In our second edition of “Free Advice for a Multimillionaire”, we’re going to be looking at one of perennial challenges in political campaigns: how to lie with surrogates. Surrogates are one of those “must have” assets in the media landscape because they can say the things a campaign wants people to hear but doesn’t want to get caught saying. You know, things like lies. Because when campaign staff lies, people notice.
So it was not surprising to see a number of surrogates in the media this weekend attempting to quell the growing number of questions over Mitt Romney’s magical mystery “retroactive retirement” from Bain. Well, that plus some other stuff.
Now, on to Mitt’s free advice:
First, always remember that in politics the best defense is a good offense. And one of the best ways to go on the offense is to use some good ‘ol fashioned political jujitsu. You need to turn those attacks on all these issues into the issue. Now, there are good ways and bad ways to go about this. For instance, if you’re going to demand an apology for these outrageous attacks, you first need to explain why they’re outrageous. Otherwise you might just end up looking guilty, deceptive, and foolish.
So if your going to ask for an apology, you need to first lead with a counter-attack and only after it’s clear that the counter-attack will “stick” should you ask for an apology. Now, how do you craft an effect the counter-attack when even your own party thinks the charges against have substance? Well, one way is to attack the attack’s style. This is politics. Style trumps substance every time. And feel free to use a surrogate because you want it to seem like even impartial outside observers agree that the attack is a shot below the belt. But if you do take this approach, one thing you must absolutely avoid is using a surrogate that was a trailblazer in the dark arts of politics. They probably don’t make the best messenger boys in this instance:
Karl Rove: Obama Making A ‘Big Mistake’ By Suggesting Romney May Be A Felon
9:48 AM EDT, Sunday July 15, 2012
Reported by Sahil Kapur
Republican strategist Karl Rove on Fox News Sunday advised the Obama campaign to stop suggesting that Mitt Romney may be a felon over allegedly inaccurate statements he made on his SEC forms regarding Bain.
“The fact of the matter is that if the president continues to make this charge — this outrageous charge that his campaign had that Mitt Romney is guilty of felonious activity, could’ve committed a felony — that’s a big mistake,” Rove said. “Remember who’s up for grabs in this election: independent voters.”
Rove, who runs the GOP super PAC American Crossroads, said independents were drawn to Obama’s promise to transcend politics as usual in 2008 and predicted the felony charge won’t work with them. “This is gutter politics of the worst Chicago sort,” he said.
Now, while surrogates like Karl may not be the best choice as the water carrier in this situation (they tend to poison the well first), that doesn’t mean they don’t have some good advice too. Independent voters don’t really like attack ads. Sure, voters are frequently persuaded by them, but they don’t like being reminded of that. So if you have to counter-attack, and it’s a baseless counter-attack, you might want to use a surrogate. Fortunately, in our post-Citizens United world, that’s easier than ever.
Keep in mind, though, if the original attack on you has enough substance the “gutter-politics” counter-attack may not have the required “sting” to throw your opponent off. But don’t fret. There are still options. For instance, you could always try the Jedi mind trick (i.e. “These aren’t the
droids political issues you’re looking for”). For that, first you need a Jedi. And if no Jedis are available (they tend to avoid the Dark Side), any ol’ Sith Lord will probably do. So pick your surrogate Sith, pick your trick, and start distracting:
Ryan: Romney’s Assets In A ‘Blind Trust For Pete’s Sake’
3:25 PM EDT, Sunday July 15, 2012
Reported by Pema Levy
Romney surrogate and VP contender Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said on Sunday that the Obama campaign using Bain Capital and the issue of Romney’s taxes to distract the country from the issues people really care about.
“People are not worried about the details as to when Mitt Romney left Bain Capital to save the Olympics or the details about his assets, which are managed by a blind trust for Pete’s sake,” Ryan said on “Face the Nation.” “They’re worried about their jobs and their family’s future.”
See how simple that was? Voters aren’t concerned about Mitt’s history as outsourcer-in-chief. They concerned about American jobs. Brilliant! Who cares about the history of Mitt anymore? Now they just care about his planned policies!
