Donna Brazile’s BFF may be a despicable human being, but he’s one of the people who tells the media what to think and say. In today’s WSJ Karl Rove gives us a preview of what is likely to be the media narrative for the next few weeks:
Team Obama demonstrated remarkable discipline during the presidential campaign. From raising an unprecedented amount of money to milking every advantage from the Internet to grabbing lots of delegates from inexpensive caucus states, they left nothing to chance.
And now the administration has scored a major legislative victory in an extraordinarily short period of time. Less than 700 hours after taking the oath of office, President Barack Obama signed the largest spending bill in American history.
Nevertheless, this fast start can’t overcome a growing sense the administration is winging it on issues large and small.
Team Obama has been living off its campaign reputation for planning and execution. That reputation is now frayed, and all the bumbling and unforced errors will have an impact. Such things don’t go unnoticed on Capitol Hill or in foreign capitals.
The president, a bright and skilled politician, has plenty of time to recover. The danger is that what we have seen is not an aberration, but the early indications of his governing style. Barack Obama won the job he craved, now he must demonstrate that he and his team are up to its requirements. The signs are worrisome. The world is a dangerous place. The days of winging it need to end.
Karl Rove gave Obama advice on how to defeat Hillary during the primary campaign. If you don’t think Obama listened to the GOP strategist then check out this specific advice from December 2007 on how to win in Iowa:
First, stop acting like a vitamin-deficient Adlai Stevenson. Striking a pose of being high-minded and too pure will not work. Americans want to see you scrapping and fighting for the job, not in a mean or ugly way but in a forceful and straightforward way.
Hillary may come over as calculating and shifty but she looks in control. You, on the other hand, often come over as weak and ineffectual. In some debates, you do not even look at her when disagreeing with her, making it look as if you are afraid of her. She offers you openings time and again but you do not take advantage of them. Sharpen your attacks and make them more precise.
Take the exchange in the Philadelphia debate about Bill and Hillary keeping documents hidden about her role as first lady in his White House. She was evasive. You spoke next. You would have won a big victory if you had turned to her and said: “Senator, with all due respect, you and your husband could release those documents right now if you wanted to. Your failure to do so raises questions among a lot of Americans about what you’re hiding and those questions would hurt our party if you were our nominee.” But your response was weak as dirty dishwater. Do not let other great opportunities pass by.
Second, focus on the fact that many Democrats have real doubts about Hillary. They worry she cannot win, will be a drag on the ticket and that if she got to the White House it would be a disaster. You know better than most what they are worried about; they have told you their fears. It is why you have done so well raising money from Bill’s backers and gaining support from Clinton administration officials. Talk about those doubts. Put them in a bigger context than just the two of you. Remind primary voters that these shortcomings will hurt Democratic chances.
Third, when you create controversies do not pick issues where you are playing the weaker hand. For example, you attacked her for lacking foreign policy experience. It is true she was first lady, not secretary of state, and nobody will ever mistake her for James Baker III. But your qualifications are even thinner; you were a state senator and lived in Indonesia when you were six. Big deal. Americans think she has more foreign policy experience than you – and she does.
Fourth, when you disagree with her be clear about what you believe. You cannot afford more garbled responses like the one you gave in Las Vegas on drivers’ licences for illegal aliens. Answer yes or no. Do not give voters evidence you are as calculating as her.
Fifth, you need to do a better job explaining what kind of change you represent. The change theme is a good one and Democratic voters know you were against the war and represent the idea of something fresh. But they do not know who you really are, what you want to do and where you want to take the country. Taking her down a few notches is step one; telling people who you are is the next. Both are necessary.
Sixth, find a way to gently belittle her whenever she tries to use disagreements among Democrats as an excuse to complain about being picked on. The toughest candidate in the field should not be able to complain when others disagree with her. This is not a coronation. Democrats do not like her sense of entitlement. She is not owed the nomination. It does not belong to her simply because her name is Clinton. So blow the whistle on her when she tries to become a victim. Do it with humour and a smile and it will sting even more.
Hillary comes across as cold, distant and conspiracy-minded, more like Richard Nixon than her sunny, charming husband. During the Clinton presidency she oversaw a disaster (the effort to sell Hillarycare) and argued hard against welfare reform, one of the promises on which he had campaigned. She is a hard-nosed competitor with a tough and seasoned staff.
But her record is weak, her personality off-putting and her support thin. If she wins the nomination it will be because her rivals – namely you – were weak when you confronted her and could not look her in the eye when you did. She is beatable but you have to raise your game. Iowa is your great chance for a breakthrough. Win it convincingly and you can build on it in the contests that follow. Lose it and victory becomes much more difficult.
I have long suspected that Rove and the GOP bigwigs knew they were going to lose the election last year, so they picked a weak and inexperienced Democrat they could destroy once he was in office. Because the Republican is so tarnished after eight years of George W. Bush, in order to make a fast recovery they needed to claim that the Democrats are worse.
Didn’t it seem like the GOP was just going through the motions last year? When McCain picked Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential candidate it shook things up otherwise the election would have boring. But despite the enthusiasm Palin generated in the rank and file the Republican leadership and their big money backers were M.I.A.
If my suspicions are correct then we will now begin to see something we haven’t seen before – the media treating Obama like a Democrat.