Friday, October 08, 2004

 

Bubblewrap not good for president

The Washington Post reports that some of Bush's advisors think the bubblewrap has been wrapped too tight around their boy this year and that it hurt him in the debate.
Bush's Isolation From Reporters Could Be a Hindrance; Some Presidential Advisers Worry That He Could Pay Price During Debates for Being Overprotected

By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 8, 2004

Tonight's town-hall audience of about 100 will ask 15 to 20 questions and will consist of an equal number of voters who say they lean toward Bush or Kerry but could change their minds, plus a few who say they are undecided. Bush's debate negotiators had sought to eliminate the event from the debate schedule because they were concerned that partisans could pose as uncommitted voters and slip in with tough or argumentative questions.

Although all presidents are kept somewhat removed from reality because of security concerns and their staffs' impulse for burnishing their image, Bush's campaign has taken unprecedented steps to shield him from dissenters and even from curious, undecided voters. On the way to the forum outside Cleveland, the media buses that went ahead of Bush were temporarily marooned in a church parking lot because police had been told to divert all buses since they could contain demonstrators.

Bush's handlers have pulled the presidential bubble especially tight during the campaign, but he often has kept his distance from the public and the media throughout his term. He rarely plays tourist on trips, and has held the fewest solo news conferences of any president since records were kept.

Bush has held 15 solo news conferences since taking office. At the same point in their presidencies, according to research by Martha Joynt Kumar of Towson University in Maryland, Bill Clinton had held 42; George H.W. Bush, 83; Ronald Reagan, 26; Jimmy Carter, 59; Gerald R. Ford, 39; Richard M. Nixon, 29; Lyndon B. Johnson, 88; John F. Kennedy, 65; and Dwight D. Eisenhower, 94.


Of course, they don't quote any actual Bush advisors on this (which Bush advisor would dare permit his name to be used). You wonder if anyone actually brought this up with the president; you also wonder how much the bubble strategy was actually discussed with the president, or if his people did it on their own, for the obvious reasons. Especially because of this quote:

Wayne Fields, a specialist in presidential rhetoric at Washington University, said the first debate showed Bush had been overprotected. "If you don't talk to the press and deal with audiences with some degree of skepticism, you can't build understanding so people have confidence in you in hard times," Fields said. "His handlers think they're doing him a favor, but they're not."


They obviously never thought it would come to this back in August when they were building up their big lead over Kerry. They figured they would try a sort of mobile "Rose Garden" strategy - take the president out on the road but make sure he never faced anything other than a friendly audience. They figured they had the election won, so why take any risks?

Which makes the president's woeful lack of preparedness for last Thursday's debate almost inexplicable. I think they've grown over the past few years to think they really are invincible and omnipotent. I think they really are as divorced from reality as they've seemed recently. I don't think it's simply a desperate hope that if they stay immovably on message that they can fake their way through the mess they're in. I think they don't see the mess. The president is not the only one living in a bubble.

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