It is the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq and recently there were protests all over America and the world against our occupation. Over the weekend, I decided to ask my audience if they supported this war and I tied it into Bush’s overall performance.
First, surprisingly I learned that most callers, emailers and quick poll respondents would feel better about supporting our efforts in Iraq if they saw progress and believed that there was a reachable goal that was articulated by this President. Even though I have always supported the effort in Iraq, it has been increasingly clear that Bush and his advisors are incompetent in the “politics of perception.”
Secondly, in response to Sunday’s quick poll question, I learned that most of our audience believes that Bush is a horrible President (66%). While unscientific, it is significant once you realize that 70% of our show’s audience is conservative to moderate politically. This tells me that Bush is in big trouble with the public’s perception of his Presidency as a whole.
This is borne out in the comments of many of those who called the show, including an Iraq war veteran Marine who no longer supports the efforts because of mis management of the occupation and his perception that we are not making progress there. He like so many in the US have fallen victim to the liberal media’s portrayal of nothing positive in Iraq. Yet, the President is partially to blame because he has not been out in front countering each lie or distortion of the MSM. Human nature tells us that silence is an admission of guilt and his failure to aggressively take on his critics has lead people to believe the lies of MoveOn.Org.
His administration is not actively combating these negative reports with positive facts even though they have made progress with the addition of Tony Snow. Staunch supporters of the war are having doubts about our direction, as the polls indicate.
Even I have written an unpublished op-ed to the Oregonian about the troop surge that is critical of Bush’s plan.
The Democrats continue to seize on Bush’s inability to articulate what the goal in Iraq is or for that matter the broader war on terror. They are masterfully using it to destroy our nations desire to win this effort and Afghanistan or any other future engagement we may find ourselves in, The MSM joyfully joins in with them and the predictable result is a loss of support here at home for war.
This is nothing new however, as images of dead Americans from the civil war to today have always created doubt on the home front. Many of this nation’s war efforts have failed in times past because of ineffective leadership and has affected Presidential poll ratings, with Harry Truman having the lowest ever recorded (22% approval) during the dark days of Korea in 1952.
Adding fuel to the fire is the PC inspired mismanagement of occupation strategy by the Pentagon, the State Department’s interference with an effective policy towards Iran and the President’s stubbornness to stick with people like Rumsfeld who end up a liability.
All of this because a President cannot communicate.
I suspect that behind these leadership failings are Karl Rove and his merry band of pollsters who are constantly advising the President in one public relations disaster after another. Bush’s inability to articulate almost anything with any real charisma or passion is also at fault for the loss of support for this action and if not corrected soon, will do lasting damage to our nation’s ability to fight any war in the future.
These failings can be rectified if Bush does a few things immediately.
He must first fire Karl Rove and go with his gut instincts and defend himself once a week in a press conference. You must remember that Bush is a fighter pilot and I can tell you from personal experience that they are all very cocky and aggressive. I saw that quality in him when I had a short encounter with him after 9/11 and I believe that advisors like Rove have kept that passion and aggressiveness suppressed. It is time for it to remerge and Bush to get engaged. He is at his best when he is passionate about something he really believes in and this is his opportunity to articulate a strategy powerfully and influence the world’s thinking to counter the Democrats and the MSM’s open hostility.
Secondly, he must unleash Tony Snow who knows the game of public perception better than anyone else around the President. There is no doubt that Tony is being muzzled and only occasionally is give permission to go after the David Gregory’s of the White House press corps. Tony is more than capable of creating sound bites for the evening news that will be controversial, yet persuasive in the court of public opinion.
Thirdly, the President must tell us over and over again what is his definition of winning and how he is going to get that done. He must constantly remind the American people that winning the war on terror is our only option and he should skillfully use the images of 9/11 to reinforce the need to do so. His failure to do this was reflected in many comments from my listeners this weekend and is a clear indication of what must be done to change the public’s perception of our efforts.
Amazingly, the polls released yesterday indicating Iraqi public opinion reaches a different conclusion than what the Democrats and the MSM are saying. Most Iraqis don’t want us to leave yet, think they are better off without Sadaam and don’t think they are in a civil war.
Bush needs to seize on this today and start passionately telling us that his troop surge and change in strategy with putting Gen Petraeus in charge over there is producing positive results. His poll numbers will improve immediately, a point I sensed from my callers this weekend and that America is hungry for good war news. We as a nation must feel that our sacrifice and direction is producing positive results and this President is the one who needs to be out in front articulating the goals and positive message of our accomplishments.
If he does that, then conservatives like me who have voted twice for this man will once again support his leadership and will no longer think he is incompetent.