Saturday, February 17, 2007


Propaganda Effort of the Day

It may seem perverse to suggest that, at the very moment the House of Representatives is repudiating his policy in Iraq, President Bush is poised for a political comeback. But don't be astonished if that is the case. —David Broder writing in "Bush regains his footing"

To answer David Broder's remark, I would be very astonished indeed if Bush made a political comeback! But what does not astonish me is that David Broder, one of our so-called "moderate" or "centrist" columnists, is touting that tarnished frontman for the Neocon cabal—the Cowboy himself.

Who pays this man, we wonder. The short answer is the Washington Post, his column syndicator, his speaker's bureau, and the TV producers who hire him as a "talking head." But the real answer is the Right. To put together such a lucrative package, you need a certain kind of "balance" that is acceptable to the Powers That Be. It's the "balance" that gives you that oh-so-desirable "moderate" or "centrist" label.

It's the David Broders of the press who carry the water for the Right among the educated classes. It's all very well to have Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh preaching to the Dittoheads, but a different sort is needed to bamboozle that portion of the population who actually attempt to think.

When everybody thinks Bush is down for the count,1 Broder writes a column saying "Hey, wait a minute! I think I saw a muscle twitch." Careerwise it's a no-brainer. If it turns out as everyone supposes, that this duck's so lame that it's positively cruel to leave him flapping about the Oval Office, nobody will say later on "Ah, nyah-nyah-nyah, David Broder wrote a column where he got it completely wrong." In fact, nobody will be thinking about David Broder at all.

On the other hand, if by some fluke of fate or by some monstrous atrocity Bush should make "a political comeback" (meaning that he either shoots up in the polls or executes a coup d'état), David Broder will be touting himself from here to Capetown as the man to go to when you really want insight into American politics. Up will go his TV engagements and his speaking fees! And his friendly words will surely not be forgotten by Those Who Count.

Broder's tone feeds his image as the Great Reassurer, the man who insists that the republic endures and that the flag yet waves. He carefully avoids judgments: no point in mentioning that, polls aside, Bush has been the proximate cause of the deaths of over a half million Iraqis and more than 3,000 American soldiers. Broder would sniff that he is, after all, a news analyst and not a partisan.

Let's see what he has divined in Bush that has escaped the rest of us—

... just as Clinton did in the winter of 1995, Bush now shows signs of renewed energy and is regaining the initiative on several fronts.2

Like President Bill Clinton after the Democrats lost control of Congress in 1994, Bush has gone through a period of wrenching adjustment to his reduced status. But just as Clinton did in the winter of 1995, Bush now shows signs of renewed energy and is regaining the initiative on several fronts.

Aside from the vast difference in intelligence between the two men, Bill Clinton potentially had six more years to look forward to; George Bush has two (we hope). If Bush is showing more energy, it's safe to assume he's been able to get his hands on some crystal meth.

More important, he is demonstrating political smarts that even his critics have to acknowledge.

As always, Bush is following a script given to him by his handlers. If Broder knows of any critics who think that Bush is politically smart (or smart in any other way), he should name names.

His reaction to the planned House vote opposing the increase he ordered in U.S. troops deployed to Iraq illustrates the point.

When Bush faced reporters on Wednesday morning, he knew that virtually all those in the Democratic majority would be joined by a significant minority of Republicans in voting today to decry the "surge" strategy.

He did three things to diminish the impact of that impending defeat.

Broder then describes how Bush repeated his talking points to the media as though Bush actually had a hand in preparing the rebuttal.

In other respects, too, Bush has been impressive in recent days.

It's always impressive when Bush can repeat three talking points! Let's see what else Broder finds "impressive."

He has been far more accessible -- and responsive -- to the media and public, holding any number of one-on-one interviews, both on and off the record, leading up to Wednesday's televised news conference.

Since Bush's handlers kept him away from the media and the public as much as possible for six straight years, it's strange that Broder is now impressed just because Bush has been allowed out. Other commentators have also noted Bush's sudden availability but saw in it a sign of utter lame-duck desperation.

And he has been more candid in his responses than in the past.

To paraphrase: "And he's been lying less!"

