Monday, January 31, 2005

Advice for the other side

Maybe I'm just an obsessive worrier, but I'm worried about the Republicans' political future. This last election should've been a slam dunk on all counts: Bush should have won by a larger margin over an obviously incompetent opponent, the GOP should've won their new congressional seats by larger margins, the gubernatorial races shouldn't have been so incredibly close (especially not so close that it let the Dems steal the Washington seat). The Democrats were so demonstrably wrong-headed that a simple campaign of openness and logical presentation should have put every single contestable race to bed without falling into the "margin of lawyer".

Yet the GOP's campaigns, led by the Bush candidacy, seems to have tripped along and merely lucked out this time. Karl Rove is a political genius, but the way the Bush campaign got caught flat-footed time and time again is simple inexcusable. The prediction was that the wildly liberal media would deliver 15 points to Kerry; after the election, analysts were all over the place crowing about how that didn't happen and the Internet took down the MSM.

But that's the problem: I think the media DID manage to give Kerry 15 points. Not necessarily by portraying him in a positive light, but by portraying Bush in a bad light, or at best a dubious one. There is simply no way a prevaricating, unelectable sap like John Kerry should have gotten 49% of the vote; the media tried to deliver the election to him on a silver platter, and very nearly succeeded. And it's not like it was any big surprise, anyone who pays attention to the media could have predicted this attempted coup. The Bush camp should've been prepped and armed to deal with an intensely hostile media, and they weren't.

To his credit, Rove kept the president on-message with an electable platform that successfully appealed to voters in the opposition party, and that's no small feat. But throughout the campaign, it felt like the Bush campaign didn't know what a 24-hour news cycle was. In a world where the fabled "New York minute" is considered excrutiatingly slow by voters whose watches have an "Internet minute" hand, a campaign needs to have an immediate answer to every bit of bad publicity that could possibly surface. And not just a copy/paste paragraph that regurgitates old press releases; that kind of response is not a response at all, and is guaranteed to be summarily ignored by the information-hungry news outlets.

For example, take the whole Rathergate affair. It took bloggers a single day to tear CBS apart over the fake documents; it took the White House several days to issue a cautious statement regarding Bush's service. Now the Bush camp could not simply jump on the bandwagon and call Dan Rather out on his charade--if they did, it would've discredited the blogs before they gained nation-wide acceptance as the slayers of the MSM Goliath. But Bush's TxANG record was an issue 5 years ago--how could they not have a better answer already prepped and ready to fire off immediately after 60 Minutes ended? Perhaps their strategy was to simply let the Internet debunking churn and roil, and see if it produced any talking points--or perhaps the Bush camp had no clue about the power of instantaneous analysis, and was simply scrambling some talking points together. Bush was fortunate to have the fraudulent bombshell diffused by a credible third party, but the strategy employed by his campaign was either one of incredibly subtle genius--or one that relied on outdated methods of damage control and spin.

Or how about the news from Iraq? The blogs were buzzing for months before the election with news and analysis of the Iraqi war that was getting no play time in the media. Why didn't the Bush administration work to push these stories into the national spotlight? Even against a hostile media, they could have changed the message from one of hope that long-term gains would materialize, into a message of positive changes happening NOW. For Pete's sake, have a weekly news conference on the "State of the War", with straight reporting of casualties, setbacks, and successes, along with solid military analyses. A simple 15 minute briefing, with a smattering of sound-bite friendly graphs and charts (which can be downloaded by anybody on a central web site), and take no questions from reporters. Just highlight the information, good or bad, and let the analysts run with it. And with more good news than bad coming out of Iraq on a daily basis, this setup could have dramatically changed the tone in which the Iraqi war is discussed. So why was the Bush camp so obstinately determined to play defense on the Iraqi war, instead of showing some guts and launching a PR offensive?

There are still intelligent people left in the Democratic party (despite all the recent evidence to the contrary). And they're not sitting back and letting things fall apart; they're mad as hell about Moore et al's hijacking of the party. These Democrats have seen the cancer on their organization, and they're going to fight tooth and nail to hide it by the time the next election rolls around. They might just succeed in making the Dems look sane for a while, allowing them to fool voters into thinking it's safe to go blue for a bit. While the Republicans are busy getting actual work done, the newly marginalized Democrats are plotting intricate political games and strategies for future elections. These Democrats love to play politics, even to the exclusion of effective governing and problem solving; they can not be allowed to sneak in an electoral victory at this crucial point in our nation's history.

