November 17, 2005

Is Bush Dowdifying?

Another problem with sending the go*&amn President of the United States of America (what a cheapening of the office!) around quoting CNN appearances of circa 2002 by the Senator Levins etc? Well, you get the President, at the very moment he's trying to look like he's mightily calling B.S. and talking the truth or some such, you have him instead looking on par with the Maureen Dowds' of the world. Witness, via Ryan Lizza:

Pre-war Democratic quotes are now central to Bush's defense. The old White House strategy was for Republicans to use any statement ever uttered by a Democrat that expresses reservations about war with Saddam as a cudgel to hammer the party as hopelessly weak and uninterested in protecting America. The new strategy is to use any statement ever uttered by a Democrat that expresses concern about Saddam as a cudgel to hammer Democrats for hypocrisy. Now, Bush insists, most Democrats got the war right. "They spoke the truth then, and they're speaking politics now," he said yesterday.

The problem is that some of the quotes Bush now uses are highly misleading. "Another senior Democrat leader said, 'The war against terrorism will not be finished as long as Saddam Hussein is in power,'" Bush told his Alaskan crowd. The quote is from Senator Carl Levin during a CNN appearance on December 16, 2001. Here's the full context:

The war against terrorism will not be finished as long as he is in power. But that does not mean he is the next target.

And the commitment to do that, it seems to me, could be disruptive of our alliance that still has work to do in Afghanistan. And a lot will depend on what the facts are in various places as to what terrorist groups are doing, and as to whether or not we have facts as to whether or not the Iraqis have been involved in the terrorist attack of September 11, or whether or not Saddam is getting a weapon of mass destruction and is close to it. So facts will determine what our next targets are.

In other words, Levin's full quote shows exactly the opposite of what Bush was trying to say it showed. Levin was laying out the case against attacking Iraq, arguing presciently that there was unfinished work in Afghanistan, that war in Iraq could damage alliances, and specifically cautioning against targeting Iraq absent hard evidence of Saddam's WMDS or his role in September 11. It's ludicrous to argue, as Bush did Monday, that Carl Levin "reached the same conclusion" on Iraq as Bush. Levin didn't even vote for the war resolution.[emphasis added]

Yeah Levin was being somewhat weasily and evasive. But it is manifestly clear, from Lizza's piece, that the President is distorting, via Dowdification, the Senator from Michigan's words. How very, very weak. Not only that this whole sad strategy is being rolled out to begin with, not only that it's the President doing it rather than surrogates as would be more appropriate if (ugh) we've got to go ahead with it, but that on top of it POTUS himself is being reduced to utter such petty, disingenuous Dowdified fare. Make no mistake, if this is what is meant as strategy to resuscitate his poll numbers, it ain't gonna hack it. I'm no pollster or Rovian 'genius,' to be sure, but I'd be very surprised if Bush got anything more than a teeny upward blip (3-4%) that dissipates within weeks if not sooner.

Hat Tip: Michael Signer, who writes: "But the President's current communications offensive is offensively poor -- intern-level, at best. Yes, Bill Clinton fooled around with his interns; but at least they weren't writing his talking points."

Ouch.

Look, regular readers know I view Clinton's anti-terrorism policy as having been grotesquely negligent. I quote Mike's bon mot in this context--I hold Clinton, particularly on pre-Dayton Bosnia policy, in tremendously low esteem. But I link Mike to also make the point that this much bally-hooed offensive (ie, publicizing all the statements the Democrats made back in '02/'03 that sounded so jingo-off-to-war-we-go)--is amateur, is tone deaf, is simply half-assed. What the American people want to hear from the President is why we are in Iraq, and (more important) how we're going to win in Iraq, and yeah, what he's going to do about high oil prices and such. They don't give a flying eff about who said what when in 2002 about the merits of going to war in Iraq (stuff like the Butler Report and Niger forgeries are inter-elite squabbles among Beltway cognescenti). They instinctually realize that the broad political class, emerging from the trauma of 9/11, was for the war effort. And that the Democrats are full of it now with their transparent and so convenient and, yes, quite cowardly distancing themselves from the difficulties in Iraq (Democrats, not that I'm in the advice business, should be attacking Bush, not on the hyped intel, but on the incompetence of the first two years of the war, by the way).

