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Hullabaloo


Friday, July 30, 2004

 
Oppo Nerds

Michael Crowley in TNR has an interesting look at the GOP spin operation in Boston:

Example A was the headquarters Republicans installed a few blocks from the FleetCenter to coordinate their response to the Democrats. At center was a so-called war room--a dozen or so computer terminals arranged around a pair of TV sets, at which a team of young GOP staffers pulled up research on Democrats and skimmed the Drudge Report as they watched the convention. For maximum partisan effect, the office's walls had been festooned with blown-up quotes of Kerry saying various foolish or purportedly revealing things ("I'm a liberal and proud of it"), images of a recent Boston Herald front-page headline declaring John Kerry and John Edwards "left of ted," and, by Tuesday morning, multiple images of Kerry in that absurd blue nasa space suit. (Republicans seemed to consider this a defining moment in the campaign. Several staffers promptly made this photo their computer desktop image, and the office distributed a flyer juxtaposing the Kerry photo with the infamously goofy image of a tank-riding Michael Dukakis.)

The decor made the office feel more like a movie set than a place where actual politics was practiced. Indeed, the war room's main function seemed to be to attract reporters. During my two visits there, at least a half-dozen news organizations passed through, including a CNN team and a New York Times photographer. "Campbell Brown was over to shoot a package," bragged Galen, who takes credit for setting up the first opposition party office at a convention, back in 1984.

[...]

In the end, though, it's not clear just how much damage these GOP commandos managed to inflict. Yes, the GOP's surrogates blanketed television and radio nationwide--Iverson bragged to me that they intended to reach every "targeted" swing-state media market in the country by the end of the convention--but Republicans can always get themselves on television and radio to provide a GOP response to the speeches. Few mainstream journalists, however, bought the premise that Democrats were conducting an "extreme makeover" in the FleetCenter or that John Kerry is a hateful divider in league with Michael Moore. Ultimately, the GOP "war room" amounted to a cheap gimmick. But, for some, that seemed like enough. After a standing-room-only press briefing at GOP headquarters Wednesday morning, I ran into an excited Galen, still wearing his old gray sneakers. "Downstairs, we've got a guy with a sign that says, kerry response this way," he said gleefully. "So we've got them responding to our response!" He dashed back to his office to grab a camera. "I've got to get a picture of it," he said. I suggested that this back-and-forth was starting to feel like a game. He smiled and said, "It is!"


It's fascinating how they've put themselves on exhibit. I guess everybody's a star these days. But, it makes me wonder if there isn't another war room somewhere doing the actual oppo smear work.

Either way, this article somewhat misses the point about how this stuff works. Somethimes they can get lucky and get something into the media bloodstream right away that is irresistable and everybody can't stop talking about. But, mostly this crap is done through mindless repetition and filtration through the right wing media until it becomes a sort of soothing conventional wisdom. Easy on the ears. "That's what people think." They didn't need to make anything in particular "stick." All they are trying to do is keep the drumbeat.

They don't necessarily plan to take Kerry out with a one-two punch. It's a long drawn out series of accumulated jabs. If they can get a mediawhore like Jeff Greenfield to parrot their talking points verbatim that's just icing on the cake. Their real mission is to implant doubt.






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