Advice for the Democratic is in excess supply these days. If the Republicans let themselves enjoy the Schadenfreude for too long, the next election may realize our greatest fear: that the Democrats actually listened.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Moore's the Message

This article on TCS seems to have a slight misunderstanding about the Democrats:
Fahrenheit 9/11 was timed to coincide with the 2004 presidential election for the sake of maximum interest and box office -- but its publicity and controversy was a distraction to the Democrats at the moment they were trying to get their message out. Taking a stance against the Iraq war became more difficult, not less, after the movie was released, forcing Democrats to distinguish their criticisms from those of the silver screen conspiracy theorists.

But that's exactly the problem--Moore's message was the Democrats' message. The only difference was that Moore stripped away all pretenses of fairness, objectivity, political correctness, and caring about America's long term well-being. He showed the world the core Democrats' true beliefs, without all the rhetoric and hubris. Democratic Presidential candidates can't speak as freely; they have to couch their pessimistic messages and eternal carping in a language of hopefulness and optimism. Moore did the world a favor by showing us the true beliefs and thought processes behind the DNC.

And he wasn't as far outside the mainstream as the Democrats would like you to believe. As the article notes later on, "John Kerry was likewise forced to walk the Fahrenheit tightrope -- distancing himself from Moore without alienating the party's liberal anti-war base that was turning out in droves and filling movie theatres with applause." This was the Democratic base, the party faithful, not fringe groups that are tolerated but generally ignored. The fact that the core was indistinguishable from the fringe is what made the Democratic ticket so unpalatable to the American people.

Michael Moore didn't lose the election for Kerry; Kerry lost the election for Moore and his ilk.

(hat tip to Instapundit)


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Almost counterproductive

Today at work, my brain suddenly decided to stop working. Literally within the space of 15 seconds, I went from working at a good pace, to a full and complete stop. I looked blankly at the screen, and could not for the life of me force a useful and coherent thought from my mind to my fingers to the keyboard. After staring for a few minutes, I let my attention wander around my desk for a while to see if I could get back "in the zone". No dice.

I saw a Post-It notepad off to the side, and idly wrote "I am sitting here being unproductive" on it. That didn't seem like the type of note you should leave lying around where your boss can see it, and I didn't have a shredder, so I took a few minutes to tear up the note into very small pieces. As I scooped the pieces into my hand to throw away, a gust of wind blew most of them all over the floor, so I spent a few more minutes crawling around picking up pieces of paper. And after all this, I still couldn't get my mind to focus.

I think it was the most useless 10 minutes of my life.

Monday, January 10, 2005

What an earth-shattering surprise

The CBS report on Rathergate has been released. It neglects to point out the obvious political motivation for chasing after a bogus story, and it lets the Kerry campaign off the hook for collaborating with 60 Minutes to launch a coordinated attack on Bush. What a shocker.

Is it too much to ask for the MSM to say "we were heinously wrong" when they're caught in such blatant political maneuverings? Especially when the screw up in such a public manner?

(Surprisingly, the NY Times actually has a half-decent write up on the report. But does anyone still read that rag for news?)

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Business buzzwords applied to world politics

Does anyone remember what synergy is? You know, the idea of combining resources so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Well, consider this: in the past four years, the United States has:

  • Liberated Afghanistan from a brutal regime guilty of countless human rights violations, transforming the nation into a budding democracy
  • Deposed Sadaam Housein, a horrific dictator with a policy of genocide, conquest, and terrorism
  • Established the Roadmap to Peace for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, finally offering real hope for a peaceful end to that conflict
  • Saved thousands of lives in Southeast Asia in the wake of the tsunami by immediately carting in aid, followed by hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to come from both the government and private citizens
In contrast, the United Nations has:

  • Dragged its feet on promoting democracy in the former Soviet bloc (Ukraine is the most recent example)
  • Skimmed billions of dollars of blood money through the Oil-for-Food scam, while passing useless resolutions on Iraqi violations and refusing to back them with any sort of power, then condemned the liberation of the Iraqi people
  • Criticized Israel for protecting themselves instead of condemning Palestinian terror attacks
  • Completely failed the victims of the tsunami catastrophe by sending bureaucrats instead of food, assessment teams instead of rescue teams, and issuing reports instead of relief aid checks
Now, the US is one of 170+ countries in the UN. Add our most steadfast allies in these past four years—Great Britain, Australia, and Israel—and realize that these four countries, a mere 2% of the members in the UN, have effectively dealt with these four crises instead of (but with much hindrance from) the UN. In other words, pooling national resources under the UN has a negative impact on effectiveness. In these crises, four pieces are greater than the whole; the UN provided no synergy, no ‘bonus’ for coordinating the efforts of member entities. This means the UN is actually a drain on members who actually want results in response to various crises.

