Political Hay

Bush and His Christmas Offensive

At long last, the President leaps into the fray.

By 12.20.05

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President Bush's approval ratings got a most welcome boost this week as the administration launched an all-out information offensive -- probably the most long-awaited offensive since Lincoln ordered McClellan to get off his butt and cross the James River.

The blitz commenced as Bush's ratings sank to a dismal 35 percent, and support for the Iraq war continued to tank. Had he waited any longer the President would have been about as popular as a sow in Sana'a mosque. Granted, President Bush is not a stirring, or even eloquent speaker, which is doubtless why he has held fewer press conferences than any modern president, and perhaps explains why on Sunday he delivered his first prime time address since the invasion of Iraq. Even so, the American people have longed for reassurance, and the President seemed amply rewarded for his pains, if the polls are to be believed. Indeed President Bush seemed to acknowledge that he had been too long out of touch when he told Fox News, "I need to remind people about the stakes (in Iraq) and the strategy to achieve victory on a regular basis." The speech followed a long silence in which the administration's critics, enemies, and the mainstream media have had the field almost all to themselves.

Doubtless the President waited until after the Iraqi elections in order to have something positive to report. But in the meantime the negative campaigns were having a disastrous effect on the moral of the troops and the nation. For months (if not years) the only news most Americans received from Iraq were the daily number of U.S. soldiers killed by insurgents. Meanwhile the message of why the U.S. is in Iraq -- that our security depends on the spread of democracy to unfriendly nations -- has grown vague and incomprehensible. For a nation with the attention span of a five-year-old on a sugar high this message cannot be repeated too often.

It was good to see the President get riled up for once. His PR handlers no doubt told him to remain calm, cool, and collected. But I suspect the reason Bush's ratings soared is that the American people are ticked off too. Americans are growing weary of the Democrats' daily calls for a pull-out, and tedious criticisms of the way the U.S. handles suspected terrorists. Most Americans do not care how uncomfortable jihadists are, or where they are sent for questioning, whether suspected terrorists' phone lines are tapped while they are chatting with Osama bin Laden, or what Caribbean ocean-front detention center Taliban rapists are housed in. Americans are rightly annoyed that the U.S. and its allies have to play by one set of rules -- designed for an antiquated form of warfare and guaranteed to prolong the insurgency -- while the enemy admits to no rules at all, save the primitive law code of a bellicose desert prophet. Americans are tired of hearing their government compared to al Qaeda. And Americans are disgusted that Liberals continue to work to take away the tools necessary to fight the war on terror by -- for one thing -- emasculating the Patriot Act.

Finally, Americans are fed up that no matter how nice the U.S. plays -- even to the extent of risking the lives of its own troops to minimize civilian casualties -- world leaders like former U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali still refer to the U.S. as a "totalitarian regime."

The mainstream media, naturally, see things quite differently. Bush's ire was but an expression of impotent rage and frustration at his own incompetence. As one Texas poli-sci professor told the Washington Post, "He feels frustrated that people are questioning his right to do what to his way of thinking is so obviously necessary to protect the country." As for the Bush bounce, it was temporary and will melt like the Christmas snow...

Personally, I hope this new offensive is a sign that the administration is taking off the gloves. It's about time for a good scrap.

During Monday's press conference the President was asked about his low approval ratings. "I understand that everybody is not going to agree with my decisions," he said. Before the morning was over his approval ratings were back up to near 50 percent. That's a start.

The offensive continues.

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About the Author
Christopher Orlet writes from St. Louis.