Being Liked and Being President
WHEN the Gulf War was almost over, crowds stood on the White House lawn holding signs, each with the inscription, "We ♥ George—91%." The number on the signs did not mean the percentage of American soldiers who were still alive or uninjured, the extent of civilian damage in Iraq, or anything related to the war. Rather, it described the president's popularity: The percentage of the public who approved of the way he was doing his job. Even before the last bombers had returned to their bases, the media began speculating about what the end of the war would mean for the president's polls: How long would the hearts and the 90 percent figures remain?
This demonstrates the public-relations presidency that many feel has become a dominating force of politics—a presidency concerned primarily with maintaining and increasing public support. It was seen in the careful White House management of the war, in the media attention to Bush's popularity, and in the well-orchestrated retail support with its flags and yellow ribbons. At the time, one could even get a set of Desert Storm baseball cards, complete with both a Dick Cheney and a Sunset on the F-16.
There are obvious as well as hidden dangers suggested by this scene on the White House lawn. If popularity becomes the basis