Bush's Optimists Club
Friday, August 3, 2007; 12:14 PM
Facing a public that has lost confidence in him and his war in Iraq, President Bush has embarked on a personal quest to convey an important message. But it's a message that is remarkably free of substance -- and that may lead even more people to conclude that he's lost touch with reality.
Bush's message, in a nutshell: I'm a sunny guy.
The latest group ushered into the Oval Office to experience Bush's optimism first-hand -- and off the record -- consisted of 10 fawning right-wing talk-show hosts who visited the White House on Wednesday.
I mentioned this in yesterday's column, quoting two of the invitees: Hugh Hewitt and Glenn Beck. Beck told his CNN viewers: "Above all, I can tell you that the president has incredible passion and resolve. I have not seen this George W. Bush since he had a fire truck behind him and a bull horn in his hand. He was so clear-minded; he was focused. This is not the guy you see on television."
I've since found write-ups from a few more of the participants. Michael Medved writes: "I can officially reveal that he seemed energized, optimistic, focused, articulate, comfortable and totally in command. Anyone who doubts that this chief executive enjoys the Presidency and its demands has never seen him in the White House. As the President unequivocally declared (and as I think I'm permitted to quote): 'I like the atmosphere in the Oval Office.'"
Scott Hennen's detailed description of the visit was the most revealing.
How did Bush set the tone for his chat? By telling the story of the rug.
"He started with an explanation of why he wanted us in the Oval Office," Hennen writes. "He said the room was the place where he made the vast majority of his decisions as President. He gave us a sense of the magnitude of those decisions and what information he learns on a daily basis there. He shared a story of one of the first decisions he was asked to make in the Oval Office. What style of rug would he want? He chuckled and explained [that he asked] Laura -- as he didn't do rugs. He used that as a metaphor to explain how he manages the awesome responsibility he has. His role is to focus on the big decisions utilizing his core convictions that the United States is a force for good in the World. That we must lead and take on evil . . . wherever it is, so as to assure as many people as possible will enjoy the God given inalienable right to freedom. He spoke very eloquently about Good vs. Evil and even brought the story back to the rug, which was designed with only this Presidential input -- to let it reflect light so as to influence his decision making. Light as in good vs. darkness as in evil."
(As Peter Baker wrote in The Washington Post last March: "Bush seems fixated on his rug. . . . 'He loves his rug,' said Nicolle Wallace, the [then-]White House communications director. 'I've heard him describe it countless times. . . . When you're giving a tour of the Oval Office, you're trying to point to things that emphasize what you're trying to do' Wallace said. 'For him, the optimism is very symbolic of what he wants his presidency to be about.'" Here's Bush talking about the rug on the White House Web site.)
Hennen continues: "If every American could have the opportunity I did today -- to sit with the President of the United States and hear him firsthand describe his resolve to win in Iraq and around the world, we would have a very different situation with public opinion. . . .
"His descriptions of the enemy and their brutal, cold-blooded-killer tactics were enough to make a graying group of radio talk how hosts want to enlist and serve this country in uniform."
Hennen describes Bush sharing information he doesn't share with just ordinary people. "The President was passionate about our military successes -- he walked us through example after example of real stats and facts that are benchmarks. Many of us asked why he does not share those with the public. He explained the military's reluctance to be seen as taking out the enemy for the benefit of a statistic used to explain our success."