Rebranding the Bush administration

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Suzanne Goldenberg, Simon Tisdall, and Nicholas Watt reported on the rebranding of the Bush administration in the Saturday, January 3, 2004, edition of the UK's The Guardian. They point out that not only has the White House "retreated from its doctrine of regime change and pre-emptive military action," but it is also "returning to traditional diplomacy in an effort to repackage George W. Bush as a president for peace."

"Signs of the new strategy that have emerged in the past few weeks," they say, include:

  • North Korea, where authorities yesterday agreed to allow US inspectors to visit its nuclear complex next week.
  • Iran, where the US proposed, through UN channels, sending a high-level humanitarian mission after last week's earthquake - although Tehran last night asked for any visit to be delayed.
  • Libya, where the US welcomed Muammar Gaddafi's surprise decision to give up weapons of mass destruction.
  • Iraq, where the Bush administration is pressing for greater involvement from the international community.
  • Palestine, where US peace envoy John Wolf may be sent to try to restart talks.

They state that "The change in direction is also a result of the constant struggle for influence between pragmatists and hawks that has been a defining feature of the Bush administration. The neoconservatives appear to be losing ground, with speculation about upcoming bureaucratic reshuffling."

"The move to negotiated, diplomatic solutions," they say, "is unlikely to be welcomed by the vice president, Dick Cheney, the most influential of Washington's hawks, who have often dominated policy making. ... But in an interview published this week, the secretary of state, Colin L. Powell, seemed to suggest the policy battle was finally going his way. Mr. Powell acknowledged that the administration's top priority in the coming months would be cooperative peace making, rather than war making. ... On Iraq, Mr Powell indicated that a switch in US policy was required. He said the United Nations and NATO had essential roles to play and the US needed to persuade other countries to forgive or reschedule Iraq's $120bn (£67bn) foreign debts."

The writers conclude, however, "With elections 11 months away, Mr. Bush does not want to be vulnerable to claims that he has presided over a warmongering strategy that has left Americans little safer than September 11, 2001. His shift follows an established pattern in Washington of politicians moving to the centre during an election year."


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On the subject of "rebranding"

  • Hari, Kunzru, Rebranding NATO: A SpinMute consultation document, 1999.
  • Keren Lentschne, Behind the new wave of corporate rebranding, Christian Science Monitor, March 19, 2001.
  • Ride the rebranding express, Management Consultancy, June 13, 2002.
  • Ben Silverman, Successful Rebranding: How to Revive Your Image, Promote News, June 17, 2003.
  • Remy Davison, Re Apple: Dell "Rebranding"; "There is Little Original Here", Insanely Great Mac, September 28, 2003.
  • Dick Meyer, No Slogan Left Behind, CBS News, January 8, 2004: "After making war not peace in 2003, our president is taking advantage of the New Year and Democratic fratricide to dress up in his compassionate conservative costume again."
  • Tom Engelhardt, Words Must Be Credible: "No One Can Now Doubt the Word of America", TomDispatch.com, January 22, 2004: "Picking up the New York Times, my hometown newspaper, the morning after the President delivered his State of the Union address, I immediately noted the half-page headline: 'Bush, Somber and Determined, Stresses War Against Terror.' Somber and Determined? Okay, maybe it sounds like it came directly from the wordsmiths of the Republican National Committee, but we do have to give the headline writers of the paper of record a little slack. Who knows what pressures they were under as they prepared to label our imperial president at the podium for us? And I have to admit that I only heard him on the radio where -- but maybe I'm channeling the Democratic National Committee -- somber and determined weren't quite the first adjectives that leaped to mind."