Thursday, September 15, 2005

Big Night

To get an idea of how big tonight's speech by President Bush will be among the political class read the following from The Note:

He has never seen his poll numbers take this kind of hit among Republicans before.

He has never seen his poll numbers on "strong leader" and "can handle a crisis" take such a hit before.

He has never seen his efforts to build the Republican Party among African-Americans be so thoroughly undermined before.

He has never been rolled by Nancy Pelosi before.

He has never been without Dr. Rice or Ambassador Hughes down the hall during a crisis before.

He has never had two open-ended spending commitments of tens of billions of dollars before.

He has never had to take "responsibility" for such death-infused tragedy before.

He has never had to rethink whether he has put fully qualified people in critical jobs before.

He has never had so many well-meaning Republican strategists and Administration aides whole-heartedly agreeing that the White House was too slow off the mark in dealing with a crisis before.

He has never had to dial back on his view that "it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life" - at least in public - before.

He has never had to be dependent on an inexperienced Democratic governor of a poor state for his own political health before.

He has never faced the possibility of long-term blame for something (the rebuilding of New Orleans and other devastated areas) that is to a large extent beyond his control - and which he will say tonight should be left largely to the choices of local people - before.

He has never had to be so deeply self-conscious about tossing off sarcastic remarks, half-baked cracks, and casual comments before.

He has never been so denied the cushion of his nonchalant confidence and relaxed superiority before.

He has never been perceived as such a potential liability by others in his party looking to hold their seats before.

He has never lacked The Other - an enemy to demonize and to contrast with himself and his policies in the eyes of the media and the public before.

Then read Peggy Noonan's assessment of the President's political standing.

And, finally, gaze at the latest WSJ/NBC (40% approval) and CBS/New York Times (41% approval) polls. Even a White House that "never looks at polls" has to pay attention to these. The conventional conservative thinking was that the approval numbers would slowly be climbing now that the clean up and rebuilding has started and the crisis has passed. These numbers have to shake that confidence a little bit. (Even though I am sure it is really just the liberal media's fault!)

Given all this, tonight's speech is huge, at least among the political class.
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