In his new role as chief of staff, (Josh) Bolten is focusing on improving White House communications and legislative affairs to regenerate the administration’s message and performance, said sources familiar with his thinking.
“There are two positions he is anxious to turn — Scott’s position and legislative affairs,” said a source with close ties to the White House.
“It’s not about who but what is broken. He does not view it … in terms of personalities, that’s the way Josh thinks,” another source said. “Josh keeps his counsel fairly close. He’s very logical, and the logical place to start looking is communications.”
It’s obvious that Scotty’s job is all about communications (he had to embarrassingly answer questions about his own future today). But the job at Treasury has essentially become a communications job as well. Under this Administration, the job of Treasury Secretary has become nothing more than an economic “cheerleader-in-chief.” John Snow has not had much to do with any economic policy decisions during his tenure. His problem is that the White House sees positive economic indicators and a healthy stock market, but polls that suggest that most Americans disapprove of Bush’s economic performance. It never occurs to these guys that the vaunted recovery might be a mile wide and an inch deep, impacting only the investor class while leaving the lower and middle classes behind. No, the problem must be that John Snow’s not getting the message out, that he’s not clapping loudly enough.
Bolten’s thinking is to blame the messengers (Snow and McClellan) for sagging approval ratings rather than looking at the policy presecriptions. Events on the ground, domestically and internationally, have driven this President into the ground. It wasn’t the PR machine’s fault that Iraq is in a civil war, that Katrina decimated an American city that still is nowhere near any kind of recovery, that Medicare Plan D has failed our seniors, that gas prices are still historically high despite record profits for the oil industry. The public has generally tuned out this spin that Bolten is working so hard to fine-tune. Booman gives some credit for this to the progressive blogosphere. His acknowledgement that the public at large still relies on traditional media seems to undercut the argument that liberal blogs can solely credit themselves for this phenomenon.
I just think that it gets harder and harder to defend the indefensible. You can go on about how the facts “hate America,” but the effect to the public is that record player seems stuck on the same song for the last five years.
This is further cemented by the fact that, elsewhere on the right, their message machine hasn’t really skipped a beat. They’re still distracting and muddying the waters with issues like decrying protesters flying Mexican flags, hyping the Danish cartoons of Muhammad, castigating recently freed journalists who “love the terrorists,” and posting endlessly about the Yale Taliban guy. Republicans still have their AM talk radio and Fox News and the right blogosphere. The problem is not the message machine. It’s this message, from a White House that has used up all it’s political capital. Anyone from the senior staff talking invites its listeners to tune them out. By going with the stubborn “stay the course” strategy, not just in Iraq, but down the line on every issue, they’ve achieved their own irrelevance.
And changing the guy at the podium isn’t going to do a thing.