Pulpit Bulls

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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Al Franken and the Nature of Commericials

Posted by Eric on July 8, 2009

David Kurtz observes that the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is running a misleading ad featuring Franken flailing his arms about — a rehash of a tactic Coleman utilized in his failed re-election bid. Franken took this dishonest portrayal head-on in his 2008 campaign:

I’d like to take this in a different direction and use the above spot to note that advertisements rebutting your opponents’ smears is incredibly underused. That’s not to say it’s always smart — in many cases you don’t want to highlight and repeat a smear against your candidate, especially considering how many casual commercial viewers would presumably just catch the smear and ignore the surrounding content. This is a concept that television writer Alex Epstein recently explored on his screenwriting blog, by suggesting that people don’t remember “not” very well. Epstein suggests that when people hear Barack Obama is not a Muslim or Richard Nixon is not a crook, they deduce it to Obama is a Muslim and Richard Nixon is a crook.

So, yeah it is dangerous territory, but campaigns always push back against false or damaging attacks and there isn’t any persuasive reason to believe that campaigns can’t effectively push back in commercial form. A personal anecdote: I worked on a political campaign where our very honorable candidate had his patriotism smeared in our opponent’s frequently-aired commercial. Our campaign reluctantly decided that it was better to leave the ad unanswered on the airwaves and never ran a counter-commercial. This may have ultimately been a smart play, but it’s worth considering what would have happened if we had launched a commercial proclaiming that Scuzzy Opponent is launching so-and-so attacks, then blasted Scuzzy Opponent for voting against increasing benefits to military families. Or something — you get the idea.

Perhaps with Sen. Franken’s victory we’ll see more candidates undertake this type of strategy in 2010 and future elections.


Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

More on Palin

Posted by Eric on July 6, 2009

Sarah Palin and Tina FeyOkay, so Palin’s resignation announcement is a couple days old. There’s been time to reflect but it still looks as bizarre and mystifying as before. Palin’s press conference was a muddled, idiosyncratic, incoherent mess — about what you would expect from a mentally muddled, idiosyncratic, incoherent mess of a politician like Sarah Palin.

It’s hard to watch such a strange and jumbled performance and not immediately latch onto the fact that Palin is a presumed frontrunner for the 2012 Republican nomination, not because of any gift of her own, but solely because of the lack of diversity of the modern GOP. When McCain tried to capitalize on a feminist backlash against the media’s (and allegedly Obama’s) sexist coverage of Hillary Clinton, there really wasn’t anyone else to choose. Maine’s two female Senators are the party’s liberal most spokespeople and even Texas heavyweight Kay Bailey Hutchinson is pro-choice. So they were left with Palin, a politician who is impressively unimpressive.

And the only real explanation for Palin calling it quits in the way she called it quits is she is indeed set on running for president. She may be taking the advice of some brilliant strategists, but on the surface it really makes little sense. Palin isn’t Mike Huckabee in 2008 — a little known former governor whose hope of winning the nomination involved camping out in Iowa for years. She’s a former Vice Presidential candidate with 100-percent name recognition, but not a former Vice Presidential candidate like John Edwards in 2008 who also needed to camp out in Iowa for years to challenge the big dogs like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. For better or for worse (okay, for worse) Palin is the Obama and Clinton of the GOP. She’s the star of the party! She could have stayed in Alaska until the end of her term, quietly mastering policy, raising money, and still generated good will by sweeping in to the lower 48 states every month or so for a fundraiser for lesser Republican politicians.

But clearly that isn’t the course she is taking. It looks like we are going to get the same old Sarah Palin. You know, the woman who can’t name a single newspaper she reads, who didn’t know the Africa was a continent, who, with her lavish spending sprees on campaign donor dollars and feuds with late-night talk hosts, seems to better belong in the celebrity gossip rags than in the Washington Post. It’s almost like she enjoys being a laughing stock! I hope that somewhere an SNL exec is on the phone with Tina Fey’s agent.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments »

Sarah Barracuda

Posted by Eric on July 1, 2009

If you haven’t already checked out Vanity Fair‘s hard-hitting profile on Sarah Palin, read it immediately. It paints a dysfunctional picture of Palin’s role inside the McCain campaign and really features some former McCain staffers letting loose. I wanted to quote some parts of the piece, but really the whole thing is a must-read. With that said, here are few things that jumped out at me:

