Is Good News for Bush Good News?
The media bandwagon effect is in high form today, with several articles out on the “things are looking up for Bush” meme.
Spate of Good News Gives White House a Chance to Regroup – Peter Baker, WaPo, p. A1
In a White House that had virtually forgotten what good news looks like, the past few weeks have been refreshing. A Republican won a much-watched special congressional election. President Bush recruited a Wall Street heavy hitter as Treasury secretary. U.S. forces killed the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. And now the architect of the Bush presidency has avoided criminal charges.
In visiting Baghdad on Tuesday, President Bush was trying to deliver a carefully calibrated message to Americans: that Iraq and the administration’s strategy there appear to be turning a corner, but troops will not be withdrawn anytime soon.
Since the killing last week of the jihadist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, polls have shown some tentative signs of a reversal in the slide in public support for the war. Some foreign policy analysts, even those critical of Mr. Bush, see glimmers of hope.”It’s been a steady drumbeat of disastrous tactical news, so this is a very significant event,” said one of those critics, Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired Army commander, referring to the formation of the new government. “This is the decisive turning point, not whacking Zarqawi.”
Bush’s Visit To Baghdad Signifies Upturn In His Political Fortunes [$] – John D. McKinnon and Yochi J. Dreazen, WSJ, p. 1.
President Bush, caught for months in a losing battle for public approval, suddenly is scoring gains on several fronts, raising a far-reaching question: Is he setting the stage for a political recovery?
Mr. Bush Tuesday sought to capitalize on progress on the most vital front of all, Iraq, making an unannounced visit to Baghdad to hail the formation of a new government there. At the same time, another cloud lifted in Washington as defense lawyers announced that top White House political adviser Karl Rove won’t be indicted in an investigation into the leaking of a Central Intelligence Agency agent’s identity.
Along with other recent good news, the developments hold at least the prospect that Mr. Bush’s political slide has hit bottom. The president has pulled himself off the mat before, in 2002, when Democrats expecting to score the usual midterm election gains against the president’s party actually lost seats, and in 2004, when he trailed Democrat John Kerry by a significant margin only to roar back and win re-election.
Bush is on a bit of a roll after months of unrelenting bad news – Ron Hutcheson and William Douglas, Knight Ridder Newspapers
Tuesday’s news that presidential adviser Karl Rove won’t face prosecution lifted a cloud over the White House and gave President Bush another reason to hope that his worst days are behind him.
As Bush basked in cheers from U.S. troops during a secret visit to Baghdad, his closest adviser was back at work in the White House free from worry about a possible indictment in the CIA leak case. All in all, it was another good day for the president, who finally has a few reasons to celebrate after a long string of setbacks that battered his popularity.
The developments added to the optimism that swept through the White House after last week’s slaying of terrorist chief Abu Musab al Zarqawi in Iraq and the completion of a new Iraqi government.
In addition, a Republican won the June 6 special election to fill the San Diego congressional seat left vacant by former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s bribery conviction, reviving hope among Republicans that congressional elections in November may not doom them. Bush’s recent appointments of Josh Bolten as White House chief of staff and Henry Paulson as treasury secretary also won widespread praise.
“All of a sudden the clouds broke and the sun started to shine,” said Ed Gillespie, a former Republican Party chairman. “After six months of thunderstorms and rain it feels pretty good.”
Good Run Buoys GOP – Many Now Express Cautious Optimism [$] — Ben Pershing and Erin P. Billings, Roll Call.
After months of negative headlines and dismal poll numbers, House and Senate Republicans are taking the past two weeks’ run of good news as evidence that the party’s political fortunes may be on the rebound.
Despite these ledes, all (except perhaps Roll Call; I’m not a subscriber) then broke into a chorus of “It probably won’t last” or “It won’t be enough.” Yet, for even many bloggers on the moderate Left, this coverage is maddening.
Kevin Drum is the first to throw a wet blanket:
Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations. The GOP barely won a congressional election in a district that’s 60% Republican. After a year of looking, the White House finally persuaded someone to become Secretary of the Treasury. They killed a terrorist they could have killed three years ago if they’d wanted to. And Bush’s top aide has “avoided criminal charges.”
Steve Benen says, “Don’t call it a comeback,” offering a list of reasons that overlaps and expands on Drum’s.
Joe @ AmericaBlog calls it “gross” and contends “We all know — even most reporters in the traditional media know — that the Bush administration has been a disaster on every front, including Iraq. They haven’t had a policy, they just spin. We have seen that they can’t and don’t do government, but they can do politics.”
Playing it down the middle, Joe Gandleman contends, “If the Bush team is not yet totally back in stride, they do seem to be getting up from a series of huge fumbles. And, as always, they will go on the offensive (Rove already has). ”
That strikes me about right. Are recent events enough to get the President up from the mid-20s in public approval to the 50-plus range? Not hardly. Still, the idea that these things don’t constitute good news for the president is odd.
Yes, Zarqawi could have been “gotten” years ago, before he emerged as the force he became. The facts as they were known in 2003 were weighed and Bush made a decision regretable in hindsight. Ditto, in spades, Clinton and bin Laden. It’s unfair, though, to criticize people for not knowing the future. And it’s undeniable that last Wednesday’s strike was at least a minor blow for the good guys and a rather major propaganda victory, if perhaps short lived.
Yes, the Cunningham district has long been a GOP stronghold. Yet, they were in danger of losing it because of Cunningham’s personal malfeasance and the stink of other Republican scandals, real and perceived. Surely, the Democrats would have touted Busby’s defeat as a huge victory? Does it not follow, then, that his victory is, well, a victory?
I agree that the Rove non-indictment is a low bar. I’d have fired him long ago for a variety of reasons. Still, had he been indicted, would that have been a non-event or a major blow for the administration? If the latter, one would think the converse true.
I’m not sure that the appointment of a new Treasury Secretary belongs on the list; nobody outside Wall Street much cares. Still, momentum is momentum. (And lists of four are more impressive than of three, presumably, if one is looking to buttress one’s meme.) And putting a fresh coat of paint on things helps change perceptions sometimes.
One could argue, really, that the trend actually started much earlier, with the appointment of a new Chief of Staff and Spokesman. Whether they’ll ultimately be able to help right the ship is unclear. I still maintain that events on the ground in Iraq will have more influence on the president’s poll numbers than any domestic policy moves.