March 7, 2006

Intent, Results, Time, Dynamics, Polls, truth

Fascinated as I am by Bush's popularity and lack thereof. I found this piece of TAPPED analysis to be on target:

Plenty of liberal Dems might read this and angrily rejoin: "What the heck took everyone so long to realize that this bozo's incompetent?" The answer to that question is well worth considering, because it suggests not just the secret to Bush's success, but also a way to help ensure his continued demise.
I'd argue that a key to Bush's success has been his uncanny knack for keeping voters focused on his intentions, rather than on his performance. Bush's national security record is uniformly awful -- the Sept. 11 attacks happened on his watch; the Iraq war has been a disaster in countless ways; our policy on Iran has only empowered that country; the list goes on. Yet Karl Rove can brazenly declare that national security will be the key to the GOP's strategy in 2006. How can this be?

One answer is that Bush's political skills, combined with the GOP's relentless reliance on military stagecraft, has enabled him to come across as someone who really, really wants to kick the heck out of as many terrorists as possible, whatever his actual performance. The central conundrum for Dems has been how to get the electorate to focus on that performance. In 2004, just enough voters decided they'd rather overlook Bush's performance and vote for the guy who, they thought, seemed to have at least more of an inclination to be aggressive. To make that happen, of course, the GOP had to successfully tar John Kerry as lacking the stomach -- and hence the inclination toward aggression -- of Bush. Nominating a war hero seemed like a good way to keep that from happening. But the Swift Boat vets and John Kerry's effete manner raised just enough doubts about Kerry's inclinations to ensure that enough people decided it was safer to go with the guy who's intentions they thought they understood -- again, whatever his actual performance.

I'd argue that the key reason Bush's second term has been politically catastrophic is that it finally shattered this dynamic, perhaps permanently. The Harriet Miers nomination and Katrina focused the electorate's attention squarely on performance and nothing else. On Katrina, once the nation had been transfixed by the image of Bush's awful performance, no amount of parading around with firefighters amid the New Orleans wreckage -- a belated bid to convince us all of Bush's good intentions -- could change the country's conclusion. And unlike with Iraq -- where Bush's handlers successfully deflected his critics by refocusing attention on "the enemy" -- with Katrina, the only ready-at-hand enemy has been Mother Nature. There's been no escaping the electorate's verdict on his performance and nothing else.

I would argue also that part of this is simply a function of time. Results take time to form and become apparent. Long term, I can make the case that Bush's policies will make us less safe, but it will take time to prove me me right (or wrong)
So it is effective to argue intentions when the outcome of policies aren't apparent. But now its been five years of Bush rule and the headlines are filled with chickens coming home. Its now easily proved that Bush's policies are bad in a way that they weren't in say 2003.

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