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March 28, 2008

Late Night FDL: the enemy of your enemy might not be your friend

Posted in: 2008 Election,DC/K Street elites,Republicans,Wingnut books

A case study in how the press is covering our candidates: Mr. Fournier of the Associated Press has some issues with Senator Obama

Arrogance is a common vice in presidential politics. A person must be more than a little self-important to wake up one day and say, "I belong in the Oval Office."

But there’s a line smart politicians don’t cross _ somewhere between "I’m qualified to be president" and "I’m born to be president." Wherever it lies, Barack Obama better watch his step.

He’s bordering on arrogance.

But both Obama and his wife, Michelle, ooze a sense of entitlement.

Dude, ooze?

Anyway, you’d think that writing a content-free hit piece like that would mean that the writer is a friend of the Clinton campaign.

Not so much.

Mr. Fournier’s spent most of this campaign bashing Senator Clinton, with policy insights like Hillary is slick and everybody hates her, Hillary and Bill are slick and everybody hates them, Hillary is stubborn and everybody hates her and she’s helping the Republicans, Hillary is only green in the sense of inexperience, although he did take a break to give us John Edwards is an inauthentic rich fop who nobody trusts. Oddly the oozing thing didn’t make it into earlier pieces, like Hillary sucks and Obama’s going to beat her and Obama’s a calm, thoughtful guy and his opponents are picking on him). This week is a twofer, Hillary is dishonest and neurotic while the Obama camp are condescending snots

He doesn’t hate everybody, though.

Mitt Romney’s victory in Michigan was a defeat for authenticity in politics.

The man who spoke hard truths to Michigan lost. Of all the reasons John McCain deserved a better result Tuesday night, his gamble on the economy stands out. The Arizona senator had the temerity to tell voters that a candidate who says traditional auto manufacturing jobs "are coming back is either naive or is not talking straight with the people of Michigan and America."

Instead of pandering, McCain said political leaders must "embrace green technologies," adding: "That’s the future. That’s what we want."

Tell us how you really feel, Ron.

Oh wait. He did. Well, not his readers, obviously, but he opened up more for some of America’s future serious people at Harvard

Journalist Ron Fournier spoke at an Institute of Politics (IOP) dinner last night, stressing that the “change” sweeping through America runs deeper than the current presidential campaigns.

“The Democratic campaign is Barack Obama’s to lose,” Fournier said, repeating what he called a long-held belief.

In the question-and-answer session—driven by dinner guests who won their seats via an IOP lottery—Fournier remained agnostic about the ultimate outcome of the primary contest, stating that an Obama loss in the primary would fracture the party more than a Clinton loss.

Fournier also said the general election was far from a foregone conclusion.

“John McCain has a much better chance of winning the election than most people realize,” he said.

One of the many diners lingering about after the question-and-answer session, former Republican Massachusetts Governor Jane M. Swift, said she agreed with Fournier that Hillary Clinton would keep the general election close, while McCain would have a better chance against Obama.

This has nothing to do with Obama as a candidate or what kind of president he’d make, or for that matter Clinton or Edwards. It has to do with the fact that this guy has an agenda in play, and he is not on our side. He wasn’t on our side when he took a bat to Edwards’ kneecaps, he wasn’t on our side when he went after Hillary, and it’s not on our behalf that he’s concerned about Obama’s character. It’s because at the time that he wrote those articles, the candidate he was taking out looked like the frontrunner against the guy he wants to win.

So whose side is Fournier on? Well, not too long ago, back when he felt like things were going poorly for Republicans politically, Mr. Fournier dropped out of the AP to become a partner in a new business: an online "centrist" "moderate" political dialogue site called Hot Soup

Mark McKinnon and Matthew Dowd, who were senior advisers in President Bush’s last two campaigns, are joining forces with Joe Lockhart, who served as a spokesman for President Bill Clinton, and Carter Eskew, a top strategist in Al Gore’s presidential campaign, in creating what they have dubbed HotSoup.com.

"There is nobody who knows how broken the system is more than us. . . . Everyone in the room could say they contributed to the polarization," Lockhart said.

"The perceived polarization that exists in this country today is not a good thing," said Dowd, adding that people are tired of watching "food fight" debates on television.

They have hired Ron Fournier, former chief political writer for the Associated Press, as editor in chief. A key consultant is Allie Savarino, an Internet advertising specialist and president of Sisterwoman.com.

