The "Magic" of Presidential Street-Fighting
Inside Rove's Diary: The "Magic" of Presidential Street-Fighting
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
Yeah, there have been other great moments in my political career -- maneuvering Dim Son into the White House in 2000 and then repeating in 2004, for example -- but this one feels really good.
McCain was on a fast track to oblivion a few weeks ago. Obama had the momentum, had the issues, had the youthful energy, had the money, whereas our Republicans were divided and depressed. John looked old and tired, running against Obama mainly because he was the last GOP candidate standing in a very weak field, and the hardright conservatives and fundamentalists didn't trust him and wouldn't go all-out for him.
(I don't blame them for being suspicious. He's not a consistently loyal Republican. Would you trust a guy who, over the decades, has been such a political and moral chameleon?: a strong conservative who became an anti-Bush "maverick" who then changed all his major positions so he could make one final run for the presidency and wound up voting 90% of the time for Bush's policies and making nice with the staunch-conservative base. Kinda makes you wonder.)
This time out, John was coming to believe that it was a losing proposition, so much so that he thought he needed to do something really different to shake up the race: He wanted to choose Lieberman for his running mate. Jeebus! That would have been the seal of doom. Two turncoats. (John gave it up to the North Vietnamese when they broke him and then he abandoned Bush before he embraced him again. Lieberman deserted from his Democrat Party and came over to join us "on the Dark Side," hee, hee, hee!)
The Boy Genius was riding again! I nixed the Jew and, especially after Obama dissed Hillary by not picking her for V.P., I went for a small-town, religious-conservative woman. Our fundamentalist base was ecstatic, rural America was energized, John behaved younger, and Sarah's mouth spewed out just the kind of red-meat nastiness the liberals don't know how to handle, especially when it comes from such an attractive package.
THE TRICKY ART OF DISTRACTION
It's all simple Magic 101. You keep your audience concentrating on one thing while you're setting up the trick. Illusion, prestidigitation, three-card political monte.
We keep 'em focused on Palin's loving-mom persona, her simple no-nonsense way of talking (and thinking), her affinity for guns and hunting and hockey, her décolletage, her upswept hair, her brash, assertive style, her lipstick, her cute little retarded baby. Meanwhile, with the other hand, we're deflecting the attention away from McCain while trying to keep her negatives hidden: the several dozen scandals and ethical lapses that have already surfaced, her total lack of national and international knowledge and experience, her tendency to, how shall we say, expand the truth parameters.
So far, the selection of Palin is working like I hoped it would. In top secret, we unveiled the new, sleek, attractive model at the convention, and now a whole lot of drivers want to ride in our hot little red sports-car. I was hoping to pick up a lot of ex-Hillary supporters, and we are getting a few, but mostly we're getting more traditional white women -- and men! and old Jews! and traditional Catholics! -- who see sassy Sarah as their way of stickin' it to the man, the elitists and pundits who tell them their time is gone and just move over for the black guy.
Politics to me is like conducting a 305-million-member orchestra, knowing which chords to play with which group and when. There's the underswell of racism in America always ripe for the plucking -- that's the bass chord, and it's so simple to play: All you need are a few code words ("uppity," "sambo," middle name of "Hussein" so no doubt a "secret Muslim," etc.) Now we've got a soprano who can smile and lower the boom all at the same time. (Well, yeah, her high-pitched nasality is grating, but we're used to it and it drives the liberal pinkos crazy!)
"McCAIN: I GOT NUTHIN'"
A few months ago, our cause was in the toilet. McCain asked to meet me, the "consultant," and more or less said: "Karl, I don't know what to do. The public is in love with Obama, they agree with him on the issues, on the need to turn the country around, on the need for major change. I got nuthin'. We're stuck in place, going nowhere. Unless something changes, we're going to go down in flames here. Can you help? I'll do whatever you say if you can get me into the White House."
So I told him, in effect: "Look, John, you're right. Obama has the Big Mo. We've got to do something to change the race, something dramatic. And we've got to start hitting Obama quick, with everything we've got. Something to throw him off his stride and his game plan. Make him respond to our agenda and attacks, don't give him a chance to go on the offense.
"As you know, I like to go to an opponent's strength and attack him there. We did that with Kerry by questioning his war-hero credentials -- using cut-out Swift-Boat guys to do the nasty -- and it worked easily. Kerry got totally thrown off message and, being one of those namby-pamby liberal elitists, didn't know how to respond to our street-fighting style. So my plan this time out would be to kidnap Obama's key message points: change, hope and reform.
"We'll resurrect your 'maverick' disguise, John, and you'll say that you and Sarah Palin are the true agents for change and real reform in Washington. Doesn't matter if it's a crock of horse manure, that you abandoned your 'maverick' role years ago. But if we've learned anything in the past eight years, we know how easy it is to sell the same message through endless repetition; pretty soon, you'll see, the public will come to believe your 'maverick/reform/change' routine and will buy the stinky brown stuff you're selling and think it candy. Trust me, we've refined this technique into an art form. We sold America the war, didn't we?"
