"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

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Operation Iraqi Framework


We're already starting to hear tidbits of the impending Republican September Strategy -- showing statistical improvements in Iraq to put a halt on public pressure to get out. These 'improvements' include talking points around the decline in American deaths thanks to the surge, and the increase in peaceful areas in Baghdad.

You cannot allow this administration and Republicans to take back the framing of this war.

Democrats need to create an entire framework around the Iraq Debacle that is simple, honest, and impenetrable:

The Democratic Iraq War Framework

  • Re-brand the War in Iraq as the "Iraq Debacle." Looking at the situation on the ground, it does not resemble a situation that most Americans would classify a war -- therefore, it isn't. There aren't two sides, there isn't a clear sense of how one side can win, and it's not clear to anyone what we're fighting for. So, nix the term 'war' from your rhetoric so we all can get out of the Bush/Republican framework of 'war' -- a framework that gives them more implicit power.
  • America wins by avoiding debacles. One of the 'gotchas' that the Republicans have is that Dems look like "defeatists" when they say we've lost the war and it's time to bring the troops home. That's just playing into the Republican framework. Shift it so that Democrats are for successfully guiding America out of Bush's Iraq Debacle. You want to be on the side of winning, no matter what. In order to always win, you need to re-frame the debate so that you're on the winning side. Take a look at how Republicans politic -- they are naturals at this trick.
  • There are better ways to fight terrorism than keeping our soldiers in Iraq. This is a simple yet fundamentally key point that has not be effectively made by Democrats to-date. Unfortunately, the Democratic line has been "getting our troops out of harm's way" -- which acts to re-enforce the negative Democratic brand attribute of "cut and run" wusses. Getting out of Iraq (how we get out is a completely other topic) needs to be re-framed in positive, strategic, and tough terms. What are the "better ways"? This will be the subject of a future OKR post.
  • No more excuses. This is a simple frame up that will resonate with the masses. Americans are simply exhausted and have had enough of shifting rationales, new generals, new strategies, and new excuses. This doesn't mean that we lost in Iraq; rather, it means that Republican management of wars isn't what it used to be, and until there is a new Commander-in-Chief, it'd be foolish to continue prosecuting a war under such terrible management.
  • FearSpend vs. SmartSpend. Thus far, figures are upward of $1 trillion for the Iraq Debacle to-date. This is FearSpend. It hasn't stopped Bin Laden or Al Q'aida, and it has done nothing to reduce terror. It hasn't even stopped people from trying to attack us on our own soil. Democrats will introduce the idea of SmartSpend -- where we spend our money -- and utilize our troops -- in areas where there will be a payoff in national security.
These pillars of a new Democratic Framework for Iraq will help you redefine the current state, the future state, and crystallize the Democratic position on Iraq, terrorism, and convey a semblance of foreign policy leadership.

There is much more work to do. Democrats really do need a compelling foreign policy doctrine that goes head-to-head with the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war, over-there-vs.-over-here, and the belief that sovereign states are at the core of terrorist funding and ideology.


Anonymous said...

Great post! Could you comment on why "debacle" instead of "fiasco"? "Fiasco" seems a bit more common and more likely to resonate--but maybe that's just me.

Jon a.k.a. "Our Karl Rove" said...


Good question. I'll be honest, I did not spend a lot of time debating the different synonyms for debacle. That said, now that you've brought this up as an item, I will say that "fiasco" is probably a better-known term with the majority of voters, but, at least to me, "fiasco" sounds more over-the-top and emotional, and less analytical.

I suggest that American voters need to see a reasonable, rational, "heads on straight" democratic party that is all-too-easily provoked into emotional responses. Our primary-Protestant culture responds better to people who keep their emotions in check. It tends to convey a sense of control and confidence.

There are obviously times when emotion is key. And to your point, this might be one of those times. But I just don't think so in this instance.

Anonymous said...

But, you know, the republicans just look like a bunch of toothless morons, no matter what line Karl forces them to repeat.

It's the same as when Bush tries to quote JFK, or Lincoln -- he just looks silly, and stupid.

So, for Karl, it would be best to stick with the simplistic jingoism his posse can undersatand, and articulate, easliy.

Keep it simple stupid, they're YOUR Republicans...

The Religious Left said...

Keep it simple, yet do not underestimate the intelligence of one's adversary. No matter how silly or stupid Bush looks to you, you cannot see him through the eyes of someone who is not politically motivated or someone who leans toward supporting the GOP "brand". The Liberal "brand" has been to deconstruct and try to save the world on every last issue. Not a great marketing strategy. OKR spells it out why"

"One of the 'gotchas' that the Republicans have is that Dems look like "defeatists" when they say we've lost the war and it's time to bring the troops home. That's just playing into the Republican framework. Shift it so that Democrats are for successfully guiding America out of Bush's Iraq Debacle. In order to always win, you need to re-frame the debate so that you're on the winning side. Take a look at how Republicans politic -- they are naturals at this trick."