At times, the strategists sounded as though they were doing penance for their roles in the 30-second attack ads and sound-bite skewering that have become staples in modern political campaigns. But they are not giving up their livelihood. McKinnon continues to represent political and corporate clients at Public Strategies. Dowd has his own consulting firm, and Lockhart, Eskew and two other HotSoup partners — Michael Feldman and Chip Smith — do the same at the Glover Park Group.

Well, Mr. Dowd you know. He’s the Bush strategist who convinced Karl Rove that centrism is for suckers. Mr. Fournier recently wrote a book with Mr. Dowd about how to manipulate people into believing that you’re on the same side so you can sell them stuff.

You may not be familiar with some of the other players, though.

The Glover Park Group, for instance

The folks at the Glover Park Group—who last year helped conduct a stealth campaign to aid Rupert Murdoch—are now assisting Sen. Ted Stevens wreck the U.S. electronic media system. Stevens’ Commerce Committee released a poll yesterday slamming “onerous Net Neutrality regulations.” …

Now, to the “bipartisan” Glover Park Group (which did the poll with Public Opinion Strategies). Aren’t we tired of Democrats who take the big bucks and the public interest be damned? This poll was written to help phone companies scuttle policies designed to provide community oversight of electronic media. The poll should come with a warning: “this is a political tool.” That Stevens, Glover Park, and Public Opinion would hold it up as some objective measure is a sad joke. It’s a lobbying love letter for Verizon, AT&T, BellSouth and the USTA. It asks questions about network neutrality purposely designed to undermine it as an issue. Perhaps that’s why the poll doesn’t reveal who funded it. Such well-known Democratic operatives as Howard Wolfson, Joe Lockhart, and Carter Eskew run Glover Park. In 2005, the group helped Rupert Murdoch organize a campaign designed to keep bringing in extra cash for his Fox TV empire. Press reports say they also have worked for big cable companies as well.

By helping the phone lobby create a closed Internet, the Glover Park Group is undermining the country’s democracy. What great credentials alongside working for Fox.

They also ran ads for the Automobile Manufacturers against better mileage standards

Mr. McKinnon. Now, Mr. McKinnon’s an interesting guy. He works, I’m sure you’ve heard, for Senator McCain’s campaign. He’s a gentle, thoughtful soul.

Mark McKinnon managed media for President George W. Bush’s successful 2000 and 2004 campaigns, and has done similar work for candidates in Africa, Eastern Europe and South America. He said political parties and their candidates–regardless of ideology or cultural influences–want to win elections, and they will seek out the most effective ways to do it, even if it means adopting a more confrontational campaign model.

"The reality is that despite enormous cultural differences, elections are basically the same everywhere," said McKinnon, now vice chairman of Public Strategies in Austin, Texas, and president of Maverick Media.

He said foreign candidates rarely relish taking the gloves off–at first.

"There is almost always an initial resistance culturally; most countries aren’t used to using the kind of hard-hitting tactics and strategies we use," McKinnon explained. "But as soon as they see that it might help their chances, they are locked and loaded."

A real soulful guy

But now, with Bush’s story moving toward its final chapter and verse, longtime friends Matthew Dowd and Mark McKinnon, key advisers in the Bush presidential campaigns, are in different places heading in different directions. Each with criticisms of the presidency they helped create, each handling them differently.

So, for now, McKinnon remains loyal to the Republicans as an unpaid adviser to GOP Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid, an effort he says is more about helping "a guy who spent five years at the Hanoi Hilton" than a "burning desire to be in presidential politics, or any politics, anymore."

The commitment to McCain is tempered by an attraction to Obama.

"If the Democratic nominee is Barack Obama, I will not work in the general election. I will, however, still support and vote for John McCain. I just don’t want to work against an Obama candidacy," McKinnon said.

An Obama presidency, he said, "would send a great message to the country and the world."

Could he vote for Obama against a Republican other than McCain? "Yeah, sure."

Or, you know, maybe not

As McCain’s strategic attention has turned toward Obama, "I’ve already started holding back," said McKinnon, who emphasizes he will continue to support McCain fully as "number one friend and cheerleader in chief."

"I’m not suggesting that I won’t ever talk to Senator McCain or I won’t ever talk to the campaign, but it won’t have anything to do with Obama," said McKinnon. "I’ll go to the debates and wear my lucky hat. But I won’t be in debate prep."

Um, yeah.

So, you know, when the other candidate or their supporters piss you off and you start repeating Republican frames that appear in A Major News Source like they prove anything, keep in mind that that it’s going to be much easier to bat away anti-Democrat memes in the general if you didn’t use them during the primaries.

Because we’re going to need all the help we can get. Ron Fournier’s waiting for us.


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