Put differently, the American people don't want to see Cheney and Bush running around quoting Nancy Pelosi's CNN appearances for God's sake. They want to feel we have a success strategy in Iraq and that our boys aren't dying, several a day, for no reason. Bush's breezy stump speeches (again, his last was an improvement, but still weak on the means) have worn thin, and people are tired of Cheney and his bunker-like M.O., and a major overhaul is manifestly needed. So I'm sorry, but playing gotcha with Carl Levin (with false facts, to boot) isn't the way forward. I don't think Ronald Reagan would have stooped to these sad recriminations and partisan gotcha-fests, but then again Ronald Reagan had a plan to salvage his Presidency after Iran-Contra. I don't see one yet from this White House--reeling post-Katrina, post-Brownie, post-Harriet, post-Libby, post-detainee policy debacles (thank God for Alito and Bernake). It feels like amateur hour right now. A vindictive, petty, un-statesmanlike one. But we have to live with this Administration for another 38 months, and we had no serious foreign policy alternative anyway in '04. So how to make it better? I'm losing hope, to be honest. Bush's sad unwillingness to ditch Rumsfeld, and rein in Cheney, spell more of the same, I fear. It's sad, it's worrisome, and I don't know who can persuade him to change course and do what needs to be done: namely, get a new Chief of Staff, the better to execute a major house-cleaning (not least at the very top of the Pentagon), and make bold moves in terms of moving back to the center on issues like detainee policy, better explaining the road to success in Iraq (translation: more than 'as they stand up, we'll stand down), and generally showing some independent leadership. Or at least leadership born of advice from different quarters other than the Veep's office (yes, of course, people like Condi have a lot of sway too. But Cheney's influence is still dominant, at the end of the day, and the President needs fresh advice. Quite desperately, in the view of many who care about these things and aren't dwelling in la-la land where, if we just keep on our present course, springtime looms in Damascus and Teheran and all is hunky-dory). Can it really be that Bush is wholly dependent, in the main, on Don and Dick? If so, what a pity. I knew he wasn't an intellectual, to say the least, but I thought he would delegate power wisely as Reagan did often (and anyway, I'm far from convinced intellectuals are particularly well suited for positions of political power). But Cheney has caught the proverbial 'fever' and is running around on things like detainee policy quite recklessly, and Rumsfeld, well, he's flat-out been an international disgrace and embarrasment for far too long now. Bottom line: unless Bush can unshackle himself from these two, or at least rein them in a good deal, I don't see how he can resucitate his Adminstration.


Posted by Gregory at November 17, 2005 04:11 AM | TrackBack (1)
Comments

I'm not sure I agree that this is Dowdifying. It doesn't matter when, where or by whom Sen. Levin would have proposed removing Saddam Hussein, but the fact that he specifically said his removal is required for anyone to speak of a conclusion of the war on terror is key.

To now turn around and say that Bush LIED and that there was never any need to remove Saddam, and that weapons inspectors would have shown there was never a threat STILL directly contradicts what he said then, indicating that he is willfully lying about Bush lying. Levin still comes out of this with egg on his face.

Posted by: Danny at November 17, 2005 06:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Danny is right. The point of the quote is that Levin knew Iraq was a threat and his saying the President lied and distorted intel. to confuse and mislead the public on the nature of that threat is demonstrably dishonest. Demonstrable by the quote.

Q: Is Saddam a threat?

A: Levin 2002 - Yes, of course.

A: Levin 2005 - No. And the Bush tricked us all into thinking he was.


