Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Institutional memory in political campaigns

Jerry Stratton, December 28, 2010

As I’ve been reading George Stephanopoulos’s All Too Human, one of the things that struck me is how little institutional memory there is at the top level of a White House administration, at least the part of it that communicates with the public. Press Secretaries try to fight this by forming a cabal of past Press Secretaries, passing the torch to the next one, regardless of party affiliation or campaign streetfights.

Campaigns have the same problem. Turnover is very high, and people who ought to have learnt from previous campaigns simply don’t. In Is Sarah Palin Too Dumb to Be President?, Jeffrey Lord walks us through how the press has treated Republican presidents and presidents-to-be in the past:

To ask why so many elites dismiss Sarah Palin as dumb is to ask not only the wrong question but to willfully ignore a by-now very, very distinct pattern… Successively Republicans as varied as Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, George Romney, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle, Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, George W. Bush, John McCain and now Sarah Palin have been presented as some version of the following: bumbling and unimaginative (Eisenhower), a tricky, un-classy smear artist unworthy of being on the same stage as the polished liberal champion JFK (Nixon), a shockingly unstable dumb idiot with psychiatric problems (Goldwater), dumb as a post (Romney), dumb jocks (Ford and Kemp), a lightweight (Bush 41), a vapid pretty-boy (Quayle), a boring, clueless old man from Kansas (Dole) and run-of-the-mill dumb idiot with degrees from Yale and Harvard who was really dumb because he loved the Forbidden Culture of Texas (Bush 43). McCain, like Romney and Ike, was a media hero until he became a serious potential president—at which point he suddenly morphed into a dumb mad-hatter with a lobbyist mistress, a Barbie-like vice-presidential nominee, and a thing for grilling steaks on a grill in the Arizona desert.

The only people who are dumb—really dumb—are those inside the Republican political-consultant complex who think that by nominating someone other than Governor Palin they will have a nominee capable of avoiding this particularly dumb fate.

Read the whole thing. McCain appeared to be completely blindsided by the press’s 180-degree turnaround after he became the clear nominee. He shouldn’t have been—bloggers had been warning him this would happen throughout the campaign.

And of course now you’ve got people saying that Palin shouldn’t be the nominee because she’s getting this treatment, and we know it isn’t true and all, but you can’t fight the press. If we give in to that, we’re out of luck, because as Jeffrey says, it won’t matter who the nominee is.

And as regards Palin, I agree with ol_dirty_/b/tard’s comment on the Ace of Spades:

What’s especially disgraceful is that Palin worked to keep the Tea Partiers from going third party, and the Repubs repaid her with nothing but backstabbing, undermining, anonymous insults, rumors, and gutter-sniping. Fuck the whole lot of them up the ass sideways with a fucking traffic cone.

The “pull the football” behavior that Lord describes is just as true of our support of less-than-conservative Republicans. Republicans tell us we need to support these “Republicans in name only” because they’ll still vote with conservatives on important issues. The prime example over the last election was Mike Castle. The establishment wanted him so badly that they undercut their own candidate’s campaign after Castle lost the primary. But Castle sold out the Republicans during this lame duck; if he wanted to prove that the Delaware grassroots were right to support another candidate, he couldn’t have done a better job.

That Ace of Spades post had another astute comment by 18-1:

One of the things that drives me nuts is how easy it would have been for Brown and the rest of the traitors is that they had an easy road here—even if they support these leftist initiatives.

Just say I can’t in good conscience vote for a big change like this in the lame duck session, oh, and I gave my word I wouldn’t before the budget was resolved anyway.

Then, if you want DADT repeal or START you make Obama pay for it. We will face hard fights on Obamacare, spending, and regulation. And these RINOs just gave away one obvious chip—START.

I support DADT repeal, and I still agree: the incoming Republican House is going to have a tough job pushing anything past the Democratic Senate and Democratic White House. Every bit of leverage they can keep is leverage they need.

But that may be why the elite wing of the Republican party pushed to get these things off the table before the next election. They didn’t want their colleagues in the next congress to have any leverage to fight the DC establishment, because, as Ace says, they identify more with that establishment than they do with conservatism.

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