"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, March 21, 2007

Democrats: Are You Ready to Rumble?


The spinmeisters in this reckless administration have cooked up another brew-ha-ha. The primary ingredients in this round are 'Democratic partisanship' and 'Democrats trying to politicize government' when the nation's business needs attending to. In his latest speech, Bush warns of a "fishing expedition" and "show trials" in an effort for Democrats to score political points.

The good news is that this is pretty standard Republican rhetoric -- conservatives are generally a fearful bunch and really do feel like they're consistently under threat by some outside force. Since this is really nothing new, it will be quite easy (and, quite honestly, fun) to turn this around on them. The other bit of good news is that the President has given you a gift if you are willing to accept it (we'll talk more about this "gift" later).

The bad news is that there are a lot of politically independent people in America that are fearful of the unknown as well. According to recent Gallup polls, most Americans do not feel safe on a number of fronts. And Bush's rhetoric could have a rallying effect on those who aren't following this scandal's nuances, and might also see our injured President trying to "protect" the Oval Office from the image of savage, salivating Democrats just looking to take down their President.

This means that your responses need to be finely-tuned to ensure maximum impact and to minimize any rallying effect Bush's "fighting words" might create:

"The only thing we're fishing for is the truth."

"Astonishingly, the President is not willing to allow his aides to testify under oath. The only logical conclusion is that he must, for some reason, think they're going to lie. "

"What we see here is a deeply troubling pattern in this administration. Scooter Libby has already been found guilty by a jury of his peers for lying under oath, and now other administration aides are being instructed by the President not to swear to G-d to tell the truth. We must ask ourselves: Is there any truth left in this administration?"

"The American people need to ask themselves if they are comfortable with a President who is so afraid of the truth that he refuses to let his aides testify under oath."

"We can only assume that if Karl Rove and other presidential aides will not speak to us under oath that there is a reason for this. Why are they afraid to swear to G-d to tell the truth to the American people?"

"The President talks tough about 'show trials' and 'fishing expeditions,' yet at the end of the day, he is clearly afraid of us uncovering the dirty deeds of his administration. Why else would he stonewall an investigation?"

"This Republican administration has been behind their wall of secrecy for too long. They've let us down too many times, and now it's time to come out into the daylight and show America what they've been up to. "

"This is about the rule of law, nothing more, nothing less. This administration has declined our request for sworn testimony under G-d, so we are sadly forced to issue subpoenas to officials in our very own government in order to get the truth."

"It's honestly hard to believe how far this administration will go to avoid telling the American people the truth."
There are a couple of important concepts embedded in these talking points that are worth noting:
  • None of the talking points talk specifically about the Attorney General scandal. This is intentional, because this row with the President is not about this scandal anymore -- it's about a new "war for secrecy" that has been waged by this administration.
  • Testifying under oath is a big part of the issue here, because it signals to our famously religious America that testifying under oath is all about swearing to tell the truth under G-d, plain and simple. This is now about an administration that is trying to avoid sin. Think about this carefully, because the new religious fervor in our country makes this a finer point than merely a legal one.
These talking points set the groundwork to ensure Democrats are not seen as the salivating partisan goons that the President just depicted you as. Once that bedrock has been laid, you have the opportunity to open the 'gift' that the President gave you -- the gift of raising this debate to new heights that could very well overwhelm this entire administration. If you're willing to go there, you can do a very Rovian thing: use their own strength ("hunkerin' down fer a fight") and turn it into their weakness by attacking them on your terms:
"If we've come to the point where our very own government is afraid to swear to G-d to tell the truth, then unfortunately the time has come to consider an even larger investigation into the overall level of corruption of this administration."
Yes, these are fighting words, and yes, it's a risky proposition. But it's something to be seriously considered in your strategy meetings. When are you going to pull out the big guns and use your new majority powers to expose an administration that comparatively makes Nixon look like a six-year-old stealing candy from the local drug store?

