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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bush's Big Sales Pitch

At this point, it's pretty much a given that President Bush will announce an escalation of troops in Iraq. Unless he's had a flash of inspiration (and what are the odds of that?) Bush will announce an increase of 20,000 troops, a goal of iraqi control by November (would that be a 'benchmark' or a 'timeline'?), and an iraqi jobs program.

Details of Bush's announcement have been so thoroughly leaked that the only thing left for the President to do is sell it -- which is probably why everything else was leaked. This is clearly the entire purpose of the president's address. The administration seems to be convinced that the only way the US can lose in Iraq is to lose the american public. We've seen glimpses of this before:

Ken Adelman, quoted by the New Yorker:

"[Donald Rumsfeld] was in deep denial—deep, deep denial. And then he did a strange thing. He did fifteen or twenty minutes of posing questions to himself, and then answering them. He made the statement that we can only lose the war in America, that we can't lose it in Iraq. And I tried to interrupt this interrogatory soliloquy to say, 'Yes, we are actually losing the war in Iraq.' He got upset and cut me off. He said, 'Excuse me,' and went right on with it."

Apparently, the belief is that you can fight a war pretty much forever. As long as you don't stop fighting, you can't lose. Of course, it helps if you can actually define 'a win' -- something the Bush administration has so far failed to do -- but there ya go.

Newsweek has a piece that includes this little snippet of info:

...A draft report recently produced by the Baghdad embassy's director of strategic communications Ginger Cruz and obtained by NEWSWEEK makes the stakes clear: "Without popular support from US population, there is the risk that troops will be pulled back ... Thus there is a vital need to save popular support via message." Under the heading DOMESTIC MESSAGES, Cruz goes on to recommend 16 themes to reinforce with the American public, several of which Bush is likely to hit: "vitally important we succeed"; "actively working on new approaches"; "there are no quick or easy answers."

The good news is that there's some recognition of public opinion, the bad news is that they want to make an end run around it.

What else can we expect from Bush tonight? I'd predict a lot of "I understand," "[group X] has got to understand," and "I appreciate," but Bush tends only do that when he talks off the cuff. Still, you never know...

Pollster Frank Luntz has a lot of input into Bush's messaging. In 2004, he issued a memo detailing talking points Republicans should use. All of them are still applicable. In fact, they've become second nature to administration officials -- the memo could've been put out yesterday. They include:

--"You will not find any instance in which we suggest that you use the actual word 'preemption' or the phrase 'the War in Iraq' to communicate your policies to the American public. To do so is to undermine your message from the start.. Your efforts are about 'the principles of prevention and protection' in the greater 'War on Terror.' "

--"'Prevention at home can require aggressive action abroad' is the best way to link a principle the public supports with the policies of the Administration... 'It is better to fight the War on Terror on the streets of Baghdad than on the streets of New York or Washington.'"

--"'9/11 changed everything' is the context by which everything follows. No speech about homeland security or Iraq should begin without a reference to 9/11." [No one took this advice to heart better than Scooter Libby. The very first words on the homepage for his legal defense fund are "Since September 11th, 2001..."]

--"'The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein.' Enough said."

--"Nothing matters more than Americans in the line of fire. Never, ever, EVER give a speech or issue a press release that makes no mention of our troops."

He'll make some statement that contradicts his earlier 'stay the course' rhetoric, since that wasn't polling well. But that will be his message; "Keep up the fight."

Way back when I was a political fundraiser, someone told me, "We don't 'try' -- never say 'try' -- 'try' means 'may fail,' we 'work toward'." So expect Bush to use a lot of active language; "Moving forward," "advancing," and, of course, "working toward."

"We're advancing toward victorious forward movement in the terror war Saddam's dead 9/11 fight them over there God bless the troops," probably sums things up fairly accurately. It'll be longer, sure, but it'll probably make as much sense.


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