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January 2009

Does leaders' competence determine the public's choice of leaders AND of ideologies?

Patrick Ruffini at “The Next Right: Politics. Strategy. Action.” has a confident vision and a lot of insight into how politics and public perceptions work. He says that we need to stick to our main principles, free markets, trad values and national security, but “apply them to 21st century issues” and be visionary and aggressive, smart and competent, with younger, inspiring leaders.

This, he says, is because public approval or rejection of parties and ideologies is not mostly based on what politicians’ ideologies are, but rather on how they perform and are perceived as competent, positive and efficient, or not. And that perception in turn affects ideology. And the ideology we choose will then affect what ideology the voters validate in response to both sides’ performance.

I hope our choices are as clear he says they are, but I’m not sure yet. Merely “distancing itself from examples of Bush's botched execution” won’t convince a lot of people that Republicans are competent or even care about being competent.

Bush Tells Party To Be 'Open-Minded', Compassionate, Pro-Immigrant

Bush Tells His Party To Be 'Open-Minded' ,

Amen, but ironic that he made the problem with immigrants so much worse; his pro-immigration initiative turned up the heat on a sleeping issue, raising immigrants' expectations while sparking an anti-immigrant GOP reaction, which ended up convincing many immigrants that Republicans were hostile to them.

The ream-out-the-party bandwagon is getting mighty crowded.

When optimism is bad politics, and other lessons for presidents

10 Take Aways From the Bush Years -

Bob Woodward's piece about what Obama can learn from the W presidency (posted by Akram Khan) is mostly not related to this blog's subject, though it's great reading on how to run a presidency, if one happens to have one. That may not be a concern for conservatives or libertarians for a while yet.

But I am posting it because it touches on one crucial and irritating failing plaguing Bush and most Republicans -- the habit of being reflexively upbeat at precisely the wrong time. I've seen it at all levels of the party from both Bushes' administrations down to my own county committee, which once gave me an award for doing absolutely nothing. (At least I told them beforehand I was going to do nothing, and that if drafted as Precinct Captain I would reign but could not serve.) It looks dishonest and patronizing. It insults people's intelligence. But far worse, it makes them, and me, wonder if you know what's really going on and if you even CARE about having things done right. For most people, this is summed up by "Doin' a great job, Brownie!" and "Mission Accomplished", but what really, finally soured me on W was the first thing I heard him say as New Orleans was going underwater, about how "we’re going to rebuild it better than ever" or words to that effect. Spending his presidential airtime on Chamber-of-Commerce Babbitt-style boosterism at a time when hundreds were dying and hundreds of thousands were in peril.

Woodward writes:

"Presidents must tell the hard truth to the public, even if that means delivering very bad news.

"For years after the Iraq invasion, Bush consistently offered upbeat public assessments. ... The president later told me that he knew that the Iraq "strategy wasn't working." So how could the United States be winning a war with a failing strategy?

"After 9/11, Bush spoke forthrightly about a war on terror that might last a generation and include other attacks on the U.S. homeland. That straight talk marked the period of Bush's greatest leadership and highest popularity. Presidents are strong when they are the voice of realism."