  • Several people who had worked closely with Palin told VF they believed the governor suffered from a “narcissistic personality disorder.”  One example? When her most recent son was born, Palin wrote a letter to friends and family in the voice of God and signed it “Trig’s Creator, Your Heavenly Father.”
  • When Obama was notified that McCain had selected Palin as his runningmate, he told aides that it took him four months of preparation to become a national candidate and no matter how bright Palin was, there wasn’t a possibility she would be ready.
  • Those who religiously follow politics may be interested to know that McCain strategist Mark McKinnon, who had vowed to not work against Barack Obama and rather publicly resigned after Obama won the nomination, secretly crept back onto the campaign trail to advise Palin — presumably while she questioned Obama’s patriotism and accused him of “palling around with terrorists.”

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Is Our Planet Doomed?

Posted by Eric on June 29, 2009

Barack Obama and Al Gore
I don’t know the answer to that, but I will say that the vast majority of climate scientists fear catastrophic consequences if carbon emissions are not severely curbed. The American Clean Energy and Security Act was passed on Friday by seven votes. The bill is an insufficient answer to the threats posed by global warming, yet nearly half of a Democratic-controlled congress voted against it, and it still has to make its way through the Senate. In his column today, Paul Krugman calls legislative opposition “treason against the planet.” But what political solutions are there to passing stronger legislation when nearly all Republicans are guilty of so-called environmental treason?

Again, I don’t really know the answer. But it is worth pointing out that the stars were really aligned here: Nancy Pelosi made a huge push for this bill and Obama and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel lit up House Members’ phone lines. While Neil Sinhababu wonders if the congress might be better off without Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, I think it’s important to note that Peterson bucked strong constituent pressures and reached a compromise with bill-author Henry Waxman — providing conservative members of the Ag Committee sufficient cover to vote for the bill. Al Gore may have also, fittingly, been a key to passage. Though Gore opted against a public push for the Act, I have it on very good word that Gore was on the phones with some last-minute undecideds. While appearing publicly with Gore may have been out of the question, it seems that getting a call from a former Vice-President urging you to vote for his pet issue is actually pretty effective, because Gore managed to change some minds and personally get some more conservative Democrats to vote the right way.

I guess the point of this all is to show how much work went into getting a bare majority of the House to vote for climate change legislation. There is no guarantee that the Senate will do the same and for global warming to be adequately addressed we really need something much stronger from both the House and Senate. Should future elections shift the congress even slightly to the right, then the planet burns. The only way to imagine getting a much better bill in the near future is if Obama decides to really use the bully pulpit and make the case directly to American people that the planet is in peril and we need to act now. But like health care, he seems unwilling to make this case and instead irresponsibly opposes important provisions in the bill. It’s hard to feel great about a first step when the second step seems improbable and the third step seems impossible. But I guess there are more important things to worry about, like, what’s gonna happen with Michael Jackson’s kids?

Posted in Environment, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

I’m Not Saying Michele Bachmann is a Baby-Killing Nazi, But I Am Saying Hitler Was

Posted by Eric on June 28, 2009

Michele Bachmann

Rep. Michele Bachmann

From TPM, Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann continues her anti-Census tirade:

“Take this into consideration. If we look at American history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the Census Bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations at the request of President Roosevelt, and that’s how the Japanese were rounded up and put into the internment camps,” said Bachmann. “I’m not saying that that’s what the Administration is planning to do, but I am saying that private personal information that was given to the Census Bureau in the 1940s was used against Americans to round them up, in a violation of their constitutional rights, and put the Japanese in internment camps.”

Great use of the “I’m not saying” almost analogy. And to be clear, Michele Bachmann did not say that Barack Obama is going to round up Japanese people and put them in camps. Just like I am not saying that Michele Bachmann is a certifiably crazy gasoline-sniffing nutjob with an IQ in the range of Minnesota’s winter temperatures. However, I will break my silence on Bachmann to say that if she isn’t the worst member of congress she’s close.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Sometimes the End Does Justify the Means

Posted by Eric on June 24, 2009

Daniel Strauss is bothered with using the DC Metro crash to push for more rail funding:

I’m for increased funding in rail, and I’m for rail safety. I also consider the Washington D.C. Red Line Metro collision to be a plain tragedy but I don’t have an opinion on what kind of tragedy it is because it’s still unclear what caused the crash. With that in mind I think it’s a bit rash and I daresay disrespectful for Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to quickly write a letter calling for more public transportation funding.

