Sunday, December 29, 2002

Remember when Republicans used to compain about Clinton running a perpetual campaign out of the White House?
For Bush team, getting reelected is constant theme With the race for the Democratic presidential nomination already in motion, President Bush and his advisers are studying their potential challengers, and plan to hold strategy meetings next month to discuss everything from Catholic voters to the budding candidacy of Senator John F. Kerry. But that is not a sign that the White House is just now awakening to politics, both Democratic and Republican strategists say. It is the latest stage of political planning and maneuvering by a campaign operation that never slept.
It really is amazing to read this kind of stuff in the establishment press since most people I know online have been talking about this aspect of the Bush administration for two years. Could it be that these guys really believed the propaganda that the Bushies were not going to let their policies be driven by polls.
Permanent campaigning is here to stay, according to political analysts. Norm Ornstein, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, said that any modern president who fails to blend politics with policy is likely to be a one-term president. ''They may say they don't rely on polls, but when they tell me they don't read polls, pay for polls, or collect polls, then we'll see something a little different,'' Ornstein said. ''What this White House has been able to do in an unbelievable fashion - and, of course, Sept. 11 helped immeasurably - is to behave in a strongly, savvily, relentlessly political way while repeating that they're `not like those Clinton guys who put politics at the top of the list.' You've got to take your hats off to that.''
And here we see the problem with the establishment. They don't sneer at duplicity. They don't scorn the fact that the Bushies actions don't match their words. They let them get away with it, and then applaud them for getting away with it.
While there is nothing wrong with looking ahead to the next election, Democrats accuse Bush of going a step further, calling his a ''press release presidency'' in which he launches projects just for the publicity, with no intention of fully funding them.
I have noticed this about the Bushies for some time. They love to keep people distracted by a constant re-iteration of "policy-initiative-of-the-week". Before people can really start to react to the implications of the previous weeks policy, they come out with a new one that forces everyone in the media and in the opposition to shift gears and address the new proposals. The cycle goes like this: 1) Issue press releases, go on photo-ops, give a "major policy speech" about how this administration is serious about a particular problem and has a proposal for it. 2) Let the media chew for a couple of days on the bone of the hype while giving them very little in the way of specifics. 3) Release the specifics, but do it in an off-hand manner or bury it in other proposals or other initiatives in such a way as to slow down those who are trying to determine exactly what it is that is being proposed. 4) Wait a couple of more days for people to start to realize what is going on. Then, just as they are starting to talk about it... 5) Start the cycle all over again 6) A few weeks/months later, push through the real policy, not the one that was originally hyped. By that time people will be to busy trying to figure out the policy in cycle #38 to be bothered with the details of a policy from far back in cycle #7. Thus do the Bushies get to do pretty much whatever they want without little to no accountability and to pretend that they are always doing the exact opposite of what they are actually doing. I believe the military calls this a blitzkrieg.
Bush often cites last year's education package as one of his chief accomplishments in office, but his budget proposed $6 billion less for the initiative than Congress had authorized spending. His budget also cuts the proposed funding for new Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement by $209 million - despite declaring, when he signed the original $776 million Sarbanes-Oxley corporate governance bill into law, that it was ''the most far-reaching reforms of American business practices since the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.'' ''He got all the credit for signing this bill and none of the blame for gutting it,'' said Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts. ''They are totally, totally political. They calculate the political implications of everything they do.''
Frank is one of the few that have been on to the Bush game since the beginning. We can only hope the rest of the Democratic Party is finally starting to wake up and realize they have a serious problem that needs to be dealt with.
Republicans flatly deny the White House is so calculating and insist the political climate overall has vastly improved since Clinton was in office. If the administration looks at polls, they do so in passing, and never make policy decisions based on them, several advisers close to the White House said. They also note that Bush would not be persevering in confronting Iraq if it were a poll-driven decision, given that much of the country is on the fence about going to war. Still, when Bush's post-Sept. 11 ratings began to slide earlier this year, the White House was more than happy to point to polling data that showed Bush remained strong. Before rolling out Bush's energy plan in the summer of 2001, the White House hired pollster Jan van Lohuizen to test public reaction to the proposal. And Democrats suspect that Bush only decided to work within the framework of the United Nations on Iraq after learning that most of the public wanted him to.
Duh!
Ornstein and other analysts agreed that the difference between Clinton's and Bush's approaches to politics lies largely in perception. Whereas Clinton often used polling numbers showing support for a measure to justify pursuing it, the current White House has ''discipline about bragging about politics,'' Republican strategist Scott Reed said. ''The Clinton White House used to get out in front and brag about things like polls to justify why they were doing the smart thing or the right thing,'' Reed said. ''I think the real buzzword of this team is discipline, and it all starts at the top.''
Translation: The Clinton White House was honest in their policy making, the Bushies were not. Yet the Clintons are the ones that everyone excorciates for being too political.
Discipline, perhaps, but not ideological rigidity. Bush has repeatedly shifted gears to adjust to the political winds - embracing a Department of Homeland Security after fiercely opposing it, for example, and removing a school vouchers provision from his education bill to guarantee passage.
Lies, damned lies, and Bush political promises. All pretty much the same thing.

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