Four Years Ago: Broder, Novak, Russert Discuss ‘Mission Accomplished’ And Bush in Jumpsuit

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By: E&P Staff

Four years ago this week, President Bush landing on an aircraft carrier in a jet and climbing out in a jumpsuit under a “Mission Accomplished” banner looks a little different to many today than it looked to some at the time.

Here is part of a transcript from a roundtable discussion on Tim Russert’s “Meet the Press” on May 5, 2003.
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RUSSERT: And we are back. Lots of discussion this week, group, about presidential imagery. I want to show you some tape and let?s come back and talk about it [tape of Bush on USS Lincoln]. USS Lincoln, and coming back holding his helmet after being co-pilot, greeting the sailors and Marines aboard that plane. Now [tape of Michael Dukakis in tank], contrast that to 1988, Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis driving in a sound bite and photo-op that was widely criticized and ridiculed. David Broder, what?s the difference? What happens? Why is one perceived as real and the other as? [group laughter]

BRODER: It has something to do with physical posture and so on. This president has learned how to move in a way that just conveys a great sense of authority and command, which Governor Dukakis never did. But the other thing is that it has something to do with what they had done before they got to that moment. This fellow?s won a war, and Dukakis, to the best of my recollection, never did win a war.

RUSSERT: Bob Novak?

NOVAK: Well, I think he looks good in a jump suit. A lot of people don?t, Tim. Maybe you and I wouldn?t look that good in a jump suit as a fly-boy.

RUSSERT: Maybe an orange prison garb for you there, more likely.

NOVAK: But I would say that the response by our Democrats that, well, he missed a lot of National Guard meetings, that is not going to do the trick. The other thing is that the leader in some of the polls by a fairly wide margin, is Joe Lieberman. Could Joe Lieberman get into a jet pilot?s jump suit and look credible? I doubt it, so this is one little advantage that George W. has.

RUSSERT: Doris, take us through history. Presidents have always tried to cast themselves riding horses, Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln, log cabins. This kind of imagery, how important is it to projecting an image for the American voter?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: Well, you see, I think what worked about the speech the other night was not only the imagery. The imagery is a kind of static thing, even the plane going in, but what made it work was partly what David said. There?s a war behind it. It was a real event, and by speaking to those soldiers who were on their way home, it gave it such an emotional connection between him and the soldiers, just like when Reagan spoke on the anniversary of D-Day before that incredible rock. And people had climbed up that rock and those rangers were there. There?s a connection then between the commander in chief and the troops that you cannot take away.

So I think it is crazy to criticize it. I think it was a good thing he did for himself, for the country and the Democrats have plenty of other things to criticize, but it?s silly to go on about that.

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