"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, September 03, 2008

Picking Ms. Palin

Obama Campaign & Democrats,

The ultimate outcome of McCain's VP pick is an unknown, despite the fact that pundits are having a field day prognosticating, and partisans are earning their pay framing and reframing McCain/Palin. In dealing with the Palin wild card, the Obama campaign and Democrats will be best served by seeing through the noise, focusing on the most fertile issues that this VP pick raises, and framing the issues in a way that makes McCain's brand less impressive to the general public.

Most analysts have converged on the notion that picking Palin was the political equivalent of a "Hail Mary pass" in football. Most fair-minded people would agree that McCain picking someone he simply does not know is a strategic risk powered by optimism -- an approach to decision-making that Republicans appear to be addicted to of late. The more cynical among us have a strong case to make that it's worse than that -- that John McCain has been hijacked by the Republican Machine that has run Washington for the past eight years.

It really doesn't matter which is true -- both scenarios solidify the "3rd term" rhetoric quite effectively. And for the sake of argument and mass-consumption, let's presume that John McCain is still in full command of his campaign -- and that the "Hail Mary" Palin pick was simply a reflection of McCain's executive decision-making prowess.

Here's how we frame this for the media and the American people:

John McCain Let Us Down
The most important decision a presidential nominee makes is picking a Vice President, and McCain's pick failed this test in three troubling ways:

  1. John McCain unfortunately does put partisan politics in front of country. Barack Obama might not want to admit it, but John McCain has now shown us that he's willing to risk the safety and security of America in order to win an election. With America's deep economic problems combined with the monumental foreign policy challenges we currently face, it is shockingly reckless to pick someone like Sarah Palin to be a (72 year-old) heartbeat away from the presidency.

    Can you imagine if McCain died on-the-job in 2009 and our adversaries around the world saw a President Palin running the country? Can you imagine what the leaders in Russia, China and Iran would do seeing that weakness in America? John McCain has decided that all of this risk is worth it just to excite the Republican base and to sway Hillary voters. Country First, eh?

  2. John McCain makes decisions just like George W. Bush. John McCain has now confirmed that he would be no different than the Bush administration in making key decisions. Meaning, John McCain and George W. Bush both make critical decisions affecting our country with very little information, but with a lot of optimism and risk-taking. Picking Ms. Palin is the equivalent to going to war with Iraq, as both decisions were based on "gut" and, worse, do not have the nation's best interests at heart.

  3. John McCain remains a maverick and a fighter pilot; not a President. Being a maverick and a fighter pilot takes guts of steel and a love of death-defying risk. Nobody is going to deny John McCain that. But the traits that make him a great maverick and fighter pilot are actually the exact opposite of what we want in our President. We need our president to be a solid, sober decision-maker who listens, learns and then executes.

All three of these points help reinforce that John McCain's interest in making "Hail Mary passes" is what got us into war with Iraq in the first place, and taking unnecessary risks is what has gotten us into our current economic slump. I think everyone would agree that the last thing America needs is more of the same.

In summary, do not let Palin's gender, personality, family life or political beliefs drive the debate -- these issues will be driven into the ground automatically by raw media curiosity. Instead, zoom in on McCain and how his decision-making is a real sneak preview of how he'd be as President. Hone the debate around Palin toward one or more of the three above talking points, and overtly draw contrasts to Obama for each point. With the single exception of "the surge," Obama looks better every time he is compared to McCain's executive demeanor and judgment.


Unknown said...

John McCain shoots craps, and Barack Obama plays poker. Who's finger do you want on the button?

Anonymous said...

Biden will wipe the floor with Palin in the debates...

Anonymous said...

Do NOT underestimate Palin! She may not have a lot of substance, but she is a master of replacing it with style. Her convention speech was full of easy-to-quote catchphrases, most of which were fundamentally untrue, but they were all easy to remember. Don't forget that she was an (almost) beauty queen and a sportscaster before entering politics, so it comes very natural for her.

Democrats have always been good at trying to keep to the facts, but in today's world that is not enough! You need to market yourself, too. That's ALL that Palin can do, but she can do it very well, so watch out!

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Sarah's a great performer. But if we have a contest of Celebrity Superstars, I'll take the one that taught constitutional law. Let's hear it for the elitists - they're the best, after all. We've had eight years of the other kind. .

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


I am not going to argue about the effectiveness of Sarah Palin. She's clearly an effective political animal.

The point of my post had nothing to do with Palin, actually. I'm intentionally sidestepping her and her political attributes and trying to re-focus the discussion around John McCain.

In this post, I make the case that -- no matter Palin's talents -- McCain went about picking her in such a way that indicates to us that he is a gut-based decision maker, just like President George W. Bush.

That's the point that needs to be repeated over and over. At the end of the day, Palin could be wrapped in gold -- it won't make a bit of difference if the American people don't believe John McCain has the judgment or temperament to be President.

Anonymous said...

John, as usual, your thoughts are right on target.
I have these group lists of crazy progressives and counterculture types to contend with, so my cut'n'paste hopefully is understood:

Ok, before the list goes apeshit with politics heading into the fall, I want to remind folks of a couple things {Yes, I am posting this to EcoTribe too, like everyone else does. This is an issue on everyone's mind and obviously will continue to be}:

- LAA is not a discussion list. Not about Obama, not about McCain, not about Palin, not about anyone. Even if Obama dumps Biden and picks up Clinton, as he ought to have from the beginning. Maybe people on the list could post about efforts to push for that, which would be smart.
- Politicking for Obama is really preaching to the choir. Most on the list are here in California. Which isn't really up for grabs. And I hate getting preached to, even if it's someone I agree with. Your efforts might be better put to use helping direct others to places or resources where they can help (which was very recently done and good example of what LAA IS for, and I'll try to do that below).
- Politicking in general is really not for the list, regardless of the candidate. Maybe a local issue here and there, but, man, I can't handle too many "Vote For Obama" posts. And more often than not, sources are spurious. Am I making my point here?
- There is the LAA Discussion list too. I hear it's really exciting. Probably now is a good time to start using it if anyone wants to get creative.

