HOW TO LOSE AN ELECTION (PART 1)! Dem pundits plan to lose this race the same way they did in 2000:
TUESDAY, AUGUST 3, 2004
THE NATURAL: Weve linked to Paul Krugman many times in the past. Hes our most important Major Newspaper scribe. But this morning, he really comes into his own. We cant put our finger on just what it is. But this morning, were finally willing to say it. We really think this bright young kid has an unlimited future.
HOW TO LOSE AN ELECTION (PART 1): Well start today as we rarely do—quoting another web site. Among web sites, we read Josh Marshall first every day. Yesterday, Marshall said this:
MARSHALL: The Bush-Cheney political campaign is telling all who will listen that they will spend the next month running a massive ad campaign (with a price tag of $30 million and no doubt supplemented by on-message talking points sent out to the all foot soldiers) aimed at mocking John Kerry as a undistinguished and risible figure. According to the Times, this will culminate at the GOP convention where Kerry will be portrayed as an object of humor and calculated derision.The Bush camp plans to make Kerry an object of ridicule. Josh linked to a front-page story by Adam Nagourney in Sundays New York Times. Forgive the repetition, but this is important. Heres how Nagourney started:
NAGOURNEY (8/1/04): President Bush's campaign plans to use the normally quiet month of August for a vigorous drive to undercut John Kerry by turning attention away from his record in Vietnam to what the campaign described as an undistinguished and left-leaning record in the Senate.In his analysis, Marshall said the salient point in Nagourneys piece was the use of humor as a political weapon—mockery, derision, diminishment. Republicans are very good at this, he continued. And it can be a tool that is deceptively difficult to respond to or combat.
Josh is right—these tools can be hard to combat. We know this because of something Josh didnt mention—because this is precisely the way the GOP put Bush in the White House! Indeed, Sundays report was a virtual rerun of a piece the Times ran five years ago, at the start of Campaign 2000. In May 1999, presumptive Dem nominee Al Gore was already being destroyed by a campaign of deception and mockery. The campaign was coming from the RNC—and was spreading like wildfire all through the press. On May 19, 1999, the Times Alison Mitchell explained GOP strategy. Deja vu, anybody? Heres how that report began, more than five years back:
MITCHELL (5/19/99): After years of battling with President Clinton, House Republicans are shifting their sights to Vice President Al Gore and using ridicule as their weapon of choice.By this time, of course, the RNC already had the press a-twitter with bogus claims about inventing the Internet and inspiring Love Story. Quoting directly from Republican sources, Mitchell explained the partys thinking:
MITCHELL: For years Congress ran multiple investigations of Mr. Clinton. But with Mr. Gore, Republicans are betting that well-timed ridicule can be more devastating than any inquiry. In essence, they are trying to do to him what Democrats tried to do to former Vice President Dan Quayle: make him the foil for comedians on late-night television.But of course, you can make someone the objective of ridicule when they dont provide the material. Its easy: You invent bogus stories; recite them endlessly; and then you rely on Democratic partisans to be too inept to refute them. In the case of Gore, for example, you claim he said he invented the Internet. You repeat the claim for two solid years—and rely on the Washington press corp to ignore, reinforce or recite it.
In Kerrys case, the strategy is already active—and hapless Dem partisans are playing the role they played four years ago. How to make Kerry the object of ridicule when he isnt providing material? Easy! For one thing, you can say he is the number one liberal in the Senate—and rely on hapless Democrat partisans not to be able to answer the charge. We saw that pattern played out Friday night in that gruesome cable exchange with Sean Hannity. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/2/04—but be sure youre sitting down when you do so.
To their credit, it isnt like the RNC doesnt tell us what theyre doing. But then, theyre willing to do so for an obvious reason. They know that good guy pundits are so inept that, even handed the RNC plan, theyll be completely unable to counter it. Dems will send partisans off to war unarmed, inept, unprepared, unable. Last Friday, Hannity ate Janeane Garofalo for lunch. And how do Dems respond to the carnage? Of course—they send us whining e-mails! They tell us that we hurt Janeanes feelings when we so rudely point this out.
But then, this is the way your good guy pundits lost the race four years ago. Republican strategists laugh in their faces—and, after all, why shouldnt they? When it comes to losing elections, these folks are the ruling masters. They proved this point four years ago. Hannity understands this point well.
TOMORROW (PART 2): What did Dems tell Alison Mitchell? Also: Jon Stewart v. the Post editorial.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Did Al Gore say he invented the Internet? For a lengthy discussion of this iconic nonsense, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/3/02.
BROOKS BROTHER: The scripts and spin-points are never hidden; to be effective, they must be recited. Current points are there for all to see—for example, in Saturdays David Brooks column:
BROOKS: [T]hough convention viewers may not be aware of it, Kerry has actually had a career since his four months in Vietnam—mostly in the Senate. It's not true that Kerry is a flaming lefty (he's a genuine budget hawk and he voted for welfare reform), but he was wrong about just about every major foreign policy judgment of the last two decades. He voted against the first gulf war, against many major weapons systems. He fought to reduce the defense budget. He opposed the deployment of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe in the early 1980's. He supported the nuclear freeze. His decision to authorize war in Iraq but vote against financing the occupation is the least intellectually coherent position of all possible alternatives.Brooks, not willing to mislead as clownishly as major Reps do, scales back some of the basic spin-points. Kerry voted against many major weapons systems, he says, with admirable imprecision. (RNC cable hacks use the word every.) He fought to reduce the defense budget, Brooks writes—but then, so did Dick Cheney, as Defense Secretary. And Kerry isnt a flaming lefty, Brooks says—without telling us why the presidents men are calling him the Senates top lefty. But then, why should Brooks explain this point? Kerrys defenders, on cable TV, are unwilling, unable to do so.
Yes, Brooks tones down a bit of the bullroar which voters hear every day, every hour. But scripts get passed from hand to hand, as press hacks repeat one another. For example, here is Brooks on July 31—and Nantuckets Tim Russert, one day later:
BROOKS (7/31/04): His decision to authorize war in Iraq but vote against financing the occupation is the least intellectually coherent position of all possible alternatives.Yes, they do get the Times on Nantucket! For the record, Biden gave a hopeless answer to Russerts question, which was scripted by Brooks. Heres what Biden might have said if hed tried to serve John Kerry—or the public interest:
IMPROVED ANSWER: Tim, thats absurd—Kerrys position was perfectly honest. I mean, President Bush made the decision to the troops to war—then he threatened to veto the $87 billion, a week after Kerry cast his vote! President Bush said he would veto that very same $87 billion! But Tim, there was nothing wrong with Bushs veto threat, and there was nothing wrong with Kerrys vote. Indeed, as I told you a moment ago, Kerrys concern about that reconstruction money has turned out to be quite well founded. His concern about Bushs lack of a plan turned out to be right on-target...Thats what Biden might have said if hed wanted to shoot down a powerful script. But at any rate, look at Brooks, then at Russert. Thats the way these scripts get passed, from one script-reader to another. And in the course of the next few months, such scripts are going to come thick and fast. And why not? Hannity knows he can recite the most overtly false of all these scripts with a good guy pundit sitting right there beside him! Where does Hannity get this chutzpah—these nerves of steel? Easy! He remembers what happened four years ago. He knows his guests wont be prepared.