Not me though. In Rahm Emanuel’s words, “never let a crisis go to waste.” Transportation funding is important and if using train crashes as a tool to push for that important funding brings the money in, I don’t have a big problem with that.

Posted in Politics, Transportation | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Should Obama NOT Do More On Health Care?

Posted by Eric on June 23, 2009

So says Ezra Klein. Yesterday I worried that Obama needed to get out there and make the case to Senators and the American public about the necessity of reform and a public option, but Ezra thinks this type of argument is misguided:

For now, the White House should have as little to do as possible with the various legislative products. Let the committees absorb the blows of the bad weeks. Let the early coalitions present themselves. Let the Republicans show their strategy in the mark-up sessions. Let the CBO score all the different options. Let the legislature familiarize itself with different revenue options. Wait. Wait and wait and wait. Wait until Congress has pushed this as far upfield as it’s able.

Then open up the White House. Then have Obama on TV. Then have Rahm on the phone with legislators. Then take Olympia Snowe for a ride on Marine One. The White House can exert explosive force on a piece of legislation, but it can only do so effectively for a short period of time. That was the mistake Clinton White House made in 1994. By the time their legislation was near reality, administration officials were so deeply involved that they couldn’t add external momentum. It is not a mistake that Rahm Emmanuel, who watched it all happen firsthand, means to repeat.

That’s a reasonable argument, but I’m not entirely convinced. Though the mistakes of 1994 aren’t being repeated, I worry that the administration may be so jittery about Clinton’s failure at reform that they are making the inverse of Clinton’s errors. Whereas Clinton tried to push a very specific package and froze out many Democrats and the entire Republican caucus, I fear Obama will leave all specifics to congress and yield too much to an obstinate and deeply unpopular Republican caucus. And if the legislature comes to a consensus for a weak and toothless health care package, it may not matter how hard Obama drums support for deeper reforms. Once enough Senators come out on the record against a public plan, it will be an excruciatingly difficult task to force them to back down. And that’s a very real possibility.

This isn’t to say that the administration shouldn’t save a trump card or two for the end, but it would be reassuring if the White House was doing and saying more now.

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Obama, the Public Plan and the Bully Pulpit

Posted by Eric on June 22, 2009

Obama Health CareSweeping health care reform looks to be faltering. The public option, a government-run insurance plan that competes with private insurance, may be nixed in the final bill altogether. This would ostensibly be the time for Barack Obama to champion the public option as he makes his way across the country touting the necessity of health care reform. He could forcefully make the case for a public plan and ask the crowd (and TV viewers) to call their senators and demand action. But he isn’t doing that. As Paul Krugman notes, “centrist” Democratic Senators like Blanche Lincoln from small states where “one or at most two private insurers dominate the market” have been wary of the public plan. And this makes sense since powerful insurance companies can raise lots of money for a  candidate. But you know who else can raise a lot of money? Barack Obama. Obama and Joe Biden could spend a couple hours calling major bundlers for each of these Democrats and, I suspect, raise as much or more than the insurance companies would. That, along with a public crusade for a public option could conceivably go a long way. But neither seems to be occuring.

Obama is a clear-cut pragmatist, sometimes to a frustrating degree. Some liberals are starting to wish there was more truth to the “socialist” and “leftwinger” labels that conservatives have been hurling at the president. But there’s never been any real reason to believe that Obama harbors any radical impulses. Even the fake reasons, like Jeremiah Wright, are probably just twisted evidence that Obama has always been as cautious and pragmatic as he is today. He had a radical black reverend when he was a state senator from a heavily black district in Chicago. When he was running for president in what’s still a heavily white country, he severed ties with Wright.

The conventional wisdom is that Obama has been dismissive of gay rights and willing to bend to conservative framing on matters like deficit reduction because he was stocking up on the political capital to ram through the big issues. But this is the big issue! And Obama is staying almost entirely out of the specifics of reform. That may change, or maybe his cautious approach has some justification I am missing. We will look back years from now and truly reflect on the wisdom (or lackthereof) of that strategy. But right now, it’s very worrying.

Posted in Health Care, Politics | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Best Middle Name Ever

Posted by gregoryholmes on June 22, 2009

While President Obama’s middle name and Muslim heritage might have caused him some heartburn during the campaign, he has wasted no time turning it into what could be a game changer in the delicate dance he must walk in the Middle East.  Moreover, I contend that his foreign policy decisions that he has made so far in reference to the Middle East has been to realign Muslim opinion of America and its president so as to marshall the political capital that he will need to deal with issues such as Iran.  So far he has done an excellent job and, with the Iranian elections in dispute, we could be witnessing the opening moves in the presidents gambit to strip Iran of nuclear weapons.