I'm not trying to be a dick here Greg, but this is why you get beat up in the comments sections. Somewhere along the way you stopped thinking critically about anti-war criticism. It's ridiculous for you to fall for a straw man like this. I'm really hoping you'll get your A-game back soon though, cause we got a long way to go before the end of the third quarter and getting a win isn't enough. We need to make Anti-War University alumns ashamed to show their faces.

And for the record you're way off on your "weak defense" analysis. This is Phase 1. This will go till the SOTU where Bush will kick off Phase 2. That will lead into Phase 3, which will lead into Rep. sweep in Nov. '06. It's a campaign, you draw the enemy out, bomb them, move your armor into place, when they adjust to meet your armor you shell them, then the armor move in and following them are the infantry which clear and hold ground for good. It's organized, directed, and modified as time and circumstance demand. He doesn't want to peak early, like the anti-war crowd has. Bush and Rove are playing for keeps, they always have and the pundit-class have consistently underestimated them. This is but the beginning and there is nothing he's better at than this kind of campaign.

Remember, this is the Master Svengali that made the whole country believe Saddam was seeking WMD with nothing but a few liars from the INC and raising and lowering the threat level color codes at DHS.

Posted by: The Apologist at November 17, 2005 10:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Danny is right. The point of the quote is that Levin knew Iraq was a threat and his saying the President lied and distorted intel. to confuse and mislead the public on the nature of that threat is demonstrably dishonest. Demonstrable by the quote.

Q: Is Saddam a threat?

A: Levin 2002 - Yes, of course.

A: Levin 2005 - No. And the Bush tricked us all into thinking he was.


I'm not trying to be a dick here Greg, but this is why you get beat up in the comments sections. Somewhere along the way you stopped thinking critically about anti-war criticism. It's ridiculous for you to fall for a straw man like this. I'm really hoping you'll get your A-game back soon though, cause we got a long way to go before the end of the third quarter and getting a win isn't enough. We need to make Anti-War University alumns ashamed to show their faces.

And for the record you're way off on your "weak defense" analysis. This is Phase 1. This will go till the SOTU where Bush will kick off Phase 2. That will lead into Phase 3, which will lead into Rep. sweep in Nov. '06. It's a campaign, you draw the enemy out, bomb them, move your armor into place, when they adjust to meet your armor you shell them, then the armor move in and following them are the infantry which clear and hold ground for good. It's organized, directed, and modified as time and circumstance demand. He doesn't want to peak early, like the anti-war crowd has. Bush and Rove are playing for keeps, they always have and the pundit-class have consistently underestimated them. This is but the beginning and there is nothing he's better at than this kind of campaign.

Remember, this is the Master Svengali that made the whole country believe Saddam was seeking WMD with nothing but a few liars from the INC and raising and lowering the threat level color codes at DHS.

Posted by: The Apologist at November 17, 2005 10:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry for the double post. My computer sucks.

Posted by: The Apologist at November 17, 2005 10:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The real issue is not who thought invading as right or wrong, then or now. The problem is that we failed to bring order to the country after Saddam was toppled. This is our failure, and the one that Bush is paying the price for. That said, I don't understand Bush's defense, He seems to be saying "well I was wrong, but so was everyone else". It reminds me of the arguments my 8 yeard old gives me when she does something wrong. People are worried about the war, and it's many costs. By taking this line of argument Bush is seen to be untruthful, and weak. My appologies to The Appologist but if this is phase 1, Bush's approval rates will be lower than Nixon's by the time phase 2 starts.

Posted by: thom at November 17, 2005 02:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This spittle from the white house is not going to work. True, the kool-aid drinkers eat it up but those folks are the exact 38% of Americans who believe the Iraqi thing was well thought out and is going great. Regardless of what any Democrat said or did, the Republicans are in charge and have been for some time. The last thing the President wants right now is to play gotcha with past video clips and speech lines. His are embarrassing.... "no country building" "mission accomplished" and "We KNOW where the WMDs are located". The fact of the matter is that the administration cheerleaded this whole thing, from front to end (if there is one). Now going back and saying, "but the fans in the stands where chearing with us" is pathetic. Lead, lead, lead or get the hell out of the way. The Democrats have nothing to add or to say, and the truth be told the Poll numbers have nothing to do with the President's numbers. His failures are the problems and his inability to say he made a mistake. Rehashing what Carl Levine said before the war while four Marines are dying in Iraq is beneath the Commander in Chief and his hacks. Greg's points are right on target for the reality in America and in Iraq. Those who believe that this stuff is going to somehow make this administration strong again are sadly mistaken. Ever step forward today will be meet with two steps backwards somewhere else (ie torture chambers in Iraq, which btw, I seem to remember, our closing down of was one of the "advances" being made in Iraq).

