Just as fast as you can call an election without counting provisional votes or looking into voting irregularities, America and the press seem to have fallen prey again to the power of the Bush PR machine. Remember when Bush was first elected, and speculation was rampant over whether he would be moderate or conservative. What do they say about deja vu coming again?
As I spelled out in my post about Bush’s press conference, this (seemingly now elected) President is nothing if not masterful at the art of intimidation.
After effectively putting the White House press corps on notice that challenging the President will now be judged as a challenge to the will of the American people, Bush sent his “boy genius” Karl Rove around to the Sunday news shows to propagate the “mandate” scenario. The NYTimes must have been feeling a little intimidated, because they promptly came out today with a fluff piece about how we’re probably looking at “a new Bush.”
To be fair, there were a couple paragraphs referring to “the chip on Bush’s shoulder” and his inability “to turn the other cheek.” Overall, however, the picture painted was one of an impending metamorphosis. Most disappointingly, the photo caption accompanying the on-line story (“A re-elected President Bush is already showing more confidence”) virtually endorsed the theory.
Here are some select phrases from Elisabeth Bumiller’s article:
re-election has already had a powerful effect on his psyche, his friends and advisers say.
They say Mr. Bush’s governing style may change as well
One adviser said that Mr. Bush was showing more confidence
Mr. Bush’s conservative supporters continue to believe that he will emerge as the political heir of Ronald Reagan
“There’s a different mindset as you enter the second term” (Bartlett)
“I do think that in the second term, there is a greater likelihood that some of the needless partisanship is going to drop away, and the president is going to do everything he can to encourage that….” (Rove)
As a shrink, I can reasonably say that there is nothing less amenable to quick change than personality — especially in someone as thin-skinned as George Bush.
Keep an eye on the media over the next days and weeks to see if and how the images and words suddenly support the narrative of a “confident” and more “compassionate” Bush. (Feel free to post links if you see good examples, or else email me about particularly good images.)