The first move came during Obama’s first days as president when he granted al-Arabiya the first interview with the new president.  The symbolism of granting the first official presidential interview to an Arab news network was not lost on the Arab world.

The second move came in Ankara, when President Obama took time off from the G20 summit to fly to Ankara and make a speech where, among other things, he heartily endorsed Turkey’s bid for membership in the EU.  Turkey holds a unique position, in that it is a strong American ally, has a powerhouse economy, and is a respected Muslim country.  Indeed, when Israel and Syria began to feel out one another for a potential peace deal in the last days of Olmert’s tenure as Israel’s prime minister, they used Turkish mediators.

The next big move came when President Obama delivered a speech in Cairo to the Muslim world that was so well received that the president was interrupted by applause 12 times, peppered with shouts of “We love you!” and even given the nickname of abu Hussein.

This is bad news for Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

For years the regime has been developing nuclear technology that many fear will someday be turned into nuclear weapons.  And until this week, the president of Iran enjoyed some level of popularity in the Muslim world.  He is widely seen as the man arming the Shiites of Iraq to fight against the United States’ deeply unpopular occupation, bankrolling Hizbollah in Lebanon which fought waged a war against Israel in 2006, and supporting Hamas in the Gaza Strip.  In short, the man was popular with the crowd that hates America and Israel.

That places placed him in a very good position.  He could develop nuclear technology and one of two things would happen: either the United States would attack the site and turn Mahmoud Ahmadinejad into a hero and martyr who was defending against the depredations of an imperial power (You see!  They attacked us!)  or he would go nuclear and have a much stronger bargaining position in all future relations with the U.S. and its allies.  Such was the dilemma that George Bush faced, and there we have the heart of President Obama’s overtures to be a friendlier face to the Arab world:

“We are willing to extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

President Obama’s determination to cast himself as the hero and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the aggressor is only receiving a greater boost from the turmoil that has engulfed Iranian politics.  The question of whether or not the Iranian president election was legitimate is, at this point, irrelevant.  The fact is that Tehran has been paralyzed by protesters who claim that it was, and U.S. and world opinion is aligning with that fact.  President(?) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is no longer showing his face in public and the Supreme Leader has been seen backpedaling from his initial full-throated support for the outcome, which has only fuel speculation on the legitimacy of the outcome.

At this point in Iran, two outcomes are likely and both are great for the United States.  Either Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remains as president after a potentially bloody internal struggle and is cast as a man who can only retain power when he and the clerics suppress opposition OR we end up with Mousavi who will be seen by a large part of his own population as a man who stole the election from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  The result is a weak president with a weaker backbone of clerics.

Compared to either one of them, President Obama is starting to look good.  The longer the legitimacy of the Iranian presidency remains in doubt, the more credibility President Obama will have when he challenges a leader viewed as illegitimate within and without Iran.  And when the president chooses to use that public opinion against what will inevitably be an unpopular regime and their “weapons of mass destruction,” Iran’s nuclear ambitions might very well be thrown under the bus in order to shore up international legitimacy.

Posted in Iran, Middle East, Politics | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Disregarding the Gays

Posted by Eric on June 17, 2009

The LA Times has an editorial today, with the subheader, “The president has done precious little to advance gay rights, despite campaign promises.” And they are right. Markos snarks about how the administration is granting “relocation rights” to same-sex partners of federal employees, rather than take on the Defense of Marriage Act or Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, both of which he campaigned against. Since being elected, Obama has more or less punted the DADT ball to congress while his Justice Department wrote a memo defending DoMA.

Everyone  understands that Obama is a ruthless pragmatist unwilling to sacrifice political capital on gay rights. But this isn’t the 1990s and there isn’t really an plausible scenerio in which a gay rights battle emerges that sinks health care or cap-and-trade. The administration should just step up, do the right thing, and get this whole controversy over with. Until then, gay rights activists will continue being pissed off at Obama, and frankly, they have every right to be.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Is Howard Dean Relevant?