PALIN-ATING THE RACE
John agreed in a flash but came back to the candidate he thought would be the game-changer with Independents and other swing voters: Lieberman. John wanted to show how "bi-partisan" he would be by naming a pro-choice Democrat, one who supported the Iraq War and was ready, indeed eager, to bomb Iran. But I made it clear there would be no such talk anymore. I used his uncontrollable ambit ion to be president before he dies to convince him to shut up and accept our strategy and tactics. (Deep irony: We'll be using the same tactics we used on John in 2000, and now I've installed my protégé Steve Schmidt to manage his campaign. Oh God, I love this job!)
What John finally came to understand -- the guy is so old and dense at times that I'm wondering if he's got all his marbles -- is that we aren't going for the undecideds and the Independents this time. We're going to win with our base, just as we did in our previous races, along with a little help from our voting and dirty-tricks departments, if you get my drift. If the strategy works, why risk changing the routine? (Yeah, I know, we lost the Congress in '06, but that was a one-off and the White House is the big enchilada.)
Our state organizations already are purging the voting rolls and challenging hundreds of thousands of likely Democrat voters in a wide variety of states, including, and I just love this one, those who are homeless as a result of the various storms. Hey, politics ain't beanbag!
SARAH & THE FLYING FIG
I think I made the right choice with Palin, but I realize that I've never rolled the dice as much in my entire life. Palin either self-destructs between now and Nov. 4th, or her charisma, self-confidence and brash freshness remains charming enough to carry them both into the White House.
Yeah, I know, she's a work-in-progress, with ethical and experience holes big enough to drive a Democrat truck through. But, at least right now, the public doesn't seem to want to hear any of that. Even though the mainstream media is starting to call her on her distortions of the facts, our base doesn't seem to give a flying fig. It even boggles MY mind: Nobody cares if she's a bigot (the "sambo" reference was hers) and wants to ban books and thinks the Iraq War is a "task from God", wants to have creationism taught in the schools, has been a big solicitor of "earmark" money from Washington, and wouldn't object to going to war against Russia. They don't seem to be concerned about any of that, or that she plays rough politics and has a history of using her office as mayor and governor to fire those who oppose her, including her ex-brother-in-law, who is involved in a nasty divorce from her sister.
The point is that the Big Lie Technique is working with our base voters (not sure how it will play to Independents and moderate Republicans; we may lose a few votes there), and that Sarah's positives are so strong that all the lies and deceptions and ethical lapses and extreme policies in the speeches she and John are giving and in the ads they're running on national TV just aren't breaking through the political fog we're dispensing. I just hope we can keep the fog-machine pumping until Election Day.
PROTECTING OUR LEGAL BEHINDS
Sarah's thin resume takes away the lack-of-experience attack-line against Obama. But we're tutoring her like crazy to fill in the blanks -- good lord, she's got a lot of blanks! But she's a quick learner (if only Bush had been capable of that). If we can keep her away from the liberal press, we might be able to pull it off. So we must see to it that she only does one-on-one interviews with friendly reporters. No press conferences! We should be able to postpone past Election Day her deposition in the troopergate, abuse-of-power scandal in Alaska. And after she's Veep, McCain's attorney general will cover all the tracks (including those from our own Administration) and make sure no legal action is taken. And, of course, President McCain will appoint new justices from our ideological stable to the appellate courts and to the Supreme Court -- I would expect two or three of those old liberal farts will resign -- thus locking our side in for a long, long ride.
But we've still got two months to go and there are no guarantees that even the Boy Genius can keep our positive momentum going until Election Day. We've still got to keep piling on the Democrat ticket, don't give them time to really regroup, and invite more attacks on the Dems from outside our ranks (thanks, Corsi, for your anti-Obama book). Memo to myself: 1) Crank up the evangelical church leaders to join in the pile-on; 2) Lay the wood to the Washington press corps -- there seems to be some falling away from our mutual cause; they need not-so-gentle reminders to get back in line. (Additional memo to myself: Make sure to stash this diary in my hidden safe!!!)
But if our approach backfires and Obama looks like he might take the presidency, we've still got some October surprises in our quiver. We might just have to attack Iran -- you wouldn't want a mushroom cloud over an American city, would you? -- or announce the death of Osama bin Laden, or the arrest of a number of "Muslim extremists" who were preparing to carry out a major terrorist attack inside the U.S. Viva McCain/Palin! Viva Bush#3!
Bernard Weiner, a poet-playwright, has peeked inside the diaries of everyone from Bush, Cheney Rumsfeld to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. A Ph.D. in government & international relations, he has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment: firstname.lastname@example.org .