Predictably, the Bush message-meisters are launching a trademark hardball, all-politics-all-the-time campaign to rewrite the events of last week to so that the administration’s worst week becomes someone else’s fault, and someone else’s problem.
The first wave of the campaign is a discussion generated about a “blame game” between federal and local officials. This is bogus. There is no blame game. The buck stops at the top – or at least it used to in this great country.
There are Republicans in the Congress who are leery of the Rove method as it is being applied to the administration’s failures in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and their aides have leaked information about the White House rewriting reality campaign to the MSM:
Under the command of President Bush’s two senior political advisers, the White House rolled out a plan this weekend to contain the political damage from the administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina.
It orchestrated visits by cabinet members to the region, leading up to an extraordinary return visit by Mr. Bush planned for Monday, directed administration officials not to respond to attacks from Democrats on the relief efforts, and sought to move the blame for the slow response to Louisiana state officials, according to Republicans familiar with the White House plan.
The effort is being directed by Mr. Bush’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove, and his communications director, Dan Bartlett. It began late last week after Congressional Republicans called White House officials to register alarm about what they saw as a feeble response by Mr. Bush to the hurricane, according to Republican Congressional aides.
Team Rove uses three tactics for changing reality:
- Spin: Message is carefully crafted to change reality with bumpersticker phrases that fit neatly into sound bites. All spokespersons stay on message, repeating the bumperstickers in interviews – media plays along because they need the sound bites. This is why we’re hearing about a “blame game.” It isn’t a game. The buck stops at the top in this great country.
- Stage management: Photo ops, carefully chosen backdrops and people as props are presented to bolster the spin campaign. Rove took a hit yesterday when, in a helicopter flyover, Sen. Mary Landrieu showed George Stephanopolous the “lonely” crain working on the levee where there had been a hive of activity during the president’s stage managed visit last week.
- Smears: Rove uses whispering campaigns carried out by surrogates. His team spent much of last week doing opposition research on New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. Whatever they discovered that can be cast as unsavory or salacious will be released to the public through Rush, Hannity and the rest of the goons. If they found nothing they can use, they’ll simply make something up.
These tactics are only effective when the media are complicit. What remains to be seen is whether the MSM is going to go for the bait they way they always have in light of A) the demonstrable fact that federal assistance was absent and/or bungled in the first 72 to 96 hours of the crisis and B) their having been burned by the administration’s lies and ineptitude in Iraq.
Of course, if the media refuses to be supine to Rove’s campaign, he can use the trustiest arrow in his quiver of dirty tricks – the old bromide of liberal media bias. Ascribing criticism in the media has worked reliably for the GOP for two decades because the myth has become gospel to millions of Americans.
But the media have a weapon on their side that they have been reluctant to use against the GOP barrage – and maybe they’ll be motivated this time to bring this powerful force to bear. The weapon is the facts in the case. FEMA screwed up. The aid was demonstrably not forthcoming when it was needed. The buck stops at the top. Period.
Game and match.