An interesting corollary is that the UN is particularly rewarding for members who want the opposite, i.e., a lack of international response to a crisis somewhere. It’s not hard to guess which kind of a member the Taliban’s Afghanistan or Sadaam’s Iraq would be, and I suppose that answers the question I asked earlier: the world puts up with the UN because there are sufficient members out there, motivated by greed or powerlust, who desire ineffective solutions for the world’s problems.

I suppose a better question to ask is this: why does the US still tolerate the UN?

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Thought for the day

Snow is God's way of saying "Stay inside stupid!"

Whither the UN?

It’s been about a week and a half since the tsunami hit Southeast Asia, and the noble UN’s massive relief effort is nowhere to be found, as noted by Mark Steyn and the Diplomad. (Whoever the Diplomad is, he should be getting some kind of an award for on-the-ground reporting of the real facts of the matter; fisking the ridiculous UN press releases is easy enough, but having eye witnesses to the UN’s colossal failure is invaluable.) Oh sure, they’re out there issuing reports by the truckload, flying over areas in borroed airplanes and nodding grimly at things and assessing. I guess someone has to be out there to confirm that: “Yep, it’s pretty bad down there. Check the box next to ‘very bad conditions’ and fly me home.”

But America, Australia, Israel, Singapore, and Japan took the initiative and immediately deployed to the region. They were out there, saving lives, while the UN held committees to decide which bureaucrats to send to 5-star hotels to haggle over catering services. By the time the UN got one of their vaunted ‘assessment teams’ on site, the US had scrambled entire naval groups to deliver food, water, and medicine to remote villages the UN will never even hear of. Tsunami victims everywhere should thank whatever god they pray to that the USA is the wealthy world superpower, and not the bureaucratic disaster headed by Kofi Anan.


So the UN has proven it can’t deal with dictators and terrorism; it can’t stop genocide or massive human rights violations; and now it can’t materially help victims of a trans-national catastrophe. They’re 0 for 3 in the past 4 years—quite a short time to show you’re a complete failure by your own chartered standards. In the near future, after the tsunami crisis has passed, the obvious question must be asked: why does the world still put up with the UN?

Monday, January 03, 2005

Foreshadowing?

Well, I'm back after a much-needed Christmas break, during which I didn't have ready access to the Net, so posts went into a notepad instead. I guess it's not a blog post if you had to actually write it with a pen and paper (how quaint!), so they'll stay there.

I don't really have anything new to add to the blogosphere's discussion and coverage of the Asian tsunami catastrophe. . . but I'd like to indulge in a bit of irresponsible speculation.
Instapundit mentions that Jeb Bush is heading over to Asia with Colin Powell. Call me suspicious, but isn't it a little odd that a governor was chosen to go with Powell, instead of, say, our FEMA director? Sounds almost as if the Bush Administration wanted a state politician to get some broader experience in international politics in preparation for something. . .

Now I know Jeb's said he isn't thinking of running in 2008. But you have the very popular governor of a critical swing state getting his feet wet in international waters, arriving as a messenger with hefty American aid backing him, to speak on a subject he's already an expert on (natural disasters--4 hurricanes AND a killer tsunami in the same year? Mother Nature, WTF?!?). If you were going to start a Presidential campaign, this is the way to do it.

A month ago, I made the claim that if Jeb Bush ran in 2008, he would absolutely massacre whoever the Democrats threw against him. All he'd need would be a bloodless formality of a primary fight, a platform of fiscal conservatism, and a few photo ops with his brother George W. His statement that he wasn't considering a run disappointed me at first, but now I think he's going for it.

Despite the risk of causing a premature celebration, I think I'm going to call it now:

Jeb Bush has won the 2008 election!