Friday :: Jan 7, 2005

Post Nails Bush For Crisis Mentality In Pursuing Political Goals


by Steve

Jim VandeHei of the Washington Post runs a first-rate Page One in Saturday’s edition pointing out the “Peter and the Wolf” approach beaten to death by this administration of casting their political goals as crises demanding immediate attention. As he notes, it works until the public realizes your game and you then have a credibility problem.

This strategy helped Bush win support for the war in Iraq, tax cuts and education policies, as well as reclaim the White House. What is unclear is whether the same approach will work, given the battering to the administration's credibility over its Iraq claims and a new Democratic campaign accusing Bush of crying wolf.

VandeHei shows how the Administration is resorting to misleading crisis language on three major goals of conservatives: privatizing Social Security, limiting medical malpractice awards, and getting as many right wing extremists as possible onto the federal bench. And he gives good play to the quotes of Minority Leader Harry Reid in deflating the hype and deceptions.

"This White House had made an art of creating crisis where a crisis does not exist," said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "It is a crisis created in the mind of the White House because they want to take care of the fat cats on Wall Street," Reid said. He argued that Social Security is primed to pay out full benefits until 2055 -- even if no changes are made.

Bush accuses Democrats of creating a "vacancy crisis" on the courts by opposing his nominees. Republicans claim Democrats have abused the Senate filibuster by blocking 10 of the president's 229 judicial nominees in his first term -- although confirmation of Bush nominees exceeds, in most cases, the first-term records of presidents going back to Ronald Reagan. "Does that sound like a crisis? Only if you failed math really badly," Reid said.

Painting a grim picture of problems is as old as politics itself. But Democrats and some presidential scholars say there is a danger for Bush if he appears to stoke fears for political gain. The Bush administration was criticized throughout the campaign -- and before -- for its repeated prewar warnings of Saddam Hussein's deadly weapons cache, which turned out to be based on faulty intelligence and proved largely untrue. Democrats contend Bush also exaggerated the nation's economic problems to justify tax cuts, terrorist threats to convince the public of the need for restrictions on civil liberties, and John F. Kerry's record to win a second term.

"One of the key problems of this form of rhetorical leadership" is discerning the difference "between a genuine and manufactured crisis," said Jeffrey K. Tulis, author "The Rhetorical Presidency" and a government professor at the University of Texas. "People do respond to crisis -- if you think there is one, you tend to support the leader. The danger there is if it appears there is not one, you can have a credibility problem."

At least the Post has noticed, and that is a good sign.

Steve :: 11:41 PM :: Comments (14) :: Digg It!