The utter simpicity of the above point is why we are in this mess. The Democratic leadership is notorious for not going for the kill. Reminds me of the Denver Broncos under Dan Reeves. Always just good enough to get to the Super Bowl and have their asses handed to them by teams with superior strategy and tactics. When Mike Shanahan got there, he rearranged the team's priorites, the top-most (apart from setting Elway free) being attrition of the enemy until they can no longer fight and a long playbook of effective tactics on how to do just that. The GOP has been doing this in the political arena since Nixon and the Democrats are almost too at-home on the defensive. The Democrats finally have the makings to counter, except when you hear phrases like "Get toops out of harms way", which is insulting to anyone in or around the military because their very job is to be in harm's way so the rest of the country doesn't have to be. Democrats need to think through their very core sentiments and express them more succinctly and persuasively. The sentiments have great validity, yet the message is often a problem. Speaking one's mind and sometimes from the hip is something that many Republicans have learned is a gimme with people. Then, we have.... Kerry. Jesus, man, just one "Shut the fuck up, I served in Nam and this frat boy didn't" might have saved the election. On top of that, the Democrats have a slow response time to correct miscommunications and the Republicans do it for them, though on their own terms, of course. Well, it's time to take the microphone and the message back.

This might sound corny too, yet it is even more relevant: In the movie and book, The Secret, the power of thoughts and words determine our reality. When all the Democrats can offer is being against what the GOP is doing, it can only float for so long and only the people who know what they really mean (hardcore Democrats, of course) will get it, which is the problem to begin with. The Democrats need to be espousing what they are for and going to do as if that reality is already upon us. We ought to be thankful to GWB for making the spelling out of these policies so much easier: We are pro peace, not anti-war or anti-warrior. We are for diplomatic and economic remedies and in January 2009 the Democratic Adminstration will immediately pursue as full engagement with countries like Iran. We are further for sensible and thought-out military use with strategic value in the fight against terrorists (and, oh yeah, will not tolerate any state which sponsors terroist attacks. We are for a course correction in US policy toward the entire Middle East, including Israel and Saudi Arabia. We are for sensible, integrated, long term energy and economic policies. We will make the United States indepedent of foreign oil. We will make the United States the leader in alternative energy sources, such as the Saudi Arabia of wind power, our Great Plains. We will work with gas, oil, and auto companies to acheive this goal and enact a stategic and timely transition to this new energy paradigm.

The Religious Left said...

My apologies for the rush edit job on the above. No idea what a "terroist" is, though it gave me the idea that maybe we ought to be fighting a war on "taoists", since they are forcing the youth of our culture to see the yin and yang of everything, probably at the behest of the PRC. Why not pick on China, anyway. Makes for a much more tangible and fightable enemy than a verb or -ism like "terrorism". "Let's get back to fightin' wars that we know how to fight..." Seriously, it might be in the national interest, what with their internet company Baidu trading at $200 a share. If we taunt them into invading Taiwan, what a defense bonanza!! It will feel like Reaganomics in Orange County all over again!!

trog69 said...

Great thinking going on here. Excellent summation, The Religious Left.

trog69 said...

Just curious, first poster; Your name wouldn't happen to be Dash Riprock, would it? He's soooo DREAMY!1!!

Michael Stone said...

Politics is a lot about simple sound of phrases, too. "Iraq Debacle" does not roll off the tongue. Say it out loud, it's rather hard to pronounce. Too many hard consonany sounds. I would suggest something like "catastrophe," which has more soft sounds in it but is still a strong word.

trog69 said...

I would suggest something like "catastrophe," which has more soft sounds in it but is still a strong word.

Excellent idea! Perhaps we can even further brand it by intentionally mispronouncing it; Catastrophe sounded like: Cat is Trophy! Huh? Whadaya think?!

Jon a.k.a. "Our Karl Rove" said...

Religious Left,

While in principle your approach and philosophy is sound, there are a couple of things that I want to point out of concern in terms of "beyond the Dem-ographic" messaging outreach:

1. Terms like "pro-peace" simply do not resonate in the general populace. Messaging "pro-peace" after 9/11 evokes images of people with their heads in the ground. Once you say something like that, you effectively turn off the ears of sympathetic minds that might vote Dem after voting twice for the strong Bush persona.

Our nation has never been pro-peace. It has been pro-prosperity. And prosperity requires peace as well as war. We use both approaches strategically to meet our national needs.

To just stand for one end of this inevitable continuum just won't resonate with the pragmatic middle.

Terms like "sensible" unfortunately also do not resonate because most people aren't interested in sensible. They're interested in advancing their own interests, whatever they might be.

Part of the work at OKR is to take these sound principles and transform them into less specific, more generally appealing rhetoric that connects with more people.

It might be right to raise taxes to support a war. But as soon as you say "raise taxes" you shut down the brains of over 1/2 the population to any rationale you might have.

The challenge in messaging is to keep the mind open long enough to process the idea behind the rhetoric. So, in the taxation instance, linking taxes to "each one of us supporting the troops" is a way to talk about paying for the war that is more amenable to more people. Yet, the underlying principle remains intact.


trog69 said...

