"Our Karl Rove is the blog you should be glad that Democratic strategists don't seem to listen to"
-- what they're saying on Republican blogs

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Rewriting Bush

Democratic Leadership,

President Bush's latest talking point is that you are rewriting history because you now critique his Mafia-inspired run up to war.

This is the perfect opportunity to practice the deflect and divert strategy that Republicans are so good at. Instead of defending your vote and your decision to critique the administration, rewrite his message to benefit you:

"Democrats are not rewriting history. We're trying to rewrite the future, because the future this President has led us toward looks terrible. We need to rewrite the future because what they promised America is not what they're delivering:

  • They promised "freedom on the march," but instead we get "terrorism on the march" around the world.
  • They promised oil would pay for the Iraq war, but instead we get high energy costs for Americans and a war that will tax us, our children, and grandchildren.
  • They promised "homeland security," but instead they got "Katrina'd."
  • They promised Social Security reform, but instead they want to destroy it.
  • They promised they'd get Bin Laden "dead or alive," but instead Bin Laden is still alive and al-Zarqawi is growing the terror network in Iraq.
  • They promised "honor and integrity," but instead we get criminal indictments inside the White House.
  • They promised discipline, but instead we get massive debt that will eventually raise our taxes.
  • They promised "compassion," but now they are trying to cut school lunch funds and Medicaid to help pay for the massive debt they've given us.

See the pattern here? This administration has a bad habit of saying the right thing and doing the wrong thing. Democrats are sick of it, and it's high time we start rewriting the future of this country. It's time for Democrats to be back in the majority in Congress so we can begin leading this country back in the right direction.

So, remember, if you want things fixed, vote for a Democrat in 2006."

Monday, November 14, 2005

Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function?

Democratic Leadership,

Well, the Republicans have answered this time-tested question - the function of the conjunction junction is to merge multiple ideas into a single, misleading one. The conjunction of ideas has been at the backbone of the modern Republican party communications strategy.

Even though they're low in the polls right now, that doesn't mean that their communication strategy doesn't matter. It does. Here are some functions of their conjunction junctions:

  • + Over 30,000 Iraqi deaths
    + Over 2,000 American deaths
    + Drawing the ire of the world
    + Bin Laden is still out there
    + al Q'aida is growing and expanding
    = The World is Better Without Saddam

  • + Democrats voted for the war resolution
    + Saddam had WMDs a decade ago
    + Saddam was Evil
    = Don't Blame Us for the Iraq War Fiasco

  • + Democrats saw the same bad intelligence
    + France had same bad intelligence
    + Only the U.S. interpreted this intel - good or bad - as an
        imminent threat
    + Cheney lying on Meet the Press about not knowing about
        Joe Wilson
    + White House smearing any intel challenging the imminent
        threat assessment
    = Don't Accuse Us of Manipulating Pre-War

  • + We didn't give the weapon inspectors enough time
    + Misleading Americans about links between Iraq and 9/11
    + Creating mass mistrust and fear in the world through
        abusing power
    = The Lesson We Learned from 9/11 is to Strike
        Before We're Attacked

[Feel free to add your own conjunction functions in the comments section below.]

Using conjunctions like these, the Republicans are able to deflect and redirect almost any conversation. Their trick: when approached with a fact (the facts are before the "="), they can land on a catchphrase (after the "=") that alludes to the facts in that function, but sums up exactly none of the facts in that function. (You might want to read that last sentence again)

You need to start getting better at deconstructing these conjunctions instead of leaving debates flabbergasted. If you don't expose this trickery, you are doing the American people a disservice -- if Americans are misled by the manipulation through conjunction functions, they'll unknowingly be supporting hidden agendas.

Start deconstructing these conjunctions that the Republicans unleash regularly. Some examples to get the juices flowing:

The World is Better Without Saddam:
That's like saying the world would be better if we eradicated near-sightedness when we have more important problems like cancer to deal with. Would the world be better off without near-sightedness? Of course. But, how much better off, and at what price? If we eradicated near-sightedness but let over 2,000 Americans and our allies die of cancer as a result of that singular focus on near-sightedness, would it be the right decision? Would it be the right priority? Would it be worth losing our own citizens and alienating our allies in cancer-fighting to eliminate the "near-sighted" threat? Most reasonable people would question this type of decision making. And these same people are questioning the leadership of our President for going after the "near-sightedness" of American enemies instead of focusing on the real, serious security threats that we face. The "cancer" of our enemies is al Q'aida, not Saddam.

