Democrats are salivating at the prospect they may be able to cut short another Bush presidency. "He's got the same gene pool as his father," Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) recently smirked to the Washington Post. Although it's a little premature for the Democrats to be ordering tuxes and gowns for their Inaugural Ball, President Bush may be in more trouble than his advisors are willing to concede. Like his father, George W. Bush faces a mostly hostile press, out to prove that the economy is in the toilet and the U.S. military victory in Iraq is irrelevant. It's as if liberal editors and producers are simply recycling stories from 12 years ago.
In the 1992 election, the Democrats used the media to convince Americans that the first President Bush was presiding over "the worst economy since the Great Depression" -- a phrase then vice presidential candidate Al Gore coined to describe the short, relatively mild recession that lasted from July 1990 until March 1991. Although the recession was officially over long before the 1992 presidential campaign officially kicked off, news stories continued to describe a "Bush recession" right up until Election Day. Whatever credit Americans gave the first President Bush for winning the Gulf War couldn't overcome the antagonism created by the impression that he had single-handedly ruined the economy.
Today, the Democrats are invoking the Great Depression once again, this time to compare George W. Bush's presidency with that of Herbert Hoover's as only the second time in modern history a president has "lost" more American jobs than he "created." Never mind that presidents don't create jobs in the first place, except for those in the federal government.
Turn on the evening news or glance at the headlines of your local paper, and you'll learn that the current economic growth rate -- a healthy 3.3 percent last quarter -- represents a "jobless recovery." You won't hear much about the big improvements in productivity rates over the last couple of years, which are largely responsible for an economy that could grow at a decent rate but still not create thousands of new jobs. But you will hear lots of stories about the quagmire in Iraq and the Bush administration's "failure" to plan better for rebuilding the country and securing the peace.
But harping about bias in the media won't win the president re-election. If he wants to win, George W. Bush should take a page from Bill Clinton's playbook. Clinton didn't let the media control the message in 1996 -- he used a substantial political war chest to dominate the airwaves with paid advertising 16 months before the Republicans had even picked their nominee to run against him.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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