Thursday, November 09, 2006

How to bury bad news

George W Bush had a really bad day, in fact he admitted himself that he and the Republican Party had received a 'thumping' from US voters. But in his own unique way he brushed this aside. The smile, the impression of innocence remained, though the swagger was described by one journalist as not that of the heroic cowboy who had tamed the wild steed.

But the sense of defeat, and accompanying narratives that should have pervaded the media were cut short. There was more important news on the way. The media's agenda of the weeks preceding the UD mid-terms was going to be fed the ultimate feast: Rumsfeld was to be sacrificed. This has been called for by the pentagon, the armed forces and the voters for months; with the campaign becoming more vociferous as the election neared, so why as the results were being counted did Bush decide a 'new direction' was needed in Iraq? Did he experience a eureka moment, realise that others knew better, or was there a more cunning reason for this announcement?

Anyone who has heard of Karl Rove, and his role as advisor / spin-doctor / media manager extraordinaire behind the Bush presidency should not be surprised by Bush's announcement. While Bush being forced to sack Rumsfeld could be seen as a climb down this is not how it was painted. Perhaps if Rumsfeld had been sacrificed in an attempt to save the election result the coverage would have been worse; but this joint decision is not viewed as a U-turn.

What Bush appears to have achieved is to deflect the coverage from his 'thumping' to the resignation of his Defence Chief - Karl Rove strikes again! Hence we can read this as a fantastic example of managing the news, burying bad news with the story the media wanted; and it seems to have worked. In fact the consensus appears to be that this is the right decision by Bush, could he regain his credibility? Is this the first step? With Rove's guidance who knows how history will remember the man they call Dubya.

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