The New Sales Pitch

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, June 17, 2005; 12:00 PM

President Bush launches a much-ballyhooed new public-relations campaign next week -- but is it just going to be more of the same?

On the CBS Evening News last night, John Roberts reported that Bush's solution to his current, highly embattled state is to "sharpen his focus and ramp up his sales pitch in the coming weeks, telling Americans why it's important to stay the course in Iraq, pressuring Congress to get some of his agenda passed by the August recess.

"But on the surface, at least, it appears as though this sharper focus doesn't include anything that the president hasn't already been saying, and in a case of deja vu all over again, his new PR campaign on Iraq seems remarkably similar to one he launched almost two years ago, citing the progress in Iraq, while at the same time reminding Americans that difficult times still lie ahead."

On CNN, Dana Bash talked to anchor Tom Foreman:

"So the White House communications team is telling reporters today that they have a new message, and essentially it is the president is going to say 'he gets it'. They understand. . . .

"As one senior official who was just briefing us said . . . Americans don't necessarily see all of the details, everything that is going on in Iraq and that it's the president's responsibility, and it's time for him to actually get that message out. . . .

"But one key thing to keep in mind, here, this is a communications strategy -- even telling reporters that they are going to do that is part of that strategy. They are not, as we understand, going to announce any new policy, any new shift in strategy, when it comes to the meat on the bones, if you will, when it comes to the substance both on Iraq and the economy.

"FOREMAN: Dana, don't they have any worries about that? Because it seems like the public, certainly the congressional people, are asking for meat on the bones. They are saying enough of the talk, tell us a plan.

"BASH: When it comes to Iraq, that is something that some of us were just pressing a senior official here on, [that] the American people have been hearing about the progress that the White House says is going on in Iraq for some time. And that, as we are hearing from Capitol Hill, perhaps some Americans want to hear a date certain for an exit strategy. They say that is simply [not] going to happen. And the president simply feels that . . . he has to at least explain better what is going on on the ground. And they think that could help."

Julie Hirschfeld Davis writes in the Baltimore Sun: " 'One of the things we have to do is get out and explain to the American people where we are,' a senior administration official said yesterday. 'It's incumbent on the administration once again to explain to the American people where we are in this process, what the way forward is, why we think we're making progress, but -- at the same time -- be very clear that this is a difficult situation.' "

All this more-of-the-same-only-different talk led one reporter at yesterday's press briefing with Scott McClellan to ask:

" Q So are you suggesting, then, that the current concerns of the American people are because they are either uninformed or misinformed about the situation in Iraq and the President is going to try to correct them?


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