Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Sensitive President

The phrasing of these things always perplexes me... this is from the WaPo article on the White House "Presidential Advance Manual."
...that does not mean the White House is against dissent -- just so long as the president does not see it. In fact, the manual outlines a specific system for those who disagree with the president to voice their views. It directs the White House advance staff to ask local police "to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in the view of the event site or motorcade route."
Any 20th-21st-century presidential staff micromanages the media details of events in order to wring all possible PR or propaganda benefits out of them. Part of this is protecting against any counter-images or opposing messages. So, it's really unsurprising to me that the White House (and this Republican Party) has a how-to manual on managing or squelching dissenting voices at presidential events. Really, so what? Most of the cases resulting from this manual are not ones of outright suppression, although I have little doubt they'd do it if they could get away with it. I'm more concerned when the national media intentionally (or even unintentionally) censors itself, creates its own president-supporting reality, and generally fails at the task that is the only truly noble part of its calling (uh,... honest reporting, for starters). The latter started on Day One when diverse and numerous protestors lined the route of the presidential cavalcade here in DC and the media studiously avoided showing them, referring to protestors disdainfully as a few random punks (by Peter Jennings, no less).

No, what is perplexing to me is the degree to which such management is an effort to hide the reality of dissenting voices, now the majority, from the president. Packaging the message - "catapulting the propaganda" - is as much for him as it is for the public. It's an ongoing trope that this president has no clothes, but even his staff has to tell him he's wearing the finest royal purple silks as he parades naked among his subjects. This then reinforces a bizarre self-image of marginalization and suffering of which Tim at Balloon Juice provides a couple of examples:

George W. Bush, 8/20/07:

As he sat down with opposition leaders from authoritarian societies around the world, he gave voice to his exasperation. “You’re not the only dissident,” Bush told Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a leader in the resistance to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. “I too am a dissident in Washington. Bureaucracy in the United States does not help change. It seems that Mubarak succeeded in brainwashing them.”

Laura Bush, 4/25/07:

Oh, I know that very much. And believe me, no one suffers more than their president and I do when we watch this, and certainly the commander in chief, who has asked our military to go into harm’s way.
George W. Bush as The Sensitive President, hiding from the reality that ill-advised actions and ideas have consequences. No wonder the US state of affairs at home and abroad is equally unstable and fragile.

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