WKRAP's Dr. Feaver Comes to Washington?

Saturday, December 03, 2005 at 03:27 PM

It seems like the PR spin and PR issue campaigns never stop any more.  And just days after the White House released its written "plan" for victory in Iraq, mainstream media sources are beginning to filter out a little reality from the buzz of spin.

Remember Dr. Johnny Fever from the old sitcom "WKRP in Cincinnati"?  Well, this White House has Dr. Peter D. Feaver, PhD. in the 21st century sitcom WKRAP in Washington.

Feaver is the Alexander F. Hehmeyer Professor of Political Science and Public Policy and Director of the Triangle Institute of Security Studies at Duke University.  According to the Washington Post, "Feaver, who served on the staff of the National Security Council in the early years of the Clinton administration, joined the Bush NSC staff about a month ago [in June] as special adviser for strategic planning and institutional reform."

Computer techie types discovered that Feaver is the original author of portions of the written Iraq plan document, and Editor and Publisher reports that Sunday's NY Times will reveal that "White House officials, while saying the document contained contributions from many federal departments, confirmed, according to the Times, that 'its creation and presentation strongly reflected the public opinion research' of Dr. Feaver."

The E&P article also quotes the NYT piece as saying that "Christopher F. Gelpi, Feaver's colleague at Duke and co-author of the research on American tolerance for casualties, tells the Times on Sunday that this week's 35-page report 'is not really a strategy document from the Pentagon about fighting the insurgency. The Pentagon doesn't need the president to give a speech and post a document on the White House Web site to know how to fight --the insurgents. The document is clearly targeted at American public opinion.'"

Gee, you read that conclusion here days ago.

Actually, we've been feeling the influence of this Dr. Feaver for months.  According to an earlier Washington Post piece, on June 30, 2005:

"When President Bush confidently predicts victory in Iraq and admits no mistakes, admirers see steely resolve and critics see exasperating stubbornness. But the president's full-speed-ahead message articulated in this week's prime-time address also reflects a purposeful strategy based on extensive study of public opinion about how to maintain support for a costly and problem-plagued military mission.

"The White House recently brought onto its staff one of the nation's top academic experts on public opinion during wartime, whose studies are now helping Bush craft his message two years into a war with no easy end in sight. Behind the president's speech is a conviction among White House officials that the battle for public opinion on Iraq hinges on their success in convincing Americans that, whatever their views of going to war in the first place, the conflict there must and can be won."

That same WaPo piece notes that Gelpi (Feaver's Duke colleague and co-author) had critiqued a prior  Bush speech by saying "What's important for him now to keep the public with him is to look forward and say we're going to make progress and this is what progress looks like. He may have stemmed the flow for a little bit, but I don't think he's given the public a framework for showing how we're making progress."

The speech earlier this week, of course, was intended to do just that.  Not in terms of facts, not in terms of real strategy, but in terms of the kind of contrived dialogue to be found here on WKRAP in Washington. Think about it--if the administration had a real plan and real expectation of "winning" in Iraq, it wouldn't need to follow Feaver's advice on how to make it LOOK like we have a plan and a real expectation of winning.