Jewish World Review April 17, 2002 / 6 Iyar, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Remember how Bill Clinton would not let a day go by without announcing some initiative, program, or proposal? His critics called it small bore, but everyday he would push measures like school uniforms, college scholarships, family leave time, and volunteer service to get his message through. Just recently, George W. Bush has started to do the same thing.
In his first year, Bush spoke out only rarely and then on important topics. He didn't mind appearing in the news only one or two days each week and did not feel the need to generate coverage every day. But, in the past few weeks, the White House has quietly begun to change its tactics and now, borrowing a page -- or a volume -- from the Clinton playbook, the president is out there almost every day pushing his message du jour.
Look at the recent litany:
Bush's folks even used the Clinton-era gimmick of dovetailing a fund raising expedition - like last week's trip to Connecticut for embattled GOP Governor John Rowland - with a public announcement - such as his call for volunteerism. The idea is to cover the bad story of political fund raising with a good one about issues and to make the taxpayer - not the Rowland campaign -- subsidize the trip since "official business" was conducted when the President gave his speech.
Why the change in Bush's operation?
The White House realizes that reality doesn't always generate sufficient good news to keep up the President's ratings. When the military is hunting down terrorists in caves each day, the White House doesn't have to manufacture coverage. But when all reality has to offer is a balky Congress and one's Secretary of State trying to end Mid-East violence, the White House staff doubtless feels that more drastic action is called for.
And the White House staff is right. President Bush needs to keep up his high ratings, not just for political, but for governmental purposes. If he drops from the low 80s and high 70s to turf more typical of mortal humans - the low 60s or high 50s, for example - he will not be able to discipline the carping and cavilling Washington establishment into supporting his necessary steps in prosecuting the war against terrorism.
America does not really have a presidential system any more where a man gets elected, governs for four years, and then runs again. We really have a parliamentary system where a president needs a daily majority in order to govern. When he cannot find that majority in Congress, he must get it in public opinion polls.
When Clinton fell to the 40s in job approval, the press claimed that he was "irrelevant." It was only his ascension to more acceptable levels of public approval that stayed the hand of the executioner.
Clinton was criticized for remaining a "Governor" and not adopting a presidential enough style in his bite-sized one-a-day proposals. But the ideas resonated with the public and the constant gunfire of ideas kept his ratings afloat even in the dark days of government shutdown and then of impeachment and scandal.
Bush is right to fight, every single day, for high ratings and to break
his message into bite sized bits to keep them up. Its how the game is played
these days and its how its
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan