Thursday, October 27, 2005

White House's Post-Indictments Stategy: Change The Subject

What does the White House plan to do if there are publicly televised perp walks involving senior administration officials later this week? Here's the story from McManus, Vieth, and Curtius at the LA Times:

Some key elements of the post-investigation game plan have emerged, GOP advisors said:

• Any indicted White House officials would immediately step down, and Bush would quickly name their successors. If Rove is indicted, more than one person might take over his many responsibilities.

• The president and other White House officials would limit their public comments on the case. Outside interest groups and allies would do most of the talking.

• Whenever possible, Bush and other administration officials would try to change the subject. Among the issues the president plans to put atop his new agenda are spending restraint, tax changes and immigration. In addition, Bush's foreign policy advisors have discussed launching a more visible presidential effort to prod Israel and the Palestinians toward peace, one official said.

• The White House would try to insulate Bush from the scandal allegations. Officials would argue that the president has not been accused of any direct involvement in the leaking of information in the CIA case or subsequent efforts to minimize the political damage. Although it is not yet clear who would coordinate the defense, several advisors said they expected Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman would be heavily involved. One official said former Cheney aide Mary Matalin was another likely participant. Neither Mehlman nor Matalin could be reached for comment.

White House officials and allies are hoping that intensive news coverage of the Fitzgerald investigation will be short-lived. On Nov. 7, they predicted, attention would shift to the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Harriet E. Miers.

"Let's say something happens in the next 48 hours," said one official. "It will dominate the news cycle until the 7th of November. Then a new cycle begins: Harriet will be the news."

Once the controversy begins to subside, they argued, Bush will have an opening to change the subject and call public attention to Iraq and the domestic economy, where the administration says there is good news.

"Because all this other snap, crackle and pop is occurring, it's harder to tell the story of the progress being made on the foreign policy front and the economic front," another strategist said. "When some of these other stories expire, it will be easier to get back on those issues."


"Changing the subject will not work," said David Gergen, a former aide to Presidents Reagan and Clinton. "Giving more speeches about Iraq or the state of the economy doesn't have the weight that action does…. It's dangerous for the country to have a disabled president for three years, and we're getting close to seeing that happen. I worry that they [Bush and his aides] are in denial."

These guys really do seem in denial. If they think changing the subject from the CIA leak investigation to the economy is going to change their fortunes for the better, they've really got their heads up their asses and are believing their own bullshit.

Between the price of gas, the price of oil, rising food costs, rising drug costs, rising medical costs, a job market that is less than stellar for employees and all of the companies cutting wages, benefits, and pensions, I don't think most Americans outside of the White House or the boardrooms are feeling too optimistic about the economy on either the micro or macro level. Consumer confidence continues to tank in the latest surveys and we have yet to see the full impact of the new bankruptcy law on consumers.

All in all, I don't think trying to sell this economy to the American people as "strong and resilient" is going to either take their minds off the CIA leak investigation or the uncertainty in their own financial fortunes.

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