12th April 02:39
Hot Summer? Hotter Fall
Hot Summer? Hotter Fall
Richard Blow is the former executive editor of George Magazine. He is author of
American Son: A Portrait of John F. Kennedy, Jr., and is writing a book about
"From a marketing point of view, you don't roll out new products in August,"
White House chief of staff Andrew Card said last September. He was referring, in
a ghastly sort of way, to the push for war against Iraq.
With the wisdom of General Motors' former top lobbyist in mind, here are my
Labor Day predictions: Expect some bad news from the administration over the
weekend and a White House surprise shortly after.
By bad news, I mean something that the White House wants to bury -- new
anti-environmental regulations, budget gloom and doom, more troops in Iraq. This
administration may not have a monopoly on releasing embarrassing information at
6:00 pm on a holiday Friday, but the Bushies are certainly addicted to it. And
it's a safe bet they'll follow in the fall that with some red-meat to distract
Americans from the onslaught of bad news. Like, say, a constitutional amendment
banning *** marriage.
This time, however, I'm not so sure that these media ploys will work. The Bush
propaganda machine has lost its rhythm, and what worked in the past may now be
out of order.
Start with the fact that the president has been on vacation for the past month.
Most Americans can't afford to take a month off, unless they're part of the
long-term unemployed, in which case they've been taking a lot of months off. But
Bush gambled that Americans pay so little attention to politics in August, they
won't notice his lengthy absence. It's like the television networks running
repeats on the theory that Americans don't watch TV in the summer.
Problem is, the networks don't subscribe to that theory anymore; the
proliferation of cable shows forced them to create original programming for the
summer months. Granted, it's mostly reality shows, but the point is the network
heads realized Americans' media habits were changing and they acted.
Not so the Bush White House. In the past weeks, we've suffered through a massive
regional blackout (thanks, **** Cheney!); the devastating bombing of U.N.
headquarters in Iraq; and the dissolution of the "road map" to peace in the
Middle East. All of which were broadcast over and over on cable.
Bush could only react, interrupting his vacation -- and his fundraising -- to
issue a soundbite about energy policy and deliver more boilerplate about
evildoer terrorists. The president was all talk and no action, which only drives
home the point that, while Iraq is burning, he's chopping wood. Meanwhile, the
American economy is stuck in the toilet. Americans may have been willing to cut
the president some serious slack after 9/11, but their patience is running out.
Which is why that August vacation seems all the more hard to explain. One can
only presume that Bush wanted to rest while he can, because the next 13 months
are a sprint to the finish line. Still, I can't help but think of Bush's father,
who insisted that all was right with the world right up until the voters gave
him a nice long vacation.