While forcefully making his points, he has depersonalized the differences with his critics and opponents. He has not only vouched for the good intentions of congressional Democrats, he has visited them on their home ground, given them opportunities to question him face to face, and repeatedly outlined areas -- aside from Iraq -- where he says they could work together on legislation: immigration, energy, education, health care, the budget.

With the public eager for some bipartisan progress on all these fronts, Bush is signaling that he, at least, is ready to try.

If only those mean ol' Democrats would let poor ol' George be bipartisan! There is nothing new in Bush's behavior here. He has always played the role of "good cop" in contrast to Cheney (and Rumsfeld before he fired him).

At his news conference, he also stepped away from personal confrontation with the rulers in Iran, making it clear that he does not necessarily hold its political leadership responsible for shipping arms to the insurgent Shiites fighting in Iraq. He insisted the U.S. military would do whatever is necessary to halt the shipments and protect the troops, but he said repeatedly that these defensive measures are not a prelude to aggressive action against Iran.

By the time Bush went to his news conference the allegations presented in Baghdad against Iran had been very well analyzed, and even General Pace had refused to support them. So there was no way Bush's handlers were going to put him in the position of responding to reporters who for once were actually skeptical of the propaganda. Bush could not have handled the questions, and everybody knew it. What he did instead was backpedal and cave.

In his conclusion Broder becomes a subtle advocate for Bush's surge—

All this is to the good. But Bush, unlike Clinton, is in the middle of a bloody civil war, which can be ended only by the Iraqis themselves. All he claims to be able to do is to provide some breathing space for them by attempting to reduce the violence. As he said, "What really matters is what happens on the ground. I can talk all day long, but what really matters to the American people is to see progress."

And whether the American people will see it, no one knows.

Broder apparently does not share the view of the House of Representatives that a surge in troop levels is unwarranted and the outcome known. No. Broder's position is that the outcome is not known, least of all to him. So he leaves us with a final but unwritten sentence: "Why don't we just give the President's surge a chance and see how it turns out?"3

The propaganda pieces that David Broder (and Howard Kurtz and Michael Abramowitz) are paid to write are subtle. Broder in particular maintains the appearance of being a "moderate voice."

Currently there are organizations that analyze and expose every lie of Bill O'Reilly, of Fox News, of the "right-wing spin machine" and of Rush Limbaugh. But the subtler distortions produced by "mainstream" commentators such as David Broder go pretty much unnoticed. They need to be aired.

Related posts
David Broder's delirium (11/28/04)
Eason Jordan on his mind... (3/7/05)
How a dictatorship works (10/4/05)
The State of the Farm (2/3/06)
Preemptive leaking (4/11/06)
Warning: Neocon fury and a reporter to watch (7/20/06)
Torture and kangaroo courts near approval by Congress (9/12/06)
Getting it wrong is usually right (1/17/07)
Neocons fear the pain of premature withdrawal (1/29/07)



1Well, not quite everybody. The resurrection of George W. Bush is clearly a campaign at the Washington Post. Howie Kurtz put out the first piece of drivel on February 5 in "The Press, Turning Up Its Nose at Lame Duck" [back]

2Kurtz had already drawn this comparison with Clinton and even referred us to the possibility of an atrocity that might reverse Bush's fortunes. Kurtz opened

Six months after his party lost both houses of Congress, Bill Clinton was reduced to declaring at a news conference that he was still relevant.

The next day, the Oklahoma City federal building was bombed. Clinton regained his footing and cruised to reelection the following year, his relevance never again in doubt -- even after his impeachment.


3Again, Howard Kurtz has anticipated Broder—

From Iraq, where the media fell down on the WMD debate, to Bush's 2000 campaign persona as a compassionate conservative, many journalists now believe they were led astray. That has given an extra edge to their stories and columns on Bush being out of touch and has fueled an effort to vindicate their darker picture of the war. In short, the mainstream media no longer give this president the benefit of the doubt.

Bush didn't lie; the media "fell down." As for his Presidential campaign, they were merely "led astray." All of this has predisposed them to present a "darker picture of the war" and—quite unfairly, of course—"no longer give this president the benefit of the doubt."

This is as fine a piece of propaganda as you may hope to find. [back]

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