Bolten has a five-point plan, but where's Iraq?

The new chief of staff sets his sights on Bush's base.

By Tim Grieve
April 24, 2006 9:36PM (UTC)
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A Gallup poll released last week shows that Americans' biggest concerns are Iraq, immigration and the price of gas. So if the new White House chief of staff is serious about reenergizing the Bush presidency and reconnecting with the American people, he'll use his newfound powers to undertake a serious rethinking of the war, get the president into a position of leadership on immigration and move aggressively on gas prices, right?

Well, you'd think. But as Time reports, Josh Bolten's plans for the White House don't have much to do with reaching across the aisle or reaching out to the American people. They're all about holding tight to Bush's base in the hopes of holding on to Congress come November. As Time explains, Bolten's five-point plan for refreshing the Bush White House mostly involves persuading conservatives that the president is still on their side -- and that they ought to be on his.


The plan: Seek more money for immigration enforcement, then pose for lots of pictures with new agents in uniforms. Put smiles on the faces of Wall Street pundits by pushing through extensions of tax cuts for stock dividends and capital gains. Talk more about the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the stock market and the economy generally. Talk more with the press. Talk tough with Iran.

If you didn't see anything about Iraq or the price of gas in there, well, you didn't. The administration apparently hopes that happy talk from happy talking heads who are happy about tax cuts will make Americans forget that they're paying three bucks a gallon at the pump. As for Iraq? It's there only by implication. In a sign that the bubble may be a whole lot thicker than we thought, Time says Bush's advisors think Bush can recapture the national security credibility he lost in Iraq by turning up the pressure on Iran.

Out here in the reality-based world, we think that the opposite is true: Every time we hear the Bush administration warn about the threat Iran poses, we remember the similar threats the Bush administration made about Iraq. But the Bolten plan isn't about us; it's about the base, the third of the country that still approves of the way the president is handling Iraq, the people who still believe -- every new revelation notwithstanding -- that Bush told the truth then and can be trusted to tell it again now.


Responding to the news that Bolten was considering Fox's Tony Snow as a possible replacement for Scott McClellan -- according to Time, Snow has, in fact, been offered the job -- MSNBC's Keith Olbermann suggested the other day that the White House might have resigned itself to appealing only to those who view Fox News as some sort of oracle of truth. If Bolten's five-point plan is any indication, it looks like he was right.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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