President Bush's Image Repair Effort on Meet the Press : The Complexities of Defeasibility
The candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 were united in attacking President George W. Bush. Their continued criticism, combined with news stories about such topics as the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and job losses in the United States, steadily eroded the president's image. On February 8, 2004, President Bush appeared on Meet the Press to repair his reputation, exemplifying the problem of how an incumbent president can reply to such attacks while in the midst of a campaign for re-election. This essay applies the theory of image repair to this discourse to critically analyze and evaluate Bush's attempt to repair his image. Bush responded to two key accusations: justification for the war in Iraq and concerns about the economy (including jobs and the deficit). He tried to frame himself as a “war president” (transcendence) who should be evaluated on those grounds but failed to make this the most important problem for most voters. He employed denial, but the support for denials was often weak. He also relied heavily on defeasibility. However, Bush's use of the strategy of defeasibility raises doubts about whether he will be able to solve problems in a second term. Thus, President Bush's image repair effort was largely ineffectual.