Don't Blame Us for the Iraq War Fiasco:
It doesn't matter who else voted for the resolution, nor does it matter which foreign country agreed with your pre-war intelligence. The decision to go to war with Iraq was the calculated decision of the President of the United States. That's his job alone - in war, the buck stops with the Commander-in-Chief. He utilized the anger and fear generated by 9/11 to go after an old enemy, and he manipulated his case and facts to fit his pre-determined military goal. Democrats are not rewriting history - Democrats are just coming to understand that they were intentionally misled by an administration in a time of war in a matter of national security, which is treasonous.

Don't Accuse Us of Manipulating Pre-War Intelligence:
If Democrats saw what this administration did with the intelligence to sell it, not only would they have not supported the war resolution, but they would have called for investigations immediately on the abuse of executive power. Let's also keep in mind that even if everyone had the "same bad intelligence" (including France and Germany), only one administration determined that the threat was imminent, and manipulated the intelligence to make it seem that the threat was imminent. This is about priorities, and this administration was unique in the world in its prioritization of Saddam over al Q'aida.

The Lesson We Learned from 9/11 is to Strike Before We're Attacked:
Oh yes, the Bush Doctrine, which states that American must preemptively strike back at old enemies after new, more dangerous enemies attack us first. That's not only reactive, it's also a petty - and quite frankly, pathetic - foreign policy for our great nation. A real 9/11 doctrine would guide us through this new world of global warfare: explaining that war has evolved beyond country-to-country battles and has given way to loosely-connected networks of enraged extremists around the world. This new wave of warfare needs to be dealt with by joining forces with our allies that share our values around the world. It would go on to explain that together, this global alliance would have the military, intelligence, and moral force to stamp out extremism wherever in the world it creeps up.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Courting Supreme Nominees

Democratic Leadership,

In observing Senator Kennedy stumble through his rationales around Supreme Court nominee Alito on Meet the Press, it was clear that Democrats are in a rut on the thinking and rhetoric around this process. It was underwhelming to see the bobs and weaves he needed to perform to rationalize his past and current statements. But it's not Kennedy himself that's frustrating -- it's the entire discourse around judicial nominees these days. It's like a broken record...

"What's his judicial philosophy?"
"Will he overturn Roe v. Wade?"
"Will his ideology affect his ability to judge?"
"It's not about abortion, it's about privacy."
"Judges should not legislate from the bench."

Your terminology and approach to this debate is mundane, technical, and wonkish. We keep on hearing the same things, over and over. As a result, they don't mean much to people anymore. If you care at all about breaking through the noise and leading the debate, you need to discuss this in terms of judicial character, values, and the law.

When asked about strict constructionists or legislating from the bench, move the conversation toward your concern over a "pre-set agenda" instead:
"This debate should be less about looking back in history to see where we've gone right and wrong, and more about enforcing the laws of the land, and how we continue to form a more perfect union. Americans demand justices that respect their rights as free citizens of this country, and any judicial nominee that comes with a pre-set agenda to change the laws of this great nation -- whether it be civil rights, Roe v. Wade, or other established laws -- is suspicious and probably not suited for the job. Qualified justices of good character look at the facts of each case independently, and do not tailor outcomes according to a pre-set agenda."
When asked about judicial activism, your response should break new ground (based on moral principles) and stop blindly playing into the Republican paradigm that activism in and of itself is bad:

"Judicial activism is entirely appropriate when we're not adhering to the spirit of the Constitution, and entirely inappropriate when we are. For instance, if a justice reads that "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence, and he or she looks around and sees that certain types of people can't vote, this is a just and moral cause for judicial activism. However, if a justice reads that "all men are created equal," and he or she looks around and determines that some people don't have the right to, for instance, have a marriage recognized by the state because they're "not equal" in some way, this is also judicial activism that goes clearly against our nation's values. So, in the end, this is not about activism, this is about understanding the letter and the spirit of the Constitution... and adhering to it."

