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How To Avoid the State of the Union Speech

Reported by Nancy - February 2, 2005 -

The crash of a corporate jet in NJ plus repeated updates & speculation about the condition of Pope John Paul II, turned out to be the big deals for FNL today (12/1). It didn't leave a lot of time for them to tout Bush's State of the Union speech, but they managed to squeeze in two major interviews & an awful lot of self-promotion.

Here's how they covered Bush's State of the Union (SOU) speech:

11:03am - James Rosen at the White House reported that Bush is "just about finished" with SOU, said that the WH released 2 still photos of him rehearsing, mentioned SocSec "reform" & then note that an "aide" appeared on Fox&Friends this morning & showed a clip of Dan Bartlett from that program. Rosen repeated the GOP test phrase "low-risk investment accounts" & said that Scott McClellan commented that Dems are opposing Bush's SocSec plan "sight unseen."

11:15am - saying that Bush's plan for "fixing" SocSec will take center stage but Dems are "already taking aim" & showing a clip of Harry Reid, Brigitte Quinn interviewed Bill Kristol (Weekly Standard & Fox regular). Quinn asked whether what the Dems are doing is "politics as usual" or "obstructionist" & Kristol said it was more just politics, but he also noted that a lot of GOPs are "uneasy" about it. Quinn noted that "the President can be persuasive" & asked whether a "personal phone call" from Bush to a legislator could "make a difference." Kristol agreed that it could, that it's "easy to rally Dems against it" but that Bush's "real task" is to get GOPs behind it. Kristol said there's debate about does it matter that much, is it "key" to a GOP future, & how important a priority is this & added that Bush "hasn't convinced" GOPs about this yet. Quinn asked how important is it for Bush to "look into the camera" & speak to seniors. Kristol said Bush will "walk people through it" like "a tutorial", explaining "why it has to be fixed," & how "individual accounts" can help. Kristol added that "we're all cynical" about arm twisting & PR so Bush will have to "make the case on the merits" & his SOU speech will be "policy-heavy" [comment: note that they still haven't settled on what to call Bush's SocSecScam; they're running a few phrases up the flagpole -- "low-risk investment accounts" & "individual accounts" & "personal accounts" -- to see who salutes & which plays best.]

11:40am - teasers included: preview of SOU

11:45am - Quinn plugged Fox coverage of the SOU

11:57am - Asman read teasers, inlcuding Bush "puts finishing touches on SOU

11:59am - James Rosen essentially repeated his earlier report, with another clip of Dan Bartlett from Fox&Friends & with a plug from Asman for Fox coverage of SOU

12:07pm - teasers included "Will his speeh convince Congress & the American people" that his plan is "the way to go"?

12:10 - saying that Bush is "Commander in Chief in time of war" Asman interviewed Peter Mirijanian & Eric Denzenhall (political consultants/strategists). Asman asked if Bush could use the Iraq election as political capital. Mirijanian said "sure" & thought that Bush's speech would include "soaring rhetoric" & a "fairly ambitious domestic" agenda. Asman asked how Bush would accomplish that "political alchemy" & Denzenhall said that he considered the inaugural speech to be a "branding exercise" while the SOU is "direct selling" so it's like a "business presentation" where Bush "has to convince people." He said that Bush's "target audience" is not just inside the Beltway ("we [Beltway insiders] love complexity" & "especially Dems"). He called Bush "a guy who took a huge risk" & "may have been right after all." Asman asked how Bush could lay out his case "to circumvent Beltway lobbyists" who are against him (citing AARP & trial lawyers among examples). Mirijanian said that's a "tried & true strategy" to say 'they're all against me' & compared Bush to a "high stakes poker player." Mirijanian said that, in contrast to Clinton, who "did incremental change" Bush prefers broader issues. Asman reworded his question, asking if Bush could "do an end run around these lobbysts" in order to do the "reform" he wants "with the support of the American people." Denzenhall said the "heartland" likes Bush because they "say[s] this guy stuck wih his guns." Asman wrapped up by saying that "simple clear strong messages really resonate with the American people" & adding a plug for Fox coverage of the SOU.

12:14pm - teasers included an upcoming interview with "former White House speechwriters"

General comment: If you watched Fox at all yesterday & today, you can skip the formality of actually watching Bush deliver the speech tonight. Fox has already laid it all out for you.