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3 BRAG MORE. White House officials who track coverage of Bush in media markets around the country said he garnered his best publicity in months from a tour to promote enrollment in Medicare's new prescription-drug plan. So they are planning a more focused and consistent effort to talk about the program's successes after months of press reports on start-up difficulties. Bolten's plan also calls for more happy talk about the economy. With gas prices a heavy drain on Bush's popularity, his aides want to trumpet the lofty stock market and stable inflation and interest rates. They also plan to highlight any glimmer of success in Iraq, especially the formation of a new government, in an effort to balance the negative impression voters get from continued signs of an incubating civil war.
4 RECLAIM SECURITY CREDIBILITY. This is the riskiest, and potentially most consequential, element of the plan, keyed to the vow by Iran to continue its nuclear program despite the opposition of several major world powers. Presidential advisers believe that by putting pressure on Iran, Bush may be able to rehabilitate himself on national security, a core strength that has been compromised by a discouraging outlook in Iraq. "In the face of the Iranian menace, the Democrats will lose," said a Republican frequently consulted by the White House. However, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll this April 8-11, found that 54% of respondents did not trust Bush to "make the right decision about whether we should go to war with Iran."
5 COURT THE PRESS. Bolten is extremely guarded around reporters, but he knows them and, unlike some of his colleagues, is not scared of them. Administration officials said he believes the White House can work more astutely with journalists to make its case to the public, and he recognizes that the President has paid a price for the inclination of some on his staff to treat them dismissively or high-handedly. His first move, working with counselor Dan Bartlett, was to offer the press secretary job to Tony Snow of Fox News radio and television, a former newspaper editorial writer and onetime host of Fox News Sunday who served George H.W. Bush as speechwriting director. Snow, a father of three and a sax player, is the bona fide outsider that Republican allies have long prescribed for Bushworld and would bring irreverence to a place that hasn't seen a lot of fun lately. "White Houses are weird places," he told a 2004 panel on White House speechwriting. Snow had his colon removed after he was found to have cancer last year, but his doctors have approved the possibility of his taking the grueling post.
Veterans of this and other Republican White Houses said that although they believe Bolten's first corrections have helped, they have not gone deep enough, mainly because most key decision makers--including Bolten, Rove and their staffs--continue to be people who have been in the Bush bubble for six years or more. "Where's the innovation? Where's the perspective?" said a friend of Bush's, who described the staff as so insular that it is hobbled by what he calls the "white-men-can't-jump syndrome"--the inability to soar. So now Bolten must prove to his many constituencies, internal and external, that although he's a veteran of the Bush team, he can still get it off the ground.