Bush White House -- Most P.R. Conscious In History?

I don’t want to start a general Bush Sucks/No He Doesn’t war here.

 Putting aside his politics (and even putting aside the carrier landing specifically, which has been beaten to death), are there any conservatives here, especially, who aren't 100% comfortable with Bush's relentless "packaging?"


 I remember talking to many a conservative who professed disgust with Clinton's constant stage management and instinct for the photo op. (when he went to Chicago, he'd manage to be photographed holding a book by a Polish-American author, and his other props (the Bible, the blue jeans, the saxophone) were legendary).  

 But Bush seems to have taken the stagecraft to a new level -- I've specifically noticed the "backdrops" that this article speaks so admiringly about, and it seems there's a poster with a big, slick slogan (with everything but a TM sign) for every appearance ("Rebuilding Iraq;" "Jobs For America's Workers;" "Leave No Child Behind").

  Clinton unabashedly loved Hollywood and its denizens.  So in a sense, his PR tricks were kind of part and parcel of who he was.  But aren't conservatives (even though Reagan arguably initiated the current era of showmanship with his actor's instincts) tempermentally supposed to be intolerant of the glitzy and superficial "packaging" oriented politics?  Should government employees really be spending their time telling VIPs to take their ties off so they'll look more plebian in the background of a speech?

 I'd be interested in hearing whether any conservatives think that this sort of image obsession is regrettable as playing into the hands of those who think Bush has nothing to say for himself (this is of course not the only explanation; even a President who was plenty smart could succumb to handlers who persuaded him that the medium mattered more than any message).

My impression is that Bush isn’t doing more of this, but he (or his team) is better at it. Note how few actual examples of stage management are contained in the lengthy cited article. Plenty of other politicians including Bill Clinton have visited troops and worn military garb, but none of them got anything like the all-day PR boost provided by Bush’s speech on the Lincoln.

The whiny cited article is just sour grapes. Democrats, eat your heart out. :smiley:

But I guess this is one of my questions. Assuming you’re right (although I think that the banners/backdrops specifically may be more ubiquitous under Bush), is this a “skill” at which conservatives should want to be “better?”

And I’m not advocating for either side – in fact, the concept of loyalty to a party, per se (rather than to specific causes or issues) has always struck me as odd and clique-ish.

So I’m looking to get beyond “The PR helps the GOP, so it must be good, and the Dems. can pound sand” and “Bush and Republicans are evil, so the PR must be evil.”

I didn’t mean to aim my crack at you, Huerta88, but at the New York Times, who is an advocate for the Democrats. As you pointed out, “the carrier landing…has been beaten to death.” And, yet, the cited article was still complaining about it.

Is this a “skill” at which conservatives should want to be “better?” I’d say, they have to, in order to win elections. This President Bush won more votes striding out in a flight suit than his father did vomiting in the lap of the Japanese Prime Minister.:eek:

Maybe a different way to ask the question is to ask if the image sought after matches the person.

I would try to decide where the line is between a staged photo op, and a grooming photo op.

One undeserved image disaster was the Dukakis tank incident. He had a military background so he was not out of place. However he looked like a little boy sticking his head out of the tank while wearing an oversized helmet.

I think Clinton did more staging shots than most. The dancing photo with his wife was on the “image grooming” side of the fence. The arrangement of rocks planted on Normandy beach (while a battle ship wanders by) is on the “staged” side of the fence.

So far, Dubya has kept his grooming ops close to home. Splitting wood at his ranch is hokey but that’s his life style. Slamming onto the deck of a ship to congratulate the troops, well that just “plane” looked good. If you were a member of that crew and saw Navy One grab the hook, you would be in tears. He looked natural in the flight suite because he use to fly F102’s in the Texas Guard.

IMO Clinton enjoyed the limelight (perfectly normal). When he came to Dayton, he used the public airport and drove around the area. It was more visible to the public (and tied up everything). When Dubya came to Dayton he went to the military base, and then helicoptered to his speech. Not very flashy, but more businesslike. They both keep true to the image they want to project.

It’s all part of the job.

Beautifully said, Huerta88.

On the OP, does the fact that politics is so PR driven bother anyone? We have these guys running the greater activities of millions and billions of people and their main focus is how to look good for the camera and manipulate opinions. This is not particularly a dig at Bush. I’m not sure that he is any more focused on PR than any other politician, but the simple fact that his ability as a statesman has virtually zero influence on his election chances is at best comical, and at worst dangerous.

I would think it appropriate that the president be, at the very minimum, a top 5% genius, an outstanding economist with a record for accurate forecasts, a proven manager that has directed large workforces successfully, and a well principled, philosophically grounded individual. That the present system of politics requires none of that is atrocious. Classified ad reads: President wanted: Must have full head of hair, be able to smile spontaneously, be able to read teleprompters, and be willing to say whatever it takes to win emotional support.

In a culture where info-tainment cultivates short attention spans and in a system where those short attention spans determine who leads the country, how can you expect to wind up with anything but a smiling PR monkey as a president?

