Showing History the Way Ahead

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, October 8, 2008

P resident Bush has been famously dismissive of concerns about how history will treat his tenure. When our colleague Bob Woodward once asked him how history would judge the Iraq war, Bush said: "History. We don't know. We'll all be dead."

But apparently that doesn't mean he's not going to write his own book to set things straight. And it doesn't mean there's no need to spin or get the true facts out now as the administration comes to a close, lest historians miss the most important successes.

So an e-mail went out last week to government agencies to get working on a project to lay out "THE BUSH RECORD." It came with a handy "rollout strategy."

Asked about this, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that, at the end of an administration, it was "only natural to collect data" that reporters will need for their retrospectives. "We'd like to have lots of information ready on the bigger picture," he said, so people are aware that during the Bush years "minority education test scores went up or that teenage drug use is down 18 percent."

"Please provide a one or two paragraph summary," the e-mail instructs, "on the overarching communications strategy for your Department. This section should also list any broad, overarching products you plan to produce (e.g., a document listing your Department's major accomplishments over the past eight years, a video of Department successes, etc.)."

Under the heading "Strategy," the e-mail instructs that the "next section should list the key topics your Department plans to highlight, broken out under the three main themes of 'Kept America Safe & Promoted Liberty Abroad,' 'Lowered Taxes & Reformed Government,' and 'Stood on Principle/Tackled Tough Issues/Showed the Way Ahead.' "

Under the heading "Rollout Strategy," the e-mail asks for a "list of any speeches/events you are planning on this topic," along with a list of "any planned documents/products you will be producing (fact sheets, booklets, videos, etc.) on this topic."

The guidance also calls for a list of "any planned media appearances, op-eds, etc. on this topic."

The same strategic outline applies when agencies go on to strategerize the remaining topics of what they did to lower taxes and reform government or how they stood on principle and tackled tough issues and showed the way ahead. Looks like a pretty big PR blitz.

Moses, Einstein and Bush

Part of the Bush legacy effort -- at least covering the early years -- has already been taken care of in the classic 2003 book "The Leadership Genius of George W. Bush: 10 Common Sense Lessons from the Commander-in-Chief," by consultants Carolyn B. Thompson and James W. Ware, a volume rediscovered this week by Marc Abrahams, editor of the bimonthly Annals of Improbable Research, writing yesterday in the Guardian. The punditocracy used Bush as a "piƱata," the book says. They thought Bush "was a lightweight worthy of little but scorn and contempt," the authors say, but "something was wrong with this picture. As authors and consultants in the field of leadership, we were knowledgeable about the subject. . . . We asked ourselves: what makes him so effective? How does he do it?"

Keys to his "brilliance," are that he knows to "bring in the right people," and not to "be afraid to hire people smarter than you" and then "leave 'em alone" to do their jobs. You've got to, as Bush does, "trust your instincts" and "hold people accountable."

Bush compares favorably to Moses-- another "leadership genius" -- and Albert Einstein."For Einstein," they explain, "intuition was more important than knowledge."


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