When asked about ideology versus judicial philosophy, your response should focus around the ideas of "sound judgements" and decrying "pre-set agendas":

"Judicial philosophy is very different from ideology. Judicial philosophy is an approach to the role of a judge is in our government. This is the core issue we try to understand during the judicial nominiee hearings. A personal ideology - or a pre-set agenda - has no room in a justice's mind when reviewing a case on the merits and the law. As a result, personal ideologies are not part of the judicial assessment unless, of course, ideology affects a justice's ability to look at facts, interpret law, and make sound judgements. A justice's inability to make sound judgements because he or she bases them on pre-set agendas developed from a personal ideology disqualifies a justice from the Supreme Court in my opinion."

When asked about Roe v. Wade and the pro-choice and pro-life movements, your response should be inspired by pro-life Republican Senator Coburn, and separate the morals of abortion policy from the job of a Supreme Court justice:

"Nobody likes abortions. Not Democrats, Republicans, or Independents... no one wants to see abortions performed left and right. Roe v. Wade didn't create abortions, and reversing Roe v. Wade won't end abortions. Roe v. Wade is a legal and political issue, not a moral or human issue. The moral and human issue is in the hearts and minds of people who choose to have abortions. The only way to stop abortions is to convince individuals throughout our country -- and the world -- that abortion is not the right solution to their specific problem. The only way to end abortions is to ensure that in each case where a woman is up against this situation, there are options that are more beneficial to the woman than abortion. If we really want to slow or stop abortions in this country, we need to focus on providing support systems and options to women to make non-abortive options more compelling than abortive options. I see Roe v. Wade as a red herring debate - a legal issue being used as a surrogate for a debate around religious and personal values."
Only after you establish the baseline parameters for what you consider to be a qualified justice can you then begin outlining why you will -- or will not -- support Alito for Supreme Court.

Last, but not least, take the opportunity during these interviews to slip a zinger into the discourse of judicial nominees:

"Of course, a Supreme Court Justice needs to be sufficiently politically independent to fairly judge and rule in a case that might involve members of their own party in the White House."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Senator Reid Flirts with Leadership, Gets to First Base

Democratic Leadership,

Senator Harry Reid astounded Your Karl Rove today by researching, preparing, and enacting an obscure Senate rule that permitted him to physically shut out the Republican majority from the Senate on Tuesday, November 1, 2005.

There was a time and place when this type of stunt would be seen as political hackery. There was a time and place when this type of action would be perceived as an attack on the decency of the Senate institution. There was a time and place when Frist's outrage would have appeared genuine. There was a time and place when Reid would be branded as a radical.

That time is long gone. In today's environment, Reid's actions were a sign of bravery, courage, and most importantly, leadership.

In these troublesome and confusing times, Americans are looking for politicians that are willing to take big risks in order to protect our country's interests. This is why the "Texas Way" has been so appealing to Americans of late -- you just don't play Massachusetts-Mister-Nice-Guy with Al Q'aida.

Senator Reid attacked the Senate Majority today like he was fighting terrorists or an insurgency. This is exactly what Americans need to see if Democrats are to ever be a majority again: a Democrat kicking ass and taking names.

While this blog is mostly about words, both actions and words are required to transform the Democratic party into a brand that can be trusted to guide and lead this nation into future peace and prosperity, even if it means pulling out all the stops when we absolutely need to. Are there some downsides to Reid's action? Absolutely. But it was a calculated risk that was required to show that the Democrats can, indeed, take risks.

You see, there's a difference between aggressive attacks based on informed research, planning, and slick execution (i.e., what Reid did on November 1), and aggressive attacks based on biased research, gut instincts, fantasies, and botched execution (i.e., what the Bush administration did in Iraq).

Reid's Senatorial Stunt has at least now given Americans an opportunity to compare and contrast different ways to attack. Providing real choices in leadership is a great service to Americans, because a Hobson's Choice is all that Americans have really had since Clinton left office.

It is possible that Senator Reid has kicked off the process to redefine the Democratic brand as a political party that is more than a bunch of whiny policy wonks who shrink from the tough decisions and are more satisfied to point fingers at others after big decisions are made. It is possible to fully transform the Democratic brand if the rest of the party latches onto this as a bellwether event. This event should be a model, but it should not be cloned, copied, or overused. Don't fall into the trap of reusing a good trick.

Remember: Americans like innovators and leaders. So, go innovate and lead.