Monday, September 10, 2007

Opinion (Tom Engelhardt): Launching Brand Petraeus

Left: General Petraeus in his testimony to Congress today.

It was about this time of year in 2002, in the halcyon days of the Bush administration, that White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card offered a little political marketing advice to the world. In explaining why the Bush administration had not launched its "case" against Iraq (and for a future invasion) the previous month, he told a New York Times reporter, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

It's a piece of simple business wisdom, and when it comes to manipulating the public, the Bush administration is still sticking to it five years later. The corollary, which Card didn't mention, is: Do your market research and testing in the dog-bites-man news months of July and August. And that's just what the Bush administration did in the run-up to what will certainly be its victorious battle with congressional opponents to extend its surge plan into next spring and its occupation of Iraq into the distant future. (As present White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten said in a meeting with the USA Today editorial board last week, he doesn't think "any 'realistic observer' can believe that 'all or even most of the American troop presence' will be out of Iraq by the end of Bush's presidency.")

The core marketing decision was, of course, finding the right spokesman for the product.

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