I happened to flip through a couple of your archived posts, and chanced upon your critique on the Lamont/Lieberman matchup. In it, you state that people shouldn't let Bush's lack of integrity color Lieberman's convictions as necessarily the same flip-flop. I felt then that people needed to look at Lieberman's record, which was safely left of moderate at the time, something else you advocated in that thread.

How do you think things now have squared with your feelings then; I mean, as far as KOS has demonstrated, nothing has changed...Lieberman is even more hated, while Lamont conducts town hall meetings for the faithful. Has your thinking changed towards the two?

Jon a.k.a. "Our Karl Rove" said...


To be honest, I haven't given a lot of thought or spent much time researching the Lieberman/Lamont dynamic.

It does appear that Lieberman is a straight-up foreign policy NeoCon. For that, he should be voted in or out based on this merit/demerit in the context of the rest of his positions and their relative importance to voters. But just because he's a NeoCon doesn't mean is is a social or fiscal conservative.

In fact, I believe he is a social conservative and a fiscal liberal. I don't know many Orthodox Jews who are socially liberal. There are many Republicans and Democrats that fit this "social con/fiscal lib" profile (and many others who represent the reverse mix'n'match ideologies).

But mix'n'match is not a bad thing for parties. The Democrats do need to continue to be a "grand coalition" of interests if they intend to continue to be a majority party in America. This means keeping people like Lieberman in the party vs. tossing them out for the other party to grab.

To this point, I think Democrats should be posting positions to be filled by disenchanted moderate Republicans: Schwarzenegger, Bloomberg, Powell, and other Republicans who have the "mind of a Democrat" should be offered a package if they "Go Dem" even if they don't agree with specific Democratic platforms like abortion or guns.

If Democrats would really start defining their brand more holistically and effectively, then the bickering over policies would shift to broader discussions around social philosophy.

Philosophy is where you find like-minded ideas. Policy is where you find like-minded lobbyists.

Nick Lento said...

The idea of Democrats playing as clever and as dirty as Karl Rove is an old one.

Clearly, if a Democratic president had "messed up" as much as Bush has he/she wouldn't have been allowed to get past the first year.

Republicans would have been yelling bloody murder and have been voting articles of Impeachment/calling for special prosecutors from the moment they realized that a corrupt Democratic supreme court had given the election away.

Of course, all this "what if" reversal kind of gaming is absurd on one level.

It's like saying, what if the FBI could just have their agents go and simply kill all the mobsters and their families and their associates; that would clean up organized crime and send a strong message.

Fighting evil by adopting its tactics is a lose lose proposition.

On the other hand, I'm not so sure that many Democrats are holding back because they're such good guys...but rather because they are cowed by the fact that they get their campaign "contributions" from interests that don't want to see the system truly cleaned up as that would be bad (in the short term) for profits. (Or maybe they really are just too stupid/lazy/incompetent to grasp any of these issues! lol)

The best way to deal with the evils of Rovianism is to shed lots of light on it and to educate/motivate large numbers of citizens to fight back from the high ground of genuine moral righteousness. (Which, at its best, is what this blog can do!)


Jon a.k.a. "Our Karl Rove" said...

Hi Nick,

Thanks for your thoughts. I think if you read below the name and tagline of the blog, you'll see that what we're doing here is not copying Karl Rove's evilness... rather, we're taking the best practices of branding, marketing, and strategy that Karl Rove employs to be successful as a political strategist. We're trying to utilize these practices (which by themselves are not evil -- they're just best practices that are utilized by organizations around the world every day) to help Democrats better convey their value proposition to voters.

Unfortunately, you're not really going to win me over with "genuine" righteousness. One person's "right" (killing unborn babies is wrong) is another person's "wrong" (mothers should have the right to their own bodies - not the State).

This is why branding, messaging, and strategy are so important -- it is the ability to convince that is vital in politics. This is where the Bush Administration in my mind is so masterful -- they have really nailed down the ability to convince people into a lot of things without facts or reason. It is only now -- 5 years after major mistakes were made -- that even Democrats realize that they were convinced into something that wasn't right for this country.

Anonymous said...

It is an occupation. Just that. We can end an occupation, and we can expect the rest of the world to step in.
Mr. Kucinich explains it very nicely. We are ending the occupation and will join the rest of the world in working with the middle east. But we will not lead. Not with this president.
We must earn the right to lead.
End the occupation.
But it has NOT failed: it is making huge amounts of money for people, it is making jobs, and it is making military careers. Make no mistake: America is profiting, in a very very bad way.
That money you might considered "wasted": it's in some Friend of Bush's bank account. And everybody who is has that money is, for sure, a Friend of Bush.

Jon said...


"occupation" has been used for years now, but it has not changed the framework of the conversation.

It's time to try some new, fresh ideas on re-engaging the public in re-defining what it is that we're in.

We're no longer fighting Bush & Friends. Bush is done. We're fighting a framework of what the heck we're doing as a country, and why we're doing it, and what we plan to do next.


Unknown said...

you guys still believe in the two party system? there is no difference. wake up.....republicans, democrats, oswald, bin laden, mickey mouse, tooth fairy Bulls*&it.

leave your beliefs at the curb, open your eyes and see the truth...it hurts but it's real