Posted by Eric on June 15, 2009

Howard DeanHoward Dean has been an important player in understanding how Democrats ended up with majorities in both chambers of congress and even to Obama’s landslide victory in November. Dean’s tenure as DNC chairman saw the Democrats take back the House and Senate in 2006 and comfortably pad their majorities in 2008. His “50-state-strategy” laid the theoretical and material groundwork for Obama to compete in traditionally red states like Indiana, North Carolina, and Montana. Dean’s innovative online outreach and fundraising operations were an inspiration for Obama’s own internet success.

But since Obama’s victory, the White House’s relationship with Dean has been unambiguously icy. This was perhaps most visible when Dean’s successor at the DNC, Tim Kaine, was publicly selected for the job in a press conference with the president while Dean was on vacation.

Now the good doctor fights for political relevance by injecting himself in the ongoing health care debate. Dean is releasing a new book on health care which will forcefully argue for a “public option” as an element of reform — a policy that both the VP and HHS Secretary Sebelius seemed alarmingly uncommitted to in their media appearances over the weekend. Dean has also soundly rejected Sen. Kent Conrad’s compromise proposal of health care “co-ops” as an alternative to the public option, by quipping that “insurance companies will be licking their lips.”

It will be interesting to see how much political power Dean still holds. He can’t command the spotlight the way he could when the Democratic Party lacked an annointed leader. The young and liberal voters who were Dean’s base are now solid Obama supporters, and even Dean’s grassroots organization Democracy for America has larginally been supplanted by Obama’s Organize for America. Dean is right about health care but I’m skeptical that he will matter much at all when everything is said and done.

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The GOP Pledge to End Divisiveness

Posted by Eric on June 12, 2009

Rep. Eric Cantor

Rep. Eric Cantor

Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va, the second ranking Republican in the House has pledged to end divisiveness:

The No. 2 Republican in the House on Thursday compared President Barack Obama’s plans for the auto industry to the policies of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, saying the White House has stripped credit holders of rights and given them to Democratic allies. […]

“It’s almost like looking at Putin’s Russia,” added Cantor, the GOP’s House whip. “You want to reward your political friends at the expense of the certainty of law?”

Wait, that wasn’t a call for increased civility. Oops! That comes at the end of the article:

“The issue for us is rebuilding a governing majority that is comfortable with differences that can transcend the divisiveness and unify behind the principles that we know our party has succeeded on,” namely limited government and individual rights, Cantor said.

Well isn’t that refreshing! The Republican Party will no longer castigate its iconoclasts, but will instead tolerate their differences. The period when political disagreements were met with hyperbolic attacks and comparisons to Vladimir Putin are over. A new day in Washington, indeed.

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California’s Obama Eight

Posted by Eric on June 10, 2009

My friend Chris has been doing an excellent series of posts over at his blog Packherd detailing the eight congressional districts in California that Obama carried, despite being represented by Republicans in congress. Chris runs some numbers, makes some maps, and has a great run-down on the Democrats’ future chances in each of these districts. If I worked for the DCCC or the California Democratic Party, I’d snatch Chris up quickly.

If you are a California native like me or just a political junkie who wants to know the going-ons in every race anywhere (also like me) you will want to check out this recent post about California’s 25th congressional district.

Posted in California, Politics | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Race-Baiting Just Doesn’t Work Like It Used To

Posted by Eric on June 4, 2009

So former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Some-Place-Where-They-Really-Hate-Immigrants) likens Sonia Sotomayor to some kind of brown-skinned klanswoman while RNC Chairman Rush Limbaugh says the way you get ahead in the Obama Administration is by hating white people. Yet Sotomayor is still popular and Barack Obama is still really popular. That reminded me of this Politico post back in the 2008 election from a GOP-conducted focus group where some attack ads were shown to conservative-leaning swing voters backing Obama:

54 year-old white male, voted Kerry ’04, Bush ’00, Dole ’96, hunter, NASCAR fan…hard for Obama said: “I’m gonna hate him the minute I vote for him. He’s gonna be a bad president. But I won’t ever vote for another god-damn Republican. I want the government to take over all of Wall Street and bankers and the car companies and Wal-Mart run this county like we used to when Reagan was President.”

The next was a woman, late 50s, Democrat but strongly pro-life. Loved B. and H. Clinton, loved Bush in 2000. “Well, I don’t know much about this terrorist group Barack used to be in with that Weather guy but I’m sick of paying for health insurance at work and that’s why I’m supporting Barack.”

