What George W. Bush could learn from Steve Jobs

Apple's Steve Jobs gave the highly-anticipated keynote address at the annual Macworld Expo yesterday, blowing away nearly everyone's expectations in debuting the iPhone, a.k.a. every gadget geek's wet dream. Apple's share price rose over 8 percent yesterday on the news, and it's still climbing today. 

What can President Bush learn from Steve Jobs's incredible success? Bush is set to give a major Iraq speech at 9 PM EST tonight, but there may still be time to make changes.

  1. Go casual. Bush speeches tend to take on a funereal air, what with the dark suits and somber tone. A nice mock turtleneck and snug-fitting jeans could lighten the mood.
  2. Get creative with set designs. Apple's staging for the Macworld Expo is always masterful, but Bush tends to deliver his speeches from the drab confines of the East Room of the White House. If he can't move the venue, perhaps some tasteful, modern-looking backdrops (i.e. not "Mission Accomplished") are in order.
  3. Be playful. Apple's CEO made a prank call with the new iPhone yesterday, delighting the audience when he ordered 4,000 lattes from a nearby Starbucks and quickly hung up. With a few finger taps of his own, Bush can upstage Jobs by demonstrating the whiz-bang features of the White House Situation Room to have free Happy Meals delivered to everyone in Baghdad and watching the smiles spread via classified satellite imagery.
  4. Next time, don't give away the store. The Bush administration loves to leak little tidbits and launch trial balloons to gauge potential reactions to a speech. By the time Bush goes on the air, everyone already knows what he's going to say. Apple, by contrast, can keep a secret, and that makes Steve Jobs must-see TV.
  5. Believe the hype.  Sure, the American people have grown cynical about claims that victory is just around the corner in Iraq, that Iraqi army and police forces are "making progress," and that sending more troops is the answer. What would Steve Jobs do? Set the reality-distortion field to "stun." Tell the American people that winning in Iraq would not only bring democracy to the Middle East, but that it would also end world poverty, reverse global warming, and bring Ronald Reagan back to life. And if the press expects a 20,000 troop surge, send the entire U.S. military. That'll really surprise people.


China airs its dirty laundry

Cancan Chu/Getty Images

Despite ambitious schemes from Beijing, most of China continues to sink into an environmental abyss. "2006 has been the most grim year for China's environmental situation," laments Pan Yue, a vice minister at China's state environmental agency.

More interesting, however, is the fact that Pan and other ministers are speaking up at all. Initiatives from the central government in China often produce claims of rousing success, regardless of the actual results on the ground. Senior official from President Hu Jintao on down have been making noise about halting environmental degradation for some time, but they have been unable to bring along the provincial and business leaders that could actually do something about the problem. Local bigwigs in China have far more power than is usually understood, and they know they're judged by their success in fostering economic growth and jobs, not by the number of environmental clean-ups and tree-plantings they organize.

Now, however, criticisms of the environmental costs of that approach are appearing in Communist Party newspapers, online discussion posts, and statements by senior leaders like Pan Yue. That the conflict is spilling into the public domain suggests that China has become so environmentally degraded that top Party officials see a threat to their twin obsessions: growth and stability. But it won't be until you can really get ahead in the Communist Party by going green that the central leadership will be able to do much more than complain.