Posted by: tregen at November 17, 2005 03:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Keep preachin' Danny!

The Apologist, I too love the strategy of getting Bush's poll numbers to %34, a sort of rope a dope, thing. Brilliant! And Libby and Delay's indictment! They won't know what hit em.

"which will lead into Rep. sweep in Nov. '06" seems about as likely as Bush having many less than 38 months in office.

Out of curiousity, how good were your predictions about what kind of WMDs we would find in Iraq?

Posted by: theCoach at November 17, 2005 03:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

thom, do you win those arguments with your 8 year old? Cause I have a hard time believing you do when you pay so little attention to what the opposition is saying. Here it is again, but broken down into little pieces for you.

1. Carl Levin says Bush lied us into war.

2. Bush says "No I didn't. We all knew the same intel. Look at what Carl said in 2002."

3. Greg says "Yeah, but Levin didn't support the war. So Bush is lying to make it look like he did."

4. No Greg. No thom. Bush is showing that Carl Levin believed Iraq was a threat independently and that it's an act of moral cowardice to suggest the President suckered us into war.

Coach, it isn't rope-a-dope. It's called having a politically viable strategy. Bush didn't want to start this pushback before the SOTU. But Democratic leaders started calling him a liar. So that adds a layer of defense to the plan. Phase 1 is calling them out on their distortion of history. Phase 2 is the reassertion of the facts in Iraq. Phase 3 is the rebuke of American cowards and the marking of the next phase in the GWOT. Bush plays longball. He expects rewards to be reaped months or even years later. Congress plays mid-ball. They make plans for the next few weeks, sometimes months later. The papers play short ball. They make plans for a few days out maybe a couple weeks. Chris Matthews and Co. play with their own balls. They can't even conceive of next month. They expect results NOW. They're deluded and Bush beats them all the time. But most of the time they beat themselves.

Your inability to distinguish between bad intel. and political likelyhoods is the reason your Party is hopeless. Lemmings are more likely than the DNC to beat the Republicans in '06. We're a year away from elections, if you don't see that your guys have peaked too early you're blind.

Posted by: The Apologist at November 17, 2005 11:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Look, folks, we are talking about two separate things here. You can criticize the Bush Administration all you want for HOW THE WAR HAS BEEN CARRIED OUT. That's fair game, and Bush has said so. What the Democrats are doing, however, is something fundamentally different - saying that Bush lied to get us into the war in the first place. These are extremely serious charges to throw at the President, especially if they are false. This is what Bush is saying. The Democrats, for a time, used the "No plan to win the peace" criticism of the Iraq war POLICY. But this didn't work (see election results, 2004) because the Democrats had no plan of their own! So they switched tactics and started criticizing being in the war at all.

Yes, Bush was wrong on WMD, so were our intel agencies, out allies' intel agencies and the Democrats who have been quoted over and over this past week. That's not an 8 year old argument - it should be a recognition that everyone has to work together to assure that it doesn't happen again. But the Democrats would rather pretend they weren't part of this group miscalculation and instead tried to blame it all on Bush, and this is fundamentally dishonest. What's more, it now has a majority of Americans questioning the legitimacy of the entire war. So what do we tell the servicemen and women they are fighting for now that the American people have turned against them because of a pack of lies put forth by the Democrats to score a few political points because they can't win on their own agenda?

