"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, December 21, 2005

Democrats: Put Up a Gate, Quick

Democratic Leadership,

Timing is critical here: Bush has just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar: He has apparently been giving the NSA (and FBI) permission to spy on American citizens in his quest for dictator-like powers of the presidency. Russ Feingold did a brilliant job on the immediate smack down. It helped set the tone for the first day’s debate, but you need a more powerful follow-up strategy before you lose traction.

First, you have to turn this into a "gate." Americans have been conditioned to only think of a political crisis when there's a “gate” attached to the allegations. Don’t worry about being seen as petty using this approach, the Republicans created a "gate" for Clinton's haircuts, for crying out loud. The fact that I remember this almost 10 years later tells you how effective "gate"ing can be.

Some ideas for naming your gate:

  • Spy-Gate
  • NSA-Gate
  • Emperor-Gate
  • Privacy-Gate

Privacy-Gate is my favorite of the bunch (thanks to Orin for that one). It is crucial that we get this "gate" thing into the national dialog quickly. In fact, if you don’t "gate" this one, then you're really not doing all you can do to involve the public in this critical debate over Americans' fundamental right to privacy from their government.

Second, you need to try Bush in the Court of Public Opinion. You won’t even get a trial covered by the media unless it's a "gate," but once you're there, you need to win.

Some talking points in making the case against Bush:

  • This isn't Big Government, this is Intrusive Government. If you thought the Republican Party was about getting the government out of your hair, you might want to reconsider the party you support. This Republican administration has decided that it has every right to learn everything it can about any American, at any time.
  • These aren't the actions of an American President, these are the actions of a Dictator. Dictators do as they want and as they say, with no oversight, always in the name of national defense and keeping the country safe.
  • With all this talk about Bush's judicial appointees being strict constitutional constructionists, how is it that Bush all of a sudden wants to conveniently interpret the executive power given to the office of the President?
  • How sad it is for this administration that we are now left to compare President Bush with President Nixon. Both Presidents similarly abused the benefit of the doubt – and the deep trust – that Americans give our Presidents. Our trust has been abused and misused.
  • This is not just about civil liberties – this is about an administration that is just out of control with its power. I think President Bush has overreached for the last time.

Once you've "gated" the crisis, and sold your perspective on it to the media and he public, you have then set the stage to start calling for impeachment.

Warning: Do not overreach! Do not add in accusations that may or may not be illegal, and do not pepper your accusations with partisan or philosophical banter. This is clean and simple, and impeachment is about specifics, not general admonishment:

If the man broke the law, then he is impeachable based on the law he broke.

Now, if there is a list of impeachable offenses (like Representative John Conyers has compiled) that are simple and clear as that of Privacy-Gate, then by all means, pile 'em on. But, please, please do not add any color or opinion to your call for impeachment. Keep it very simple:

"If President Bush is found to have abused his office by secretly spying on American citizens, then he should be impeached. We will find out the facts, and we will determine next steps when the facts have been reviewed."

If you can't find the venom in you right now, try recalling how Republicans spent all of their time in the 1990's trying to undermine the Clinton presidency with "Whitewater-gate."

Monday, December 19, 2005

Democrats: Take Responsibility for Bush Improvements


Bush recently gave a speech about the war in Iraq that was well-toned, contrite and more honest than ever before. In fact, Harry Reid said "The president has reached out and spoken more directly than ever before about how we went to war and why it is important to achieve victory, a goal we all share."

Unfortunately, you missed a key Rovian strategy in your response to this good speech by the President. When the opposition does something good (or at least, better), you need to simultaneously praise them (because something good from either party is good for the country) and take credit for it.

In this particular example, let's do a before-and-after with Reid's message. After the above quote, he said this:

"While I appreciate the president's increased candor, too much of the substance remains the same and the American people have still not heard what benchmarks we must meet along the way to know that progress is being made and that our brave troops can begin to come home."
This is weak and whiney. Benchmarks shmenchmarks -- the Iraqis just voted in their first democratic government! I'm sorry, is that not a benchmark? Don't use outdated messaging when it doesn't apply, please. That's just thoughtless rhetoric.

