Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Morris on the SotU

Dick Morris says that Bush's State of the Union speech was complete "failure."

During Bill Clinton’s eight years in the White House, State of the Union speeches were the pillars that held up his presidency. His popularity would soar in the weeks after the speech and sag as the year unfolded, only to be revivified by another speech in January.

It is almost unbelievable that President Bush’s latest State of the Union message failed as miserably as it did, giving him no gain in the polls and failing to arrest his post-December slide. Bush’s aides blame the slippage on the Democratic primary race, with its candidates bashing Bush at every turn.


So why did Bush fail?

First, it was a man’s speech. With its swagger and emphasis on defense and military action, it widened the gender gap that is Bush’s bane. His emphasis on a manned mission to Mars further alienated women, who see education and healthcare as more pressing priorities than space travel and exploration.

Second, Bush made very few new proposals. It was a lazy State of the Union without the issue development and polling that should have preceded it. Perhaps Clinton’s speeches were so effective because he realized that his presidency was based on words. Bush has based his on actions and may not fully appreciate the need to explain and justify them.

Third, it is not the pounding by the Democratic candidates that cost Bush his December approval rating points, but the relaxation of the terrorist environment. With an orange threat level and the United States canceling flights from France and Great Britain, Americans felt endangered and, with terror as the top issue, they turned to Bush, as they have done since Sept. 11, 2001.


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