Today's edition of the US News & World Report's "US News Political Bulletin," reports Bush administration communications officials "believe they relied too heavily on traditional media and the White House press corps to get out the President's message about the broader war on terrorism and the booming economy":
"We didn't use the new tools of communication" like the Internet, blogs and mobile technology," said a former key official. As a result, added another official, the President's message was filtered through the mainstream press which eventually got bored with the story and stopped reporting the President's repetitive messages. "You've got to use the new tools. They can reach far more people than TV or the papers," said an administration official. "A video on the Internet or some blogging can reach millions and we should have played with that much more," said the official.This doesn't entirely ring true. During and after the 2000 presidential campaign, team Bush seemed miles ahead in the use of the internet. The use of "team leaders" was very savy and seemed cutting edge for the time. Perhaps, despite that great start, the White House failed to grasp the potential power of blogs.
The White House failure to embrace blogs is unfortunate because the right side of the blogosphere was a natural ally for President Bush and was self-identified as part of the President's base.
We don't agree with all of the Bush policies. Immigration is perhaps the best example of that. Nevertheless, in disagreement we were usually respectful. Starting with the Harriet Meirs debacle things started to change. A divergence between the agendas of the White House and those of the right side of the blogosphere has festered and is now perceived by both sides as more than a polite agreement to disagree.
According to the US News Bulletin, White House insiders claim that they have worked with bloggers and non-traditional media but that the tide has turned against them. Well, the tide has turned - just as the right side of the blogoshpere is less subtle or polite in disagreement with the administration, the President has likewise given up the high road and directly attacked conservatives:
During a visit to Georgia on Tuesday, President Bush raised the ante, blasting “conservative critics” of the Senate immigration reform deal. President Bush accused conservative critics "of having failed to read the legislation they're attacking":
The first step to comprehensive reform must be to enforce immigration laws at the borders and at work sites across America. And this is what this bill does. For the skeptics who say that we're not concerned about border security or workplace enforcement, they need to read the bill. The bill prioritizes enforcing our laws at the border, and saying to employers, we'll hold you to account for employing somebody who's here illegally -- knowingly employing somebody who's here illegally.In the words of the New York Times, this was a "rare case of the president's taking on the coalition that helped him win and keep the Oval Office, the same conservative radio hosts, bloggers, writers and members of Congress who contributed significantly to the defeat of immigration measures last year."
[. . .]
A temporary worker program will not begin until our border security measures are in place, and until we have a reliable system for verifying employment eligibility. That's the way the bill works. Oh, I'm sure you've heard some of the talk out there about people defining the bill. It's clear they hadn't read the bill. They're speculating about what the bill says, and they're trying to rile up people's emotions. This is a good piece of legislation. It addresses the border security needs, and it addresses the employment needs of our country [emphasis added.]
The bloggers with whom I choose to associate take pride in doing their homework. We have perused the bill and found things - too many things - that need to be modified.
Instead of wrongly accusing opponents of objecting to the bill because we haven't read it, the President should seek a cease fire. He should have representatives reach out to those who point out specific problems contained in the bill and see if improvements can be made. This is the least he can do for those "that helped him win and keep the Oval Office." In arriving at the Senate immigration deal, the President did at least that much and more with those that did not provide him such assistance.
The White House can then reconsider the misplaced over reliance upon traditional media and attempt to forge a renewed relationship with the new media. They don't have to choose one over the other. Even the traditional media is beginning to embrace the new media. Realizing there is a potential symbiotic relationship to be exploited in joining the traditional and new media, many newspapers now have blogs. Perhaps the White House communications team can effectively exploit that relationship as well.