Bush's Bubble Strikes Again
Tuesday, April 17, 2007; 1:18 PM
President Bush's public campaign to push back against Congressional demands for withdrawal from Iraq is becoming highly reminiscent of his failed effort two years ago to win support for a radical overhaul of Social Security.
The meticulously choreographed settings, the carefully controlled audiences, the mind-numbing repetition of hoary talking points (with a particular emphasis on stoking fears) -- it's like deja vu.
And so is the result: A public that is apparently more turned off to Bush's ideas the more he talks about them.
As it was last time, Bush's Bubble may be the central problem. Bush seems to think that through sheer force of will -- and repetition -- he will convince people that his cause is just -- in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. And why does he think that? Quite possibly, because virtually everyone he talks to -- and virtually everyone he sees -- is already in his camp.
The question the White House has to confront is this: Is there another way? What if Bush sought out representative audiences, acknowledged the realities on the ground both in Iraq and at home, engaged his critics and honestly addressed their concerns?
He might or might not be more persuasive. But it would certainly be a good thing for the country.
Jonathan Weisman and Jon Cohen write in The Washington Post about the president's pitch yesterday at the White House: "Bush used a backdrop of military families to declare: 'We should not legislate defeat in this vital war.' Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), flanked by retired Army generals, fired back: 'The president and the vice president continue to desperately cling to their failed escalation strategy and attack those who disagree with them.'
"Democrats appear to be standing on firm political ground, as they work toward a final bill. A Washington Post-ABC News poll of 1,141 adults, conducted April 12-15, found that 58 percent trusted the Democrats in Congress to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq, compared with 33 percent who trusted Bush.
"The president has taken advantage of Congress's spring recess to pound Democrats over their legislation, which would impose benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet; create strict rules for resting, equipping and training combat troops; and set a 2008 date for the final withdrawal of U.S. troops. Despite those efforts, Bush has lost a little ground to Democrats, who in February were trusted by 54 percent to set Iraq policy. . . .
"Bush continued yesterday to say that victory in Iraq is pivotal to the larger fight against terrorism, but Americans are increasingly agreeing with the Democratic view that the issues are separate. About 57 percent now say the United States can succeed in the terrorism fight without winning the Iraq war, an increase of 10 percentage points since January, when Americans were almost evenly divided on the question."
Here are The Post's poll results. The survey finds Bush's approval is at 35 percent, within 2 points of his all-time low in the Post poll, and 18 points lower than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has a 53 percent approval rating.
The public disapproves of Bush's handling of Iraq by a 70 to 29 margin, and by a 58 to 34 percent margin believes that the Democrats in Congress are taking a stronger leadership role in the government these days than Bush. An all-time high of 66 percent feel the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, with an all-time high of 54 percent feeling that way strongly.