All that said, I would like to direct some of your attention to some very valuable resources, tools and inspiration, if you are interested in helping from your corner of the internet ("staying on message"):

-Regarding power politics and progressives and liberal's general unease with playing to win, please visit: http://ourkarlrove.com
[One very prescient post is about how the GOP has always been effective at telling people what's in it for YOU. Democrats usually talk about WE or ME. "We" is a nice ideal, yet not everyone has US or WE at the center of their thoughts. Most "conservatives" and many independents are much more concerned about what's in it for them and their immediate family than what's in it for everyone else. Many people are greedy. That doesn't mean they are bad people, just selfish, and now you know what makes them tick and now you can adapt your message to meet what they want and highly increase the chances of getting them to vote for you or your candidate. Something to think about when you are doing any of the suggestions below]. Also, please read: "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72" by the last great journalist of our time, Hunter S. Thompson

-Regarding the Media Echo Chamber Mindfuck: http://mediamatters.org Their credentials go up every time Bill O'Reilly cusses them out.

-Regarding Sarah Palin the Wicked Witch of the North: Per my point above, it sucks when the GOP smells blood, because that is what they live for: to win elections. A polarizing figure that consolidates the conservative base. Oh my Bible School, do you think so? Nooooooooo! Obama made a strategic error in picking Biden and now he's off his game. Oh, but there's a relief pitcher warming up and her name is Hillary! He has time to change up. If he wants to win, he will. Taking on Palin by Obama (or Biden) is foolishness. Taking on Palin by Clinton? Watch out, this is going to be messy. And fun. Palin is not some phantom menace that came out of deep space to eat us. She's a human being with the same weaknesses as everyone else. You will make this happen by blogging your little ass of in every dimension of cyberspace and all the other tools at our disposal.

-As I mentioned above, now is the time to start a grassroots push TO WIN THE ELECTION. If you are telling people in California why to vote for Obama, you're wasting valuable time. And annoying many of us. Give to the Obama campaign. Tell your kinfolk in the Midwest or back East. Go to a call bank. Go talk to people in Nevada. Go to Colorado. Colorado could very well be the lynchpin. Go to New Mexico. Same thing. Write letters to editors and media outlets and call them on their BS. Write to MSNBC and let them know you like Olbermann and Rachel Maddow and that you respect their balance to FOX's blatant GOP talking points parroting. Avoid the doctrinaire and ideological and go for the human connection in any communication. We, as a community, tend to value that, so in politics, it is EVEN MORE important to unite the heart with critical thinking. Write the Obama campaign and tell them you would rather win the election than be right on every issue and that you are sorry for being a needling, deconstructing, fractured progressive and that you want to get back at those mindless conservative twits with a vengeance not felt since Hunter Thompson died.

-Power politics is a bloodsport, folks. Many in our fair community have not the mindset or the stomach for that. In a US Presidential election, if you don't have that, you don't have jack, and that isn't going to change anything, nor is that situation going to change anytime soon. As the Deepak Chopra post someone put up earlier told us, there is the Shadow (Palin) to the Light (Obama). Obama and progressive ideals aren't going to win an election on their own merits. Sadly, the Cindy Sheehans of the world will never get that. This means, ahem, Cheerleaders: It's time to do some "Shadow Work". Funny thing is, those evangelical diehards we seem to be on different evolutionary tracks from see the same Shadow/Light in reverse. Hmmm...does that mean we could be possibly... wrong? Fuck no, it means they don't have any qualms about the dichotomy and neither should we. Sometimes you gotta dance the dance.

-Meditate. Chant: Om Ah Ra Pa Tsa Na Dhi: Seven Elementals to pacify disquietude and squabbling, within you or without. Send that intention out to Barack. Hell, send it out to all of them, as they all dearly need that and that's the kind of energy that will help the country more than anything. You will need it yourself, particularly if you get sweaty and weak kneed in the face of confrontation, which, again, is our current cultural milieu and what politics is all about. Conversely, keep your hyperbolic mind in check, keep your name calling and your us v. them mindset off the radar. That's counterintuitive in regard to almost everything I've said above, yet, it is really important. The Burn is over and while you were partying out there pretending to create the American Dream, the good ol' boys were picking up where they left off building the American Nightmare. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND maintaining a clear head above all else heading into November. Your own psychic energy can make a difference. If you're out late taking some weird cross between DMT and Mescaline on Halloween, then, ah shit what a bummer could happen a few days later. Fuck Halloween this year. It's dead in SF anyway. Who gives a shit about Halloween with every other event that goes on around here? Save the partying for AFTER the election. I'm partly speaking from direct experience in 2004. This can help with the bloodsport thing getting to you.

-My Last Political Point is: Be Grateful. Be Grateful nobody on the ballot is named Bush. Or, much more importantly, Cheney. Strive to maintain some equanimity in the midst of all this chaos. Fight the good fight, take no prisoners, but, remember, the more even headed you are, the more effective you can be in manifesting your intention, which is... WIN THE ELECTION.

Ok, that's all. I think. Progressives, Dems, Liberals need to remember this mantra: Win Election, THEN Change the World... Win Election, THEN Govern... Win Election, THEN Influence Public Policy... Win Election, THEN indict entire Bush cartel on War Crimes... Win Election, THEN solve climate crisis...