George W. Bush came to Washington ambitious to fulfill a promise to be “a uniter, not a divider.” He had been successful as Governor of Texas in governing in a relationship of cooperation with legislative democrats, and he believed that he could successfully apply his natural amiability and charm to achieving the same kind of good-natured bipartisanship at the national level. George W. Bush was dead wrong. No one in Washington was open to being charmed. The stakes are looked upon as too high, and its adversarial politics are these days professionally conducted on the basis of calculation, not personalities. His political opponents had never accepted the legitimacy of the Bush electoral victory in 2000, and when he easily turned aside what they had fondly believed would amount to a formidable challenge in 2004, they were even more furious.
Bush’s re-election with increased congressional majorities appeared to represent an historic political watershed. The democrat party was seemingly in complete disarray. The liberal establishment’s traditionally decisive weapon of MSM domination had proved astonishingly ineffective during the 2004 campaign. The MSM wouldn’t cover allegations about John Kerry’s military service and awards, and his veteran opponents just published a book which topped the best seller list for weeks. No one had any problem learning what John Kerry’s fellow sailors thought of him. The left tried to turn the tables by producing a Big Story attacking Bush’s military record, and the Blogosphere brought down Dan Rather and humiliated CBS. It looked as if conservative AM talk radio combined with a newly ascendant Blogosphere, operating as alternative information sources, had arrived as the Republican Party’s fully operational ABM system, able to repel and refute MSM attacks, and able as well to launch devastating counterstrikes.
Then came 2005.
No one on the Right foresaw that what the MSM could not do in the 2004 campaign, they could do given a natural disaster to work with.
No one in the Bush camp recognized the possibility that endless repetition of the claim that “Bush lied” would ever succeed in gaining traction beyond the circles of the leftwing lunatic fringe, and rise in the minds of the general public to the level of accepted fact.
No one in the leadership of the Administration seems to have recognized that the executive branch, from the Intelligence Community and the State Department to the Department of Justice, featured significant numbers of entrenched and disgruntled liberal opponents ready to work systematically to bring down the administration from within.
The Bush Administration has stood there, like the proverbial deer in the headlights, doing nothing to save itself, while its pouting spook opponents from the Intelligence Community have run a disinformation operation that has successfully forced the resignation of the Vice Presidential Chief of Staff, and which promises also to “take out” the president’s chief advisor. While this organized group of administration opponents has successfully managed to criminalize disputes over the interpretation of intelligence by promoting a trivial press leak into a major scandal and full-blown criminal investigation, it has also leaked far more substantive and far more damaging information routinely on a weekly basis without the least sign of any administration response.
Bush is about as unpopular as presidents get right now without being impeached. He has an excellent chance of being accorded a place in the history books in the general vicinity of Warren G. Harding and Richard Nixon. How many more weekly leakfests does this administration think it can sustain?
It doesn’t have to be this way. Get Porter Goss to swear out a complaint of the violation of intelligence statutes. Find the meanest, and sharpest, and most press-hungry Harvard or Yale Law-educated Republican Appeal Court judge you can find, and get somebody actually on your side in the Justice Department (not the guy who appointed Patrick Fitzgerald), to appoint that man the next Special Council, and let slip the dogs of prosecution.
The President can make the news, you know. Instead of waiting for the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, or Mr. Zarqawi, to write the weekend’s headlines, why don’t you guys write some yourself? Let’s invade Syria. Just like Iraq’s, the Syrian dictatorship will crumble like a rotten pumpkin with one good kick. There’ll be a lot less insurgency in Iraq, once the Syrian base is out of business. Terrorism all over the Middle East wil be significantly reduced. Maybe Iran will think twice about that nuclear bomb project when they see US tanks rolling through Damascus.
Let’s bomb Al Jazeera. So what if they set up a second operation elsewhere? We do actually have more than two loads of bombs. I bet they run out of broadcasting facilities, before we run out of ordinance.
Your opponents are leaking US Intel secrets like a sieve. Leak some yourself. Tell some war stories. Go on television, show pictures, and tell the people how we caught this really bad guy, or that one, up to some serious form of skulduggery.
You’re getting lots of static about the treatment of terrorist captives and lack of terrorist due process. Let’s have some due process. Put on a show trial. Take one or several murderous jihadist fanatics, from whom we’ve gotten every piece of information we can, put them on trial on television, convict them, and then ceremoniously hang them.
You need better news management. Making a case for the war, making a case for the administration’s policies, needs to be a completely different scale of priority. Our adversaries in the Middle East cannot possibly defeat US military forces in the field, but they can defeat us, and bring about our ultimate humiliation and withdrawal, by winning (with the aid of the domestic left) the battle for control of the US public’s perception of reality. The fight for control of domestic American opinion needs to be understood as absolutely vital to the successs of American arms.
And the active, and skilled, conduct of the battle for public opinion is essential for this administration’s place in history, its effectiveness at governing, and –at this point– its very survival.