There's nothing the Press shop can do about facts on the ground, but we can HELP people remembers why they originally liked the President so much. In December and January, Dan and Nicolle did a great job of getting the President out more, talking to the pool nearly every day and answering all those questions from the good red-blooded, red-stated Americans who come to our events. There have been lulls in this strategy as plans got overtaken by the news and the schedule, but we need to make it a priority instead of an if-can. I know the President was reluctant to do the questions from the general public, concerned that he would say some tiny thing that the press would blow it up into some huge deal. But he has nailed nearly every one of these outings, and I know he now enjoys them and has gotten more confident.
I know you realize the dirty little secret: Truly nasty questions, ones the President can't defuse with his quick wit, are rare. And when we DO get asked them, we get brownie points for openness. So these free-for-alls are almost can't-lose propositions.
Similarly, the President should take questions from the pool all the time. For him, this is just batting practice. With all due respect, all press corps are predictable. And when we give them two questions, I'll go back to my radio show if I can't usually predict what they're going to be. But it makes it harder for the press to rag on the President when they're in close touch with him, and it's an opportunity for us to remind people of our message. When we don't answer questions, it looks like we believe the critics. We want to be out there at every opportunity, like my uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, saying: And ANOTHER thing. . .
The President looked strong and decisive swinging a hammer down in New Orleans for a few minutes the other day. If he wants to, and I bet he'd be thrilled, let's suggest that he spend a whole day working down there, and really have something to show for it. I understand we had to call an audible and make that quick stop at the BP station to make the statement about CAFE standards, but that became the news and drowned out the real empathy the President had shown for the folks on the Gulf Coast. You know how he likes working up a sweat at the ranch. Let's remind people that he's not trapped at the desk. He got along great with the workers down there--I saw the video of the back pats and the shared jokes. That's the George W. Bush we need to showcase.
One of the most important changes I'd like to make in the operation is to empower the other spokespeople so they can develop relationships with reporters and work with them on stories and give them guidance and tidbits we might not be able to dispense from the podium. In my canvassing of reporters, I've learned that the only spokesperson who had any real rapport with the press was Trent Duffy. That's not helpful to the President. We need our spokespeople to be proactively reaching out to A-list reporters, which gives us a ripple effect of good will as they talk to others in the press corps and reach their large audiences.