However, if we apply the above Rovian spin to this, it transforms into:

"I appreciate the president's increased candor, and I think the American people can clearly see the difference in our President after the Democrats successfully led a campaign to force this administration to be more forthright, direct, and frankly, honest with the American people. Americans are now able to see that Democrats in congress can really make a difference -- and can even help turn this secretive administration, once pressued and cornered, into an administration that can level with the American people."
You could go on to rhetorically ask Americans to count the number of speeches the President made about Iraq before and after Democrats led a revolt. You could go on to ask Americans to recall when this President finally took responsibility (hint: after the Democratic revolt). You could go on to tell Americans that if Democrats take back the Senate and/or House leadership next year, they can expect more honesty out of this administration, quicker.

The whole idea here is to take anything and everything that happens, and tie it into "why to vote Dem" in the 2006 congressional races. And as the above talking point shows, even a rather good speech by the President can be great fodder for boosting your pro-Democratic message.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Iraq War = The Corrupt War

Democratic Leadership,

You have a problem with details --- you're mired in them. When you go into details, you create the opportunity for everyone to have a problem with something.

Why do you go into details so readily? Because you're currently the party of tactics, not strategy and vision. You're like the plumbers of government, trying to explain to Americans about all the crap you see every day. Meanwhile, the Republicans look like white-collar executives, setting strategy, taking risks, and marketing their offerings like executives do to Wall Street in Corporate America.

While it would be foolish to think that the entire party can transform itself into an executive-style organization in under a year, it's not foolish to think that carefully crafted talking points can jump-start America's belief that you are, even if you are not quite there yet.

Let's start with some high-level attacks on the Iraq war. Have you noticed what happens when you say things like "withdrawal time lines" and "withdrawal immediately"? Your ideas get instantly scrambled and distorted by the Bush Administration into "cut and run" and "defeatist" messages. In other words, you lose this battle because Americans want to believe and follow the lead of the executives, not the plumbers. We're all conditioned to think this way through our working environments.

Since you cannot instantly transform into executives, start sounding like a management consultant instead of a plumber. Provide professional, high-level assessments that talk to the problems you see in our strategic and tactical approach, and provide alternative, break-through solutions that are designed to impress.

As management consultants, it is quite fair and effective to characterize the Iraq War as a Corrupt War that needs to be stopped immediately as it is designed today, and a new initiative immediately started to replace what we have today.

As consultants, you will raise the following reasons for this war effort being corrupt:

  • The intelligence was faulty, and the government knew it before we went into war (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5024408, http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/?q=node/5161)
  • Our claims of Saddam being evil for torturing and killing his own people is undermined by America's torturing and killing Iraqis as a part of the war effort
  • Abu Gharib
  • Summarily ignoring Joe Wilson's findings in Niger re: aluminum tubes due to politics
  • Scooter Libby, an Iraq War architect, indicted for lying under oath
  • Rumsfeld did not provide the amount of troops required to maintain order
  • American troops didn't have the armor they needed for their protection
  • The war has created new recruiting tools for terrorist organizations, escalating the war on terror
  • We are paying off the Iraqi free press to run American propaganda in their newspapers
  • No-bid contracts given exclusively to American firms to rebuild Iraq
  • Destroyed decades of good will America has earned around the world since World War II
  • Hurt domestic morale so severely that we are no longer able to recruit enough people capable of maintaining adequate levels of military readiness.

When something is corrupt -- be it in your personal computer or an organization like Enron -- you fully remove the corruption immediately so it cannot further infect. We must take the same approach to this war:

  • Immediately end the Corrupt War in Iraq as it is defined today to instantly destroy the corruption that the Bush Administration has allowed to occur.
  • Immediately begin two new initiatives that replace the Corrupt War:
    1. Launch "Operation New Iraq" - an initiative that is divorced from all of the corrupt reasons and rationales for going to war, divorced from confusing Iraq with 9/11, and divorced from the word "war" itself. Instead, this operation focuses solely on rebuilding the nation that needs to be reconfigured to survive without a dictatorship. America no longer occupies -- it assists Iraq as a support force. If this is done convincingly, we might just get our European allies to help out as well.
    2. Re-launch "The War on Global Terrorist Groups" - an initiative that is tied to the "War on Terror" but looks at dangerous extremist organizations, no matter where they are in the world, including Iraq.

By instantly dissolving the current war, we dissolve the corruption that this administration has let infect the war effort. That does not at all mean that this administration is off the hook. In fact, by stating this approach, you are firmly placing the word "corrupt" on this administration as a de facto descriptor. It's an implicit attack, which is much more powerful than a direct attack.