Make no mistake -- the big fish here is not Gonzales; it is the wall of secrecy around the Executive branch which is a patent abuse of power. The President gave you a gift -- a fight for something bigger and more important that a single scandal (which we all know is merely one of many). The framers of this nation would find this wall of secrecy unacceptable, as should contemporary Americans. Sliding into a totalitarian state like Russia is the last thing the American people expect or deserve. But if you, Democrats, don't shine a bright light on it, we may continue to slide.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Democrats: Are you our Mommy or our CFO?


You are still missing the mark in the opposition on the War in Iraq. You appear to be trapped in the mindset that it's your job to fix Bush's mistakes, and that America is looking to you to right all of Bush's wrongs. While this is certainly understandable, it's not working.

You are trapped in this mindset because you think of yourselves the wrong way. You have to shift your focus and rethink your persona: Are you the Mommy that wields the power of the purse and cares solely about the well-being of each soldier? Or are you the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) that invests funds to support the appropriate winning strategies?

As political leaders in charge of the budget, Americans want a CFO.

As CFO, you will shift your focus from the troops, troop levels, and troop deployments to America's approach to foreign policy. And as CFO, you also need to think of your budget as the tool that advances America's strategies that you decide are worth investing in.

As you rethink your role as CFO, you will start to see that your attempt at getting directly involved in the Iraq War planning is a losing proposition. Since you're not in the direct line of military command, you simply cannot know what troop levels, caps, or deployments are needed. In business terms, you should be a strategic executive, yet you are acting like an operations analyst. That's why the term "micro-manager" keeps cropping up.

Worse, getting involved in the details entangles you in Bush's disastrous strategy: If you get your way, then anything bad that may happen moving forward can -- and will -- be blamed squarely on you and your troop management policies. If you don't get your way, then you're just an ineffective body trying -- but failing -- to micromanage the President.

Hello? Aren't any of your staffers and strategists telling you this?

Moving forward, you have to do two things: Get unraveled from the war execution details, and then re-assert your role as the Chief Financial Officer.

First, some talking tips to help re-separate Democrats from the failed Republican foreign policy strategy:

  • The fate of our troops remains in the Commander-In-Chief's hands -- not Congress'.
  • The President should be listening more closely to Congress, but he won't until Republican congressmen support us.
  • Our troops risk their lives every day, and we want the President to think about how to best deploy our military every single day.
  • Because the administration is still solely responsible for the war effort, every loss America takes is a result of a failed Republican foreign policy strategy.
  • Stop talking about getting our troops "out of harm's way." Our armed forces volunteered to be trained to be in harm's way. That's their job. It's the Generals' job to ensure their troops are safe, not the Congress. You sound like the Mommy Party when the country really needs strategic leadership.
As the Mommy, you're missing the opportunity to influence America's real foreign policy challenges and hold the President and your Republican colleagues accountable for mismanaging the Iraq War and the greater War on Terror.

From the CFO persona, think through these ideas and embed them into your messaging:

  • Bush's pet project in Iraq is a very dangerous experiment. The Taliban and Al Q'aida are regrouping in Afghanistan, where the President took his eye off the ball.
  • This is not about Iraq and troop surges. This is about a failed Middle East engagement.
  • Bush's foreign policy is not how you stop terrorism. This is how you create more terrorism aimed at America.

And if you're looking for a cute soundbite to cut through the news clutter:

"Just like Vice President Cheney, President Bush misfired and shot Iraq in the face when he should have been aiming at Afghanistan."

These are broader strokes, and exactly what the Congress should be talking about. You should be cutting Bush's foreign policy strategy off at the knees, and not at the toes.

One of the advantages of talking strategically is that you can gain broad consensual agreement when there are no details. In addition, you will reset the context of the debate from tactics to strategy, which is exactly what the budget should be tied to. Since you have the "power of the purse" (which evokes motherly images), rethink your persona and be the equivalent of a CFO -- and invest dollars against a strategic plan.

Americans will be more impressed with a CFO's investment decisions than where Mommy decided to spend the money in her purse.