Thursday, September 08, 2005

Katrina - Bush wins another news cycle

Before we begin celebrating Scott Mcclellan's tough news conference (I seem to remember a tough news conference about Karl Rove and the Plame Leak...remember that?), let us mourn both the rightward drifting media and the 8,744th consecutive missed political opportunity for the Dems: The media coverage has gone from a depiction of bipartisan condemnation of Bush to the typical media presentation of he said-she said, left vs. right. As usual, the debate is he lied, she said the truth, but it's all the same to our anything-but-the-perception-of-liberal-bias media.

I refer to the now dead talking point ("Both Republicans and Democrats have strongly criticized President Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina") as the Conan O'Brien talking point, because he's said it at the start of his last two shows. He said it because it is basically the truth, though Republicans get less and less critical by the minute. But Democrats have failed to hammer this wonderful point home, and now we find ourselves back in partisan argument land where any criticism of Bush is just what you'd expect from the opposition party.

Meanwhile the keyboard kommandos at The Corner and all over the rightwing blogosphere have stopped criticizing the president and started doing what they're most comfortable with - cutting and pasting whole sentances from the talking points emails they've at last received from the RNC. If only the Republican (talking point) response had come sooner after the disaster! They wouldn't have had to say all those mean things about our poor maligned president. Anyway, they're better now and they have great sharp little phrases to trot out in defense of our leader - like now, Mayor Nagin is "Mayor Meltdown." Boy they really have a knack for this stuff.

This has happened pretty much every time Bush has made a mistake, most memorably after Abu Ghraib, where the initial conservative reaction was disgust, a fragile disgust that slowly metamorphosized into equivocation and then full throated defense of Bush as the Bush spin machine gave them another reason to deny how horrible their president is. But it's not only the peer pressure from Bush-is-God republican operatives that pulls these stray sheep back into the flock, it's their repugnance at being on the same side as the Democrats who criticize so ineffectively and who clearly hate the conservatives who initially agree with them.

Next time Bush fails miserably and several conservatives criticize him - seize on their words and don't ever let them go! But don't say gotcha. Compliment them as intelligent men and women of reason, who are so objective that they don't mind criticizing their president when they think it's right to do so. In other words, make them feel good about criticizing Bush. Sure they'll try to backtrack, but it's much harder to do once they've been embraced so warmly, their criticisms so sincerely praised and so frequently quoted. And for God's sake, quote them all the time. As with John Roberts, sometimes the Dems can do more damage with kindness than with criticism, which they suck at anyway.

Speaking of which, the Dem leadership at last jumps into the political fray with an urgency and timeliness not seen since America's most famous failed horse lawyer Michael Brown did a "heck of a job" responding to Hurricane Katrina. The problem with waiting 10 days to be outraged is that the American people know you're not genuinely outraged. Actually outraged people (and cunning politicians) don't wait 10 days to feel angry.

Yet another reason why the Dem leadership's criticisms never seem to resonate with the public.


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