Following the Friday morning arrival of a strong jobs report -- one that came in well over the monthly average for the past year -- Bush actually appeared on the South Lawn of the White House to make a statement on the success of the economy and his tax-cut policies. This is what President Clinton used to do in the 1990s with each piece of good news, and it’s what President Reagan did through numerous televised speeches from the White House in the 1980s. This is exactly what Bush needs to do.
Message repetition. Without it the mainstream media will fill the void with their usual brand of pessimism. But the reality is that the economic story is an optimistic one. GDP growth is steady and significant. November jobs expanded by 215,000 (238,000 including prior revisions) and unemployment remains at a historical 5 percent low. Earlier in the week a slew of new economic reports all came in above Wall Street estimates: rising consumer confidence, strong new home sales, expanding business investment in capital goods, and continued manufacturing growth according to the Institute for Supply Management. The stock market, meanwhile, is in the midst of a big year-end rally. These are great economic signs, but Bush must get the message out again and again.
The same holds true for the Iraq war. Things are going far better in the Middle East than the mainstream media would have us believe. Bush did himself a lot of good with his Iraq speech at Annapolis this past Wednesday. It was filled with facts and figures and made the case that Iraqi-ization is moving forward. The president laid out a comprehensive and easy-to-understand strategy of “clear, hold, and build.” Bush rightly refused to schedule a withdrawal timetable that would only help the terrorists. He provided plenty of numbers, such as 120 Iraqi army and police battalions today, where there were virtually none a year ago. Eighty of these are fighting side by side with U.S. troops, while 40 others are taking the lead in various fights. Thirty Iraqi battalions are now controlling specific geographic areas. On the economic front, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects Iraq’s GDP to grow in real terms by 3.7 percent in 2005 and nearly 17 percent in 2006.
Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi essentially called Bush a liar on all this, saying “the fact that the president says it’s so doesn’t mean it’s so.” Really? Even Bush military critics like Gen. Barry McCaffrey now believe that significant progress is being made on turning the fighting over to the Iraqis.
Supposedly Bush will follow up with several more speeches on the war. If so, the new communications and marketing approach will yield high dividends -- not only for Bush’s political standing, but more importantly for the health and security of the entire United States.
And the public agrees. Friday’s Rasmussen poll puts Bush’s approval rating at 46-percent, several percentage points higher than it was in the previous poll. The RealClearPolitics polling average of Bush approval has moved into the low forties, which is also up several points. I continue to believe that Bush has bottomed.
Iraq improvement, a strong job-creating economy, lower gasoline prices at the pump, and a rising stock market all clearly favor a Bush political comeback. So will Republican congressional passage of budget and tax-cut legislation. Democrats who have been gloating over Bush’s political misfortunes are prematurely dancing on his grave. What’s more, the “Pelosi-Murtha” position of immediate withdrawal from Iraq is proving to be highly unpopular. Congressman Murtha’s latest anti-war broadside that the U.S. Army is “broken, worn-out” is an unmitigated disaster. So is Democratic failure to support Republican tax and budget cuts in Congress.
At long last, the second-term president may be seizing his bully pulpit. In doing so, he must take advantage of the weak Democratic opposition and build on his strengths, which include a strong economy and the many successes in Iraq that go unreported day after day. By repeatedly talking to the nation in plain-speaking terms about each and every success, the tides of optimism will rise in his favor.
Basically, this country will follow if the president leads. After all, help comes to those who help themselves. If Bush doesn’t do it, no one will do it for him. Presidential leadership requires strong communication. The commander-in-chief must also be the salesman-in-chief. That’s a political necessity. What we saw this past week was a good start, but the president must follow through.