Friday, December 02, 2005

Daniel Henninger says its about time.

Politics: Something I have been complaining about for a while is the lack of answering and fighting back against the critics by the White House and GOP at large. Now that they are doing it, Henninger more is needed.

One of the great mysteries of public life has been the absence of an organized Bush effort to defend the war. To the extent there has been bad news and worse spin about the war's course, both the Bush White House and Defense Department have been pretty much willing to take it in the neck. Prior to this week's Annapolis speech and the release of a 38-page "Iraq national strategy," senior staffers at both the White House and Defense have privately vented frustration and even bitterness at the absence or incompetence of what is known as the war's "public diplomacy." Similarly, there's been no real effort to build a homefront to support the troops. The war isn't unique. In November, opinion-poll approval of Mr. Bush's economic management was below 40%. This is astounding. As the Review & Outlook columns noted yesterday, this week's revised third-quarter growth rate of 4.3% was the 10th straight quarter of growth averaging nearly 4% on an annual basis. Economic "public diplomacy" is part of a Treasury secretary's portfolio. Jim Baker in the second Reagan term and Bob Rubin across two Clinton terms relentlessly promoted their boss's economic policies. On Wednesday, Treasury printed out a supportive statement over Secretary John Snow's name; yesterday the secretary was in London--discussing European growth. Running a 4.3% quarter in the face of Katrina is shout-from-the-rooftop news, but for this administration it's just another tree falling in the forest. This is the Alfred E. Neuman, "What, me worry?" school of public relations. It doesn't seem quite appropriate for a major war. ....In contrast, the Bush media model has been to ignore the polls, skip the spin and govern for results. Mr. Bush's bet is that history will judge Iraq a success; the odds now suggest he's right. And if one believes in markets, as Mr. Bush largely does, sustained 4% growth is a better day's work than, like his predecessor, trying to govern to the polls. For this White House, the mainstream media's spin is like bad weather--uncontrollable. The polls, like the bad-weather blahs, don't matter. But clinical depression does matter and the polls now reflect clinical depression. Even the president's conservative base can't snap out of it. Consider the reality standing before a movement conservative: Sen. Joe Lieberman's essay on this page earlier in the week argued compellingly that Iraq is much better than imagined. The economic growth numbers validate tax-cut theory, and they're getting pinch-me-if-it's-real justices in John Roberts and Sam Alito. And they're depressed! A visit to our editorial offices this week by about 40 conservative think-tank leaders revealed almost universal gloom and even distrust of the president--primarily over years of pig-out spending. Not one of them uttered the word "Iraq." When positive reality becomes irrelevant, you've got the blues. Or perhaps we have discovered a new form of brainwashing. The Bush administration has underestimated the changed nature of modern media. The mainstream media alone is not the problem. All these political subjects--the war, immigration--get discussed at length, all the time, on talk shows and across the great expanses of the Web wilderness. In this new environment, the emotional content has become stronger and even more important than the facts, such as they are. The facts have been demoted. What's more, the language, the very vocabulary of all these conversations, has been ramped way up. Shrillness has monetary value now, and it has political value. If this were traditional spin, as the White House assumes, it wouldn't matter. But in our time the spin has become a vortex.
As much as it loathes some, we live in a instant gratification,P.R. world. Conservatives for whatever reason felt after the election last year, everything was coming up roses, wrong. All it did was make the opposition and the MSM get even crazier, its all about who controls/shapes the news cycle. If there are people in the White House who hates this kind of environment, get them out and put people in who can strive in it.

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