Bush and Clarity

Friday, May 19, 2006

Bush and Clarity

Slate.com's John Dickerson contends that President Bush has lost one of the few traits that originally endeared him to the public: clarity. Dickerson writes:
In the post-9/11 uproar, Bush's clarity defined him and won him admirers. His plain-spokenness about "evil" was bracing and just what the country seemed to want. But the president's greatest talent has suddenly become a curse.

Lack of clarity bedevils Bush on immigration reform, high gas prices, and Iraq. He's now trying to make nuanced arguments but his presidency rests on an anti-nuance platform. Now he has to actually make a subtle case, but he has neither the tools to do so nor a receptive audience.

... conservatives see nuance as a sign of weakness, in part because Bush has taught them to view it as such. During the 2004 campaign, Bush advisers and campaign officials turned "nuance" into a pejorative. They walloped Kerry with it like a mallet. It was a point of pride for the president, who once reportedly told Sen. Joe Lieberman, "I don't do nuance."

Now Bush is nuancing all over the place, trying to explain to his supporters the complicated competing interests that require everyone to compromise by gathering at some "rational middle ground." But polling suggests Bush has lost moderates and independents. The only people left who still even listen to him are the ones least likely to buy the pitch.

The president's address to the nation on immigration Monday was measured and at times stirring. He reiterated that the proposal he supports for allowing illegal immigrants a path to citizenship is not amnesty.

Conservatives, subscribing to the old Bush model, didn't buy his shading. Forget the administration's wordy rationalization. Illegal immigrants are lawbreakers, and they shouldn't be rewarded for it.

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