Bush is immature and not sure of himself enough to admit error. In that sense, he is like a child who believes that admitting mistakes will make people like you less. Bush is an insecure sycophant who would rather destroy this nation's goodwill than admit error and give us an effective strategy to correct the error and get us the hell out of Iraq.
Oh, but he is too tired and needs a vacation so he can get on with his life. What vanity. And, he has the nerve to talk about honoring those who lost their lives in his war. If he wanted to honor their sacrifice he would be visibly devoting every second of the remainder of his time as POTUS to correcting his mistakes. But, alas, he won't. There is too much brush to clear in Neverland.

8/27/2005 3:08 PM  
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