Q. How can you tell when the Bushies are getting worried?
A. They start changing slogans.
During the 2000 campaign, for instance, before they realized that a handful of juridical hypocrites could do away with all that messy democracy business and simply appoint a president, they switched slogans at the drop of every threatening hat.
You’ll recall that Bush started with the always-amusing “compassionate conservatism,” a choice alliteration that actually advertised his intent on mean-spirited radicalism to the Orwellianly aware. (Think “The softer side of Sears.”) And he opted for “Prosperity with a Purpose” when folks began asking why they should trade eight years of Clinton-Gore’s job growth and relative international tranquility for a befuddled business failure who was lucky to find North America on a map.
When things started looking bad after his New Hampshire primary loss to reformer John McCain, Bush’s handlers then decided he was more a “Reformer with Results” than a purposefully prosperous guy. Then, knowing he looked like an utterly empty shell on the stump, Bush fired off reassurances that he possessed “Real Plans for Real People” - as opposed to the taxidermic ones, I guess.
Following that he mixed it up with “Real Purposes for Real People” (those would be really prosperous purposes, or really purposeful prosperity) and “Real Tax Relief for Real People,” culminating in “Real Savings for Real People.” (I’m not making this up. Really.) Finally, given his campaign’s divisiveness, he announced he was a “Uniter, not a divider.”
As silly as all this follow-the-bouncing-ball sloganeering was, it seems to have worked by and large. Only lately have the president’s approval numbers begun to slip, and only because he’s making life a living hell for working-class Americans and generally botching everything overseas. That’s fickle public opinion for you.
Also hurting his numbers is that “war on terror” thing that W. has been winning for some time now, though victory is beginning to look a lot like Germany did to France in 1940.
So what to do in these uncertain times of danger? You got it. Change slogans.
“The Bush administration is retooling its slogan for the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, pushing the idea that the long-term struggle is as much an ideological battle as a military mission, senior administration and military officials said Monday,” reported the New York Times Tuesday. Hence the “war on terror” is so yesterday.
But here’s the disappointment. The old war on terror, as floated recently in speeches by Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, is now - brace your bad self - “a global struggle against violent extremism.”
Is that really the best they can do? It’s wordy, lacks that old-time alliteration and is dreadfully umph-less. It’s also a clear sign that Ms. Hughes is desperately needed in her new propaganda job over at State. She was always Karen-on-the-spot with something pithy (that’s pithy) whenever George got in trouble before - and just look at what happens when she’s gone: “A global struggle against violent extremism.”
They could have at least tossed out something with some historical zing to it, something like “Tippecanoe and Terrorism too,” or “Whip zarqaWi Now,” or “Don’t Mess with Messopotamia.” But “a global struggle against violent extremism”? Surely they can do better than that, and I’m sure Karen will.
Does this watered-down slogan reflect a fundamental change in Bush’s course, a reevaluation of his thinking, a fresh strategy of some benefit? I doubt it. When it comes to terrorists, at heart Bush truly is a uniter, not a divider.
Of greater concern to those of us who love Generalissimo Bush is that this uncharacteristically sloppy sloganeering suggests a man who no longer cares as much - a man comfortable with reelection’s security, a man willing to slacken his grinding workload and be content with leisurely bike rides and such.
I hope not. The country needs - now more than ever - a compassionately conservative reformer willing to juggle this global struggle against violent extremism with the pursuit of prosperity with a purpose while securing results in regards to real plans for real people. Or something catchy like that.