The communications dilemma facing George W. Bush is the most fascinating ’issue’ to emerge in the early running for the Presidency. That might say something about the lack of real ’issues’ in the race thus far; but as any seasoned observer knows, ethical considerations are as real as anything in politics, burying the political hopes of many a presidential candidate.
The communications dilemma facing George W. Bush is the most
fascinating ’issue’ to emerge in the early running for the Presidency.
That might say something about the lack of real ’issues’ in the race
thus far; but as any seasoned observer knows, ethical considerations are
as real as anything in politics, burying the political hopes of many a
Bush is big in the polls. He is Texas to the Rhode Island of his
Republican rivals. Should he admit to taking cocaine, straight out?
Should he talk about the other sexual allegations that are now surfacing
at this early stage?
Undoubtedly, this admission would not help, particularly in a GOP
primary whose voters are conservative. Of course, many Christians are
advocates of forgiveness and have been very open about their own
problems prior to being born again. But the Moral Right is not always as
forgiving as the Christian values it represents, and will be
particularly sensitive after the shame President Clinton has brought on
the Oval Office. And from a position of extraordinary dominance, he
risks losing everything because of something he did 25 years ago.
This is understandably troubling to Bush and his team, but he has danced
round the issue for several months in a manner that will remind people
of Clinton’s word games. His latest ’semi-admission’ came when he told
journalists, ’Over 20 years ago, I made some mistakes and I learned from
those. That’s all I intend to talk about.’
This stuttering uncertainty is reminiscent of Clinton’s shifty
proclamations on drug use, and helps explain why, after an outstanding
start, Bush and his troupe have been marked down in our early report
card on the progress of the presidential communications teams (see p14).
After all, how’s he going to deal with difficult issues that concern the
running of the country if he’s thrown so off guard like this? Bush is
also naive if he thinks that his ’intentions’ not to ’talk about’ it
will deter the press, who have clearly smelt blood.
The Bush communications team will be watching to see how the public
reacts to the admission of cocaine use in the 1970s last weekend by
Warwick RI mayor Lincoln Chafee, son of Senator John Chafee, who is
running for the seat vacated by his father. He told a local interview
program on Sunday: ’I had three choices: lie, which was not an option;
evade it and receive the consequences of that; or be honest. And I chose
to be honest.’
The New York Post contends that Clinton is a ’chronic and habitual liar’
whereas Bush ’is evidently twisting himself into knots trying not to lie
(without committing political suicide).’ But given his desire to set an
example to young people, it would have been better to not play the word
games and just admit it and move on.
Bush has thus far earned a reputation without appearing to do or say
anything - relying on looks, name and fortune to smile his way to the
top of the polls. Now that the halo has fallen, he should find the right
medium and the right moment to come unequivocally clean. And then he
should go out and really earn a reputation, by proving he is the best
candidate for the job.