Now it’s the same rub, but it’s Sotomayor instead of Jeremiah Wright or Bill Ayers. It didn’t work then and it’s hard to see it working now. The people who already hate Obama because he hates white people, well, they already hate Obama because he hates white people. Repeating this nonsense doesn’t seem to be effective at all but the Republicans don’t really have any attack that works and it makes for entertaining television, so what the hell.

In the end I am sure that the media will perk up while Tom Tancredo and Newt Gingrich and Pat Buchanan keep spouting off with this type of stuff that nobody cares about.

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Making Conservative Democrats Squirm

Posted by Eric on May 28, 2009

The LA Times reports on the long road ahead for Republicans attempts to stop Sotomayor’s confirmation:

They are spotlighting her decisions on wedge issues such as gun rights that could put pressure on Democrats from conservative states. And they are preparing for confirmation hearings that they hope will spotlight major differences between the political parties’ legal philosophies. […]

But other conservative activists see lines of attack that would make a filibuster unnecessary: They aim to paint a portrait of Sotomayor to make conservative Democrats squirm, eroding support from within Obama’s party.

Really? My suspicion is that the number of Senators who have ever lost re-election based on their “party’s legal philosophy” or have been defeated because of their Supreme Court confirmation vote hovers around zero. The GOP can flip a coin: heads they decide to piss off the base and support Sotomayor and she gets confirmed. Tails, they decide to please their base and oppose Sotomayor (while pissing off Latinos everywhere) and she gets confirmed anyway. Those are the two options and any pipe dreams about sinking Sotomayor’s nomination are just that.

Posted in Politics, SCOTUS | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Shoot the Messenger, Before He Shoots You in the Face

Posted by gregoryholmes on May 24, 2009

This week we witnessed President Barack Obama on the defensive for the first time in his presidency.  The news cycle has, for the last couple of weeks, been dominated by Republican criticisms over torture, the closure of Guantánamo, and national security, culminating in the resounding defeat of the president’s request for $80 million in funding to transfer Guantánamo detainees to supermax prisons here in the States.

With the writing on the wall, Democrats on the Hill called in their big gun to end the debate and shift the discussion back in their direction.  President Obama and his team surveyed the field and placed a last minute speech on national security right before former Vice President Dick Cheney’s scheduled speech at the American Enterprise Institute.  The talking points of both sides in this debate over civil rights and national security are as old as democracy itself, but the important thing was that the public perception was that this was a debate between Obama and Cheney.

This is important because Obama’s approval ratings are still at 62% while Cheney’s disapproval ratings are at 57%.  And when the public perception of this debate is that it is between someone as trustworthy as Santa Claus and the self-styled “Prince of Darkness,” the perceived result of that debate is a foregone conclusion.

Now the Democrats can shift the public discussion back to their legislative agenda, and we owe it partly to the immense unpopularity of the spokesman for the Republicans, and partly to the shrewdness of the White House in picking the GOP spokesman for them.

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Barack Obama: Storyteller

Posted by Eric on May 22, 2009

3004717988_06761377b7 Yesterday’s Obama-Cheney royal rumble continues to dominate media coverage. And what better manifestation of the Obama team’s storytelling skills than this engineered war-of-words? This White House doesn’t just control the narrative, they create it. When Senate Democrats rebuked Obama on Gitmo, the administration wasted no time in reshaping the debate. Every storybook hero needs a villain, so the White House gave him one. The lines were redrawn in the sand: the President on one side and a cantankerous, scowling, and deeply unpopular Dick Cheney on the other. Whose side would you choose?

In many ways this isn’t wholly different than what the Bush crew did before; their narrative pitted Dubya, the swaggering cowboy hero, against the foreign evildoers Saddam and Osama. The rest was clear enough: you need tough, all-American gunslingers to take on the bad guys, not wimpy, pontificating Defeatocrats. But when circumstances changed, the narrative no longer worked. Suddenly, the GOP was swept out of power as the Democrats were voted in.

And things could change again. But right now, the Republican Party’s image is effectively being shaped by the Democrats. As moderates flee the GOP and reasonable Republican voices are silenced, their party is  being dominated by an abundance of characters who should provide the Obama Administration with the ability to continually recast the role of villain as circumstances demand. Yesterday it was Limbaugh. Today it’s Cheney. Who will it be tomorrow? Boehner? McConnell? Palin?

I wonder how that “hip-hop makeover” is coming along.

Image borrowed from Flickr user Jmtimages under the Creative Commons license.

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