As such, it is equally dishonest for Chuck Hagel to say the President is attacking people who have questioned his WAR POLICY. That's not at all what Bush is doing. Bush is trying to correct the perception created by the Democrats that the war began under false pretenses manipulated by the president. Criticize the POLICY all you want, but the facts are clear on how that policy came about.

Posted by: Danny at November 18, 2005 12:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Appologist: Gosh, I admire those with rock solid moral certainity. Greg's post and my comment, in different way's are simply saying that Bush can't win the message war with this strategy. At least not with the majority of Americans. You may find it persuasive, but I think you are in an increasingly small minority. Tell you what, please, let us know when phase 2 and 3's effect's hit, and let's look at Bush's and the R's standing with the country. Should be great fun.

You talk of viable political strategy and long ball, Bush is fighting for his life here, no more, no less. This is not about some far off political goal, it's about trying to stay viable as the POTUS. The political winds have changed in this country, along with it's mood, if you are honnest you have to accept this. My prediction? If Bush can't find a way soon to convince the American public that the war is worth the cost and sacrifice, along with some kind of coherent domestic policy, he is done for as an effective leader of this country.

Posted by: Thom at November 18, 2005 12:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Perhaps Greg who knows far more than I, could take a moment and list all the Republicans that have criticized Bush's handling of the decision to go to war, and the handling of the war. This is far from a simple Republican Democrat cat fight. There are a lot of lifelong Republicans off the reservation, that's why this is so dangerous for Bush.

Posted by: Thom at November 18, 2005 01:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thom: I get a little excited in these forums. I don't have many peers interested enough to make debate substantive in my real life. If I insult you think of it as nothing more than a rhetorical flourish, meant for style points more than anything else.

I agree that the current tactic isn't going to bring the nation on board again. As I said the Dem's lies and distortions have changed the Bush game plan somewhat. The original plan was to go on the offensive with the SOTU. (This was after it had been pushed back by Katrina and a lack of time over the holidays to carry out any sustained campaign once things had settled somewhat from Katrina.) The current Phase developed as a response to the Dem Offensive. That's why it has seemed somewhat amatuerish, though not so amatuerish as Greg seems to believe. When Phase 2 starts it will be more subtle and more deft. They've been planning it for awhile. That will be the beginning of the real opinion conquest effort. Right now he's "shaping the battlefield".

Remember, Rove has always intended to establish a longterm Republican majority. He hasn't given that up and people who underestimate Rove most often regret it afterward. Just because you don't think it's possible doesn't mean he won't do it.

Bush has a long habit of making his policy implementations into political campaign pieces. It's only natural that the defense of the Iraq war and advocacy of the GWOT would form a large plank in the coming election cycle, just as it did in '02. He will be hitting it pretty hard next year. And toward the end of next summer soldiers will be coming home as the drawdown begins. This has always been the plan. He has always outlined the triggering events, he just never gives a date. It just so happens that on our current trajectory late summer is when drawdown will begin.

Understand, this is the plan now, as this is the situation we find ourselves in now. If circumstances change dramatically one way or the other the plan will likely change. Bush isn't stupid and neither is his cabinet. These people don't take a dump without a plan. And don't count on the media having any clue what the plan is or how and when it might change because they have no clue as to what's actually happening in the White House.

Posted by: The Apologist at November 18, 2005 10:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Reviews of Belgravia Dispatch
"Awake"
--New York Times
"Must-read list"
--Washington Times
"Pompous Ass"
--an anonymous blogospheric commenter
Recent Entries
Search
English Language Media
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Non-English Language Press
U.S. Blogs
Columnists
Think Tanks
Law & Finance
Security
Books
The City
Western Europe
France
United Kingdom
Germany
Italy
Netherlands
Spain
Central and Eastern Europe
CIS/FSU
Russia
Armenia
East Asia
China
Japan
South Korea
Middle East
Egypt
Israel
Lebanon
Syria
B.D. In the Press
Archives
Categories
Syndicate this site:
XML RSS RDF

G2E

Powered by