The Gray Lady’s Lizard-Brain Logic



Fact One: After McCain appeared before a lime jello and cottage cheese background in June, Steve Schmidt swore that he would never let the campaign embarrass John McCain like that again.

Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser to Mr. McCain and a veteran of President Bush’s 2004 campaign, could barely hide his fury in the coming days, as he announced — to anyone who would listen — that he personally would make certain the McCain campaign would never again embarrass Mr. McCain.

“Fun Steve is dead,” Mr. Schmidt said.

Fact Two: After the lime jello cottage cheese incident, McCain had Evil Steve Schmidt take over the campaign.

Mr. Schmidt traveled with Mr. McCain for the first part of the year. But Mr. McCain sent him back to the headquarters in Crystal City, Va., after Republican complaints about Mr. McCain’s struggling campaign, epitomized by that Green Wall episode.

Mr. Schmidt gave the war room a more central place in Mr. McCain’s campaign, streamlining its decision making so only a few key aides decide what is worthy of response and, more important in Mr. Schmidt’s view, what presents an opportunity to attack Mr. Obama as elite, out of touch and lacking substance.

Fact Three: Thursday night, John McCain was once again embarrassed by being placed in front of a green backdrop–made even worse because it was an image of Walter Reed Middle School that should have been an image of Walter Reed hospital.

Three months after Mr. Schmidt’s “Fun Steve is dead” declaration, there was Mr. McCain giving his acceptance speech at the convention on Thursday night. His backdrop? A shimmering screen of green, until it was switched over to a more dignified blue.

Conclusion: AdNags and Jim Rutenberg conclude that this represents great improvement and the sign of a masterfully competent campaign, all thanks to Schmidt.

In the three months since that night in June, the McCain organization has become a campaign transformed: an elbows-out, risk-taking, disciplined machine that was on display last week at the convention that nominated Mr. McCain. And the catalyst for the change has largely been Mr. Schmidt, a 37-year-old veteran of the winning 2002 Congressional and 2004 presidential campaigns, where he worked closely with Karl Rove, then President Bush’s senior strategist.

  1. MarieRoget says:

    The “we so meant to do that” latest explanation for the Reed Middle School pic is pretty amusing, too. TPM reported Rick Davis admitting the error that evening & trying to blame someone else for it, now NYT buys into the backpedaling? Even the Reed staffers & parents aren’t swallowing that, though LAUSD would probably like them to.

    Pale-lipped John Bush in front of that background looked like one of the figures I’ll be putting on the lawn to scare the kiddies next month for Halloween.

    • MarieRoget says:

      Honestly, my 2nd thought after the one that they mixed up pix of Reed Middle School & WRAMC was, “The hell? Did McCain, in his odyssey through 20 schools before landing in Alexandria VA for high school…did he possibly go to Reed Middle School?

      How his dad could have been stationed in the San Fernando Valley was a puzzlement, though.

  2. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    where he worked closely with Karl Rove, then President Bush’s senior strategist.

    Preliminary edits: “…where he worked closely with Karl Rove, then President Bush’s senior strategist, who was heavily implicated in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Mr. Rove has also been implicated in the politicization of the US Dept of Justice, including the hiring of Kyle ‘the Aggregator’ Sampson and Monica Goodling, both of whom helped implemented a process by which career Justice Dept employees were hired on the basis of political affilliations with the GOP. One other result of this misuse of the DoJ for political purposes became evident in the firing of 8 USAGs for failing to align their conduct and workload with the political requirements of the virulently partisan GOP BushCheney administration.

    In addition, Mr. Rove has been implicated by sworn testimony of an Alabama attorney for his role in the political persecution of former Governor Don Siegelman, in an effort to use Dept of Justice resources to ensure GOP gubanatorial and senate wins in that state by working with USAGs in the State of Alabama to bring charges against Siegelman, whose imprisonment raised such serious questions about politicization that he is currently released from an unusually long and severe sentence in a federal prison. Mr. Rove has refused to honor a Congressional subpoena to discuss this incident before the House Judiciary Committee