“I don’t think this turns on romance; it turns on policy.”
–Arlen Specter, assessing Bush’s relationship with Congress
Although this Administration photo is seven weeks old, it now seems to mark the inauguration of the White House’s “Bush/Bolton” strategy. According to this piece in yesterday’s NYT, April is when Bolton began to assert himself, reshaping the previously insulated and hostile Dubya into someone who “reaches out.”
Tone-wise, something has clearly “been up” for weeks now. It is a shot like this, however, that telegraphs how “heavy handed” the strategy is. In combining Bolton’s “First Friend” script; his “good old boy” act; and his taste for the evangelical, Bush (playing it up for the White House photographer) proposes himself as the symbolic bridge between the Senate’s warring majority and minority leaders during a meeting on immigration reform. So strong is the set-up (including, Bush’s “Reid-seeking” visual tractor beam), you don’t fully register how the Democrat turns to stone when Bush touches him.
Still, Specter states the key point. Bush can hold all the White House patio parties and Lincoln bedroom tours he wants. Unless he is prepared to really collaborate, however — a trait he’s failed to demonstrate with any authenticity over the past six years – he’s only going to keep sinking.
(image: Eric Draper/White House. April 25, 2006 White House. Via whitehouse.gov.)