The Neoconservative strategy of the 1980s was about smiles – and Reagan was the perfect accomplice. He fooled everyone to some degree, and had between decent and high approval ratings throughout his tragic presidency. How an empty-headed PR (public relations) rep can do that is an amazing accomplishment in itself, and must have made PR reps all over the world smile in glee.
When Bush II rolled around things really changed, and the smile became a smirk. The repeated condescending beatdowns and abuse didn’t seem to faze the American people for a while, then they started to get angry. In contrast to somewhat similar policies followed by Reagan (except a large-scale war), the Bush Administration is widely hated by Americans.
One explanation for why the extremely successful formula of Reagan plus smiles wasn’t just re-used is that the underlying socialist desires of the Neoconservatives are more fully emerging and the smirk is the next step in the process. Another is that 9/11 changed the PR vision of the executive to scowls and smirks – a cross between Darth Vader and Montgomery Burns. The Neoconservatives are all about political theater and they may have seen 9/11 as the beginning of a new act.
I’d very much like to see whether smirks and obvious condescension were used by Neoconservatives prior to 9/11 to test this theory.