The "He's An Idiot" Trial Balloon and What Will Happen If It Floats

The Democratic anti-Bush advantage will fizzle and die before our eyes if this excuse balloon floats.
08/21/2006 12:43 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

This is trial balloon season for the Republican strategists. They launched a crafty one recently with several big benefits if it stays in the air.

This new balloon involves a cadre of avid Bush backers suddenly saying "He's an idiot."

One of the beauties of this strategy is that it looks as though these overnight Bush detractors have had a change of heart. They've finally, and suddenly, seen the light - agreeing with liberals.

In It's All Politics, I describe political intuition -- how to notice "disconnects"(when something isn't quite right) as signals that something is amiss, so you'd better open your eyes. Political intuition calls for sensing when actions are counterintuitive or violate some typical pattern.

Think about it. If selected, visible, staunch Bush supporters begin talking about how intellectually wanting the President is, with his full knowledge and collaboration (such as chewing with his mouth open, striding motorcycles, goofing around with unappreciative world leaders), there won't be an anti-Bush platform for the Democrats. In fact, if these balloonists play their cards right, it will seem as if there isn't a nickel's worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats. Everyone will be anti-Bush. The playing field will be leveled.

It's an excellent "inoculation" tactic, too, against a possible impeachment move should the Democrats win enough seats in November. Inoculation, a persuasion strategy, works by telling people in advance of an anticipated negative event how to think about it. A phone company intending to introduce rate hikes might run ads about how people just don't use their phone books enough. Then when the rates are raised, we know who to blame -- ourselves.

Should the Democrats win enough seats in November to threaten impeachment, the "He's an idiot" strategy will work wonders. Republican leaders will ask: "Does this country really want to impeach a guy who just didn't know what he was doing?" If the Democrats push for penalties, the Republicans will argue, "We're not the party that wants to vilify a president who, like so many of us and even some of his esteemed predecessors, just isn't terribly bright." And, "We agree he isn't intellectually gifted, now let's move on. What else do you have?"

The Democratic anti-Bush advantage will fizzle and die before our eyes if this excuse balloon floats. Disillusioned Republicans will drift back because there will be a number of their own agreeing with them about Bush's limitations. That's how clever these guys are.

Apparently Blair got the "We're-going-to-say-he's-an-idiot" e-mail. The Daily Mail reported:

"A senior Downing Street source said that, privately, Mr. Blair broadly agrees with John Prescott, who said Mr. Bush's record on the issue was 'crap'.

The source said: "We all feel badly let down by Bush. We thought we had persuaded him to take the Israel-Palestine situation seriously, but we were wrong. How can anyone have faith in a man of such low intellect?"

As we all know, they're very clever indeed in the Republican win-by-any-means camp. Even the Washington Post reported this "He's an idiot" strategy as some kind of "turning on Bush" among high profile previous supporters. They must be laughing their socks off. And, since Barnes and others are not joining the choir yet on this one, they can pull this balloon back in if we notice it in the air. Let it float and we may pay with 8 more years starting in 2008.