But if you now have voters fretting about their own futures instead of your own past, doesn’t that mean you need to have plans that won’t destroy the future? NO. Can you really talk about all those plans in public? YES. And how is that possible? Because the crazier your plans sound, the more they’ll like you. And you, Mittens, have some craaazy plans. Here’s why: the kind of planned deviousness that the modern day GOP calls “public policy” is incomprehensibly bad. It’s so incomprehensibly bad that people just assume your emoting your deep internal resolve to get the budget under control. It’s meta-politics at work: The more you say you’ll destroy their futures, the less they’ll believe you and the more they’ll like you. Voters can be weird like that:
Nobody Takes Conservative Wingnuttery at Face Value
–By Kevin Drum
| Fri Jul. 6, 2012 10:05 AM PDT
Jon Chait calls our attention to Robert Draper’s piece in the New York Times Magazine this week about Priorities USA Action, a Democratic super PAC run by Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney. Here’s a lovely little excerpt:
Burton and his colleagues spent the early months of 2012 trying out the pitch that Romney was the most far-right presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater. It fell flat. The public did not view Romney as an extremist. For example, when Priorities informed a focus group that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan — and thus championed “ending Medicare as we know it” — while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.
So there you have it. Voters simply refused to believe that the bare facts about the Ryan plan could possibly be true. Chait is cautious about what this means: “I wouldn’t overread this and assume that the Republicans have found the ultimate wormhole, advocating policies so outlandishly unpopular that opponents can’t persuade voters they’re real.”
I agree. Sort of. But I do think that it points to something real: Over the past couple of decades, Republican leaders have become such stone ideologues, and have made outrageous proposals such a standard part of their stump speeches, that a lot of voters just don’t take them seriously anymore. They view these things less as actual plans than as statements meant to show group affiliation. As the bar gets raised year after year, Republicans have to say ever more outrageous things to demonstrate that they’re real conservatives, but it’s still just blather. They don’t actually intend to do any of this stuff if they get elected.
Independents might discover — too late — that they’re wrong about this. But I suspect that’s how they treat a lot of this stuff: as mere rote catechisms, professions of faith not meant to be taken literally.
As you can see, oligarch power-brokers aren’t the only group out there that gets to say “we create our own reality” anymore. Independent Reality-Denialsts Unite! It’s a brave new world, Mittens, and you’re running to run it. So you had better understand it.
But don’t you worry. While you may have some new competition on reality-creating front, you still have some of the greatest myth-maestros in the planet working for you and that stuff still works. Just makes sure to use a surrogate:
Medicare Scare Ad Makes False Claim of $500 Bln Cut to Seniors
Heidi Przybyla, ©2012 Bloomberg News
Published 02:18 p.m., Friday, June 29, 2012
June 28 (Bloomberg) — Florida seniors will be living a “nightmare” because Senator Bill Nelson voted for $500 billion in Medicare cuts, the anonymous voice warns in the most-aired ad in his re-election race — a message repeated in similar spots targeting other Democrats across the country.
It’s also wrong, according to a Republican health-care expert and independent analysts.
“There are no reductions in the Medicare benefits promised in law,” said Gail Wilensky, who served as administrator of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare under President George H.W. Bush and is a senior fellow at Project Hope, a health-research organization in Virginia.
The nonpartisan Concord Coalition, a budget research group, says the ads assume insurers will cut Medicare benefits to comply with President Barack Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which scales back payments to Medicare Advantage plans, an alternative to traditional Medicare.
The law, its constitutionality to be determined today by the U.S. Supreme Court, also slows the growth of Medicare payments to hospitals and other health providers. Seniors’ benefits weren’t reduced in the legislation.
That hasn’t deterred Republican-aligned groups such as Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from the benefit-cut assertion in campaign television commercials targeting the law that have outnumbered positive ads by a 3-to-1 ratio since measure took effect, according to data provided by Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks campaign advertising.
What’s more, Republicans assume the same savings in their own budget blueprint crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican. The plan would convert Medicare to a voucher plan, a proposal that’s drawn scorn from seniors’ groups including the AARP because it would end Medicare as a defined-benefit program. While the current law plows its projected savings back into subsidies to help low-income individuals buy insurance, the Ryan plan counts the money toward debt reduction.
“Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies”. Heh, don’t you just love pro-oligarch political groups with the word “Grassroots” in the name. That’s the Rovian-touch we’ve all come to know and love. Well done Karl. You never disappoint.
One last bit of advice:
There’s still the issue of what you’re are going to do if the independent voters actually vote vou into office and we end up with the Ryan plan. At some point those independents are going to get a serious illness — let’s say a brain tumor. Standing there with a voucher in their hands and tumor in their head is going to make the awfulness of your policies a rather undeniable reality. That could be a problem in 2016. So if THAT ever happens, call Frank.