to Change the Subject
September 18, 2002
must admit, I'm very impressed with the Bush administration's
ability to change the subject.
I'm not sure if you can call it "wagging the dog". That's
a phrase typically used when a government goes to war or launches
an airstrike to distract the public from more pressing issues.
If we were to torture the analogy a little, maybe we could
call this "giving the dog a new tail."
Whatever you want to call it, the administration has merely
talked about going to war with Iraq and has successfully altered
the focus of public discourse and coverage by our mass media.
The hot topics are no longer corporate greed, the lousy economy
and the ballooning budget deficit.
What particularly impresses me is how the administration
has managed to look conciliatory without actually stepping
away from its original intentions. To date, the Bush administration
has advocated the unilateral invasion of a country based on
flimsy, subjective evidence of a direct threat to the United
States. By simply "consulting" the United Nations and the
US Congress, the administration appears to have responded
to critics of its intent to invade Iraq without asking for
support from the world or the legislative branch.
That "consultation" has been the one sticking point in what
appears to be public support in the US for an invasion of
Iraq. Appearing before the UN and asking Congress for a resolution
of support has helped George W. Bush clear this hurdle of
opinion. Don't let it fool you though - Bush has still made
clear he is willing to plan and execute the invasion even
if these "consultations" don't result in support for further
Returning to the big picture, Bush has taken away the big
points the Democrats have been pushing in their efforts to
take control of Congress. Administration supporters and detractors
alike are now talking about Iraq.
Worse yet, the administration has taken advantage of public
opinion polls to determine the scope of that topic. The question
up for debate isn't "should we do it?" It's "should Bush get
support first?" And though he intends to act regardless of
opinions from the UN or from Congress, Bush asked for support
anyway to appear responsive to concerns from those bodies.
So to review: Bush has changed the subject, given no ground,
and won the debate.
Bush's goals are two-fold: accomplish his foreign policy
goals and help his party in November. Simply by changing the
subject, the administration has done more for GOP Congressional
candidates than any military action could accomplish. It's
far less expensive and doesn't result in US casualties just
before an election.
The strategy is somewhat risky because nobody knows how long
it will work. It's only a temporary measure in any case. If
the economy remains weak the focus of debate will creep back
to unemployment and bankruptcy. One more WorldCom-like scandal
and the focus will quickly shift back to corporate greed.
The GOP can ill-afford either of these. That's why Bush suggested
the UN give Saddam Hussein only weeks to disarm. The administration
knows time is the enemy, especially since changing the subject
to war has only one logical conclusion. Impressive politics
aside, eventually Bush will be forced to wag the dog.