Bush Fighting Back

March 23, 2006

Recently, President Bush has been taking his case for the War on Terror, Iraq Theater, to the public in a new round of speeches, press conferences and other public appearances. I believe he should consider making this a frequent, permanent practice as long as we have a substantial military presence in Iraq — or elsewhere.

Not long ago he gave a series of talks, in large part to answer the constant barrage of negative coverage on Iraq and the endless personal attacks leveled against him. His message resonated with the people, and he was successful in correcting much of the disinformation that has been systematically disseminated by the Democratic Party and the Old Media.

His approval ratings spiked, but the boost was short-lived. No sooner than he quit making the rounds his numbers started to crater again because his attackers are indefatigable, perpetual motion machines whose raison d’être is to savage him and undermine his presidency.

Mr. Bush’s purpose then was not to rehabilitate his poll numbers, but to respond to his critics and set the record straight. So long as he wasn’t amply defending himself, his defenders had a much tougher sell.

But now he’s back in the public arena, aggressively defending his policy on Iraq. He has been very impressive, even more so with his extemporaneous remarks and responses to questions than in his prepared speeches, which can’t help but confound his detractors, who believe he lacks the sense to come in out of a hurricane.

I suspect his poll numbers are climbing again. Even if not, I think he should clear as much of his schedule as he can to do this as often as practicable.

Lest you accuse me of hypocrisy for suggesting the president begin “to govern by the polls” since we severely criticized Bill Clinton for doing so, let me clarify. I’m not advocating he base his policies on polling data. That would be futile advice anyway, as he formulates policy based on what he believes is right. After all, isn’t that one of the main complaints liberals have against him: He’s just too stubborn and too inflexible?

But I do believe the poll numbers — concerning Iraq, at least — are extremely important to the nation. The inescapable truth is that we are at war against an enemy that cannot beat us militarily. But we can defeat ourselves if the public, for a sustained period, turns against the war and withdraws its support.

With exposure only to the bad news about our progress in Iraq and the nonstop propaganda about our allegedly fraudulent reasons for attacking Iraq and our alleged abuses there and at home, an erosion of public support is inevitable, unless something is done to counter it.

So if President Bush truly believes in this cause — which he does — he has a duty to do everything he can to fortify support for the war. Forget winning the hearts and minds of the terrorists; he must win the hearts and minds of the American people — to stay behind this war.

In his appearances the president has been providing a substantive refutation of the critics’ charges, including their lies about his “lies” on WMD and the NSA surveillance program.

That’s important, but it is even more critical that the people have an opportunity to observe his demeanor. They can assess by the tone of his voice and the expression on his face whether he is a man of integrity.

They can decide for themselves whether he actually believed Saddam had WMD, abetted terrorists, represented a threat to America and her allies, and was an incorrigible violator of law, U.N. resolutions and post-war treaties who had to be stopped.

They can judge whether he is the oil-craving, imperialistic ogre his enemies have described. They can weigh his sincerity in saying he wants to meet the parents of fallen American soldiers to commiserate and weep with them.

They can evaluate whether he’s in charge or some puppet of “neoconservative” masterminds and whether he is personally conversant with the facts.

They can gauge whether he’s some whimsical cowboy or a leader who genuinely agonizes over the exceedingly difficult problems we face in helping to bring liberty and representative government to certain Muslim lands, such as establishing a religiously pluralistic government that guarantees religious freedom, against the backdrop of a theocratic religious culture.

For way too long the president has been squandering his greatest personal asset: his ability to connect with the people. For the sake of our national security, he is honor bound to start using that resource with increasing frequency.