Monday, July 19, 2010


I was dubious about the run-against-Bush strategy for 2010, but it does seem as if the strategy forced this error from a couple of Republicans yesterday:

The chairmen of the two Republican campaign committees defended the presidency of George W. Bush in television appearances over the weekend, a preview of the GOP's planned pushback against expected Democratic attacks on the last president.

"People had jobs when Republicans were not only in charge but George Bush was there," said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press".

John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program that "Bush's stock has gone up a lot since he left office," adding: "I think a lot people are looking back with more fondness on President Bush's administration, and I think history will treat him well."

Actually, there's no evidence whatsoever that "Bush's stock has gone up a lot since he left office" -- according to Polling Report, his unfavorable ratings continue to be well over 50% in poll after poll (Fox, CBS/New York Times, CNN, NBC/Wall Street Journal), while his favorables are in the 20s, 30s, and (at best) 40s. The Democratic decision to continue talking about Bush provoked questions about Bush on the Sunday shows, and that was bad for Republicans, because they really can't quite believe that Americans still don't like Bush, so they didn't have the sense to say "This election is about the future, not the past," and leave it at that.

Too bad that's probably the last time things will work that well.

If Democrats and liberals had a Fox News, had a wall Street Journal editorial page, had a near monopoly on talk radio or some other medium, there might be 24/7 Bush-bashing in the runup to November, just to remind voters what he did and why we shouldn't do it again. But there isn't. This moment is over, and the discussion will undoubtedly go back to GOP-friendly ground. Reporter will stop asking Republicans about Bush after this, and Republicans generally won't volunteer to talk about him.

The same goes for the story of Mark Williams, the tea party bigwig. I had doubts about how the NAACP's strategy of criticizing racist tea partiers would play out, but it led Williams to unleash a staggeringly nasty bit of racist "satire" on his blog. But no noise machine will can sustain this story. If Democrats, liberals, and opponents of racism had a noise machine, rather than an Internet and MSNBC presence that seems to be of interest only to the converted, Mark Williams would become the New Black Panther Party of the right. He'd become a household name. Much of America would be able to quote key phrases from his racist blog post.

But that's not going to happen, is it? This story is going to die -- it's dying already, because only Republicans seem able to use Republican techniques for sustaining narratives.

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