Q&A Friday #21: If You Could Play Karl Rove For A Day…

Question: “John:

The president’s job approval rating is dropping into the low 40’s, not good. If he falls much farther than this, he’s going to have big problems trying to get things done.

3 things I think are hurting the President. Iraq, the border and Increasing fuel prices.

Now, the average Joe probably doesn’t pay much attention to the first two, but he does pay attention to the last one mentioned here.

Everybody is going to take notice (and probably be angry too) when they are paying more than 3 bucks a gallon to fill up the family SUV.

I think the President’s done a good job so far, but I’m wondering how he’s going to get himself out of the rut he appears to be in. How is he going to get OPEC under control? Is he going to deal with the border? How does he get the message across to the American people to fight the good fight in Iraq? If you were in Karl Rove’s position, what would you advise the President to do?” — Scorched_Earth

Answer: See, this is a great question because what political blogger could resist the opportunity to play Karl Rove for a day?

By the way, I agree with you that Iraq, the border, and fuel prices are the three biggest thorns in Bush’s side. Here — in brief — is how I’d tell Bush to handle them:

1) Fuel Prices: There’s no quick fix for this problem. Tapping the strategic reserve wouldn’t help much and from everything I’ve seen, OPEC isn’t deliberately driving up the prices.

Instead, this appears to be a problem that’s going to be around for a little while. So, what Bush should do is put together a proposal designed specifically to meet this country’s gas needs.

It should include drilling of ANWR, even more tax incentives to build new refineries, getting rid of all the specialized gasoline blends, and maybe some sort of increase of CAFE standards (which is popular, although personally, I’m not a fan).

Then Bush needs to explain that this isn’t an instant fix, it’ll take awhile for these changes to make a difference. He can also talk up the recently passed energy bill which addresses some of these same concerns. Maybe this isn’t the instant solution people want, but at least the American public will see that Bush is trying to deal seriously with an issue that they care about.

2) Bush hasn’t been serious about illegal immigration or border enforcement and it is hurting him. Now, of course, he can’t reverse course 180% without looking like a hypocrite, so what he should do is introduce two bills.

The first bill would beef up border security immensely, increase penalties for employers that hire illegals, prevent illegals caught in the US from ever becoming citizens, etc., etc — Ya know, the sort of thing that would make Tom Tancredo and Michelle Malkin swoon.

The second bill would be the lame stuff all the people who are serious about illegal immigration don’t like: amnesty, worker programs, allowing illegals still in the US to pay a fine and stay here.

Then Bush could announce that he’s going to push bill #1 FIRST and then after it passes, he’ll go back to Bill #2. That would enable Bush to talk tough about illegal immigration which would be wildly popular, while still telling Mexico and the people who are soft on illegal immigration that he’s going to address their concerns later.

After Bill #1 passes, Bush would gain credibility with the people who want to be tough on illegal immigration. So then, pushing Bill #2 wouldn’t hurt him very much. Of course it probably wouldn’t pass either, but the people who were soft on immigration would still be able to see that Bush is on their side, he just wasn’t able to overcome popular sentiment.

3) When it comes to the war, I don’t think Bush needs to change course, I just think he needs to show the American people some fire. Early on, in his, “Bring ’em on,” and, “wanted dead or alive,” days, Bush seemed to be firm, in charge.

But, the Bush administration has always been terrible at using the bully pulpit and other than when he’s campaigning, W’s a bit too mild and reserved.

I mean, come on, you’ve got liberals running around screaming that we’ve lost the war, that it’s for nothing, that Bush is incompetent, he’s a liar, that he should be impeached — and from Bush, we get, “Well, no, we’re going to hang in there.” The man has the tenacity of a bulldog, but the calm and measured way he speaks doesn’t always reflect his Churchillian attitude.

So how about we get a little less Jimmy Stewart and get a little more John Wayne? Make it absolutely clear that we’re not pulling out until the job is done. Lay a couple of salvos down on the anti-war crowd. For example, how about, “Some people insist we unconditionally surrender to the terrorists by cutting and running from Iraq. I say they are seriously lacking in judgment.” Put the anti-war pols on the defensive for a while instead of letting them have an unlimited number of free shots at the President

Also, put the war in context: explain it in terms of the sacrifices we made to win in Japan, Germany, and Korea. As Newt Gingrich suggested, let Bush talk to the American people about, “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat.” Make it clear that this is tough duty, but we’re Americans, we can handle it. Give the American people some markers of success to look forward to: the constitutional referendum in October, the election in December — and make it very clear that we look forward to having our troops home, but we will not allow politicians here in the states to throw away the sacrifice made by our troops in Iraq. Let them know that we want to have the Iraqis policing their own democratic country, so we can bring our troops home victorious.

If Bush just showed a little more fire and explained things just a little better, I think that in and of itself would be enough to significantly buck up people’s confidence about how the war is being handled.

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