Well put. I’ve been soap-boxing that for years. If you’re a natural born citizen over the age of 34, the step right up and win an all expense trip on a private 747.

I would challenge your comment about statesmanship because it is used more as a litmus test for political consensus. I think a good statesman is someone who does the right thing, even when it is unpopular. That’s also the definition of a good citizen.

Dukakis! Dukakis! What “military record” has he got that can possibly compare with GeeDubya’s valiant defense of the skies above Amarillo from Viet Cong aircraft!

Perhaps I am the teeniest bit disinclined towards the shallow little twit (perhaps, mind you) but I thought the recent Gloat on the Boat one of the most ham-handed productions I’ve seen in many a year.

As usual, elucidator has to throw his/her vemom. Did you complain just as much when President Clinton made his many tips to ships at sea to give speaches?

More to the point of this thread tho, I think all politicians have to become masters at PR. That’s how they get elected. The nation is too large and too populated for anyone to go everywhere. So they use the mass media. And who wouldn’t want to show their best face when asking for your vote.

But you are right to a certain extent Huerta88, I think conservatives have shown themselves to lack this skill for some time. Nothing wrong with doing it now tho.

“their main focus is how to look good for the camera and manipulate opinions”

I don’ think even the OP implied this was their main focus, and I don’t see how that could ever be substantiated, even if it were true.

This is hard to argue on the facts. I suspect that each administration “improves” on the PR record of the previous administration. And I have no idea whether “conservatives” or “liberals” are any more or less inclinded to view this suspiciously. Both parties seem to be expert at doublespeak and sloganeering. It’s a rare president that I can stand listening to for more than a few minutes before the puke-o-meter goes off the scale. Actually, this is true of most politicians. Powell is one who comes to mind who doesn’t fit in that stereotype.

Well, from prior posts I would say your dislike of Bush does tend to shift your gears into sarcastic overdrive. I myself, have to remove a lot of adjectives when I refer to Clinton.

And I have friends in the guard. The equipment they operate are not toys. Whether they see combat or not, it is serious business. Your comment about the President was a slam against the Guard.

Also, President Bush is the CIC and a former fighter pilot. Welcoming the troops back from war in this fashion was appropriate given his technical background. It wasn’t for your benefit, it was for theirs. Sorry it looked good on TV. Personally, I would encourage you to write to the major TV networks and complain about it. Maybe they can run some more opeds about it.

I’m not sure if I misunderstood you or vise versa. I agree with your definition of a statesman. Perhaps I worded my idea poorly.

I meant to say that no modern politician is a statesman by virtue of the fact that their job depends on being appealing PR figure-heads, not leaders, economists, diplomats, or managers, but PR figure-heads. Political consensus does not always rally behind good sense if history is anything to go by. A competent statesman makes decisions based upon what they evaluate to be the wise move based upon their experience and principles. Politicians make decisions based upon what will be make them look good and get them elected.

And, yes, that is definitely also the definition of a good citizen.

Damn, I have to agree with you again. Go over to the flag debate and shred me so I can feel alienated and unloved again.

This article might be of interest: Keepers of Bush Image Lift Stagecraft to New Hights.

Can’t seem to find any flag debate. Link it up for me and I’ll see if I can find good reason to shred you.

Sorry, can’t debate what I can’t quote. It is titled, “is pledge - anti-American?”

The thing about the Bush Administration is that it’s Professional. It’s full of businesspeople who know what they are doing. All presidents try for this kind of PR - The Bush administration has just done it more professionally than others.

This extends to more than just photo-ops - in fact, the meticulous detailing around those photo-ops is indicative of how the whole White House operation is run. Meetings start on time - or else. People come prepared - or else. It’s serious business. In the Clinton White House, on the other hand, meetings often started half an hour after they were supposed to. And Clinton was known as a ‘night person’, and would leave people hanging if meetings started too early. Then he’d stay and work 'till midnight. It had sort of the air of a college campus, not a business.

It’s not surprising that Bush is efficient at these things. He is, after all, the first President to come to the office with an MBA. Which is possibly the most useful degree a President could have. And he’s surrounded himself with heavy hitters who get the job done and don’t take crap. It’s a machine.

This is not all good, IMO. I think the same control-freak impulses that make the White House run like a clock these days are also the same impulses that cause this White House to be very secretive, and heavy-handed in things like homeland security.

well, in spite of what Rush limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and the rest of the right wing/conservative/republican ilk have been bleating and screeching about, the NYTimes and the rest of the (falsely labeled) “liberal media” have been kissing Shrub’s ass even before the election back in 2000.

Shrub’s admin, is one of the most secretive in history, just watch Ari Fleisher decieve and dodge his way through yet another "informative:rolleyes: " White House briefing.


Businesspeople? They’re politicians. Business is business and politics is politics. Business is not politics. Business owns politics. I’ll concede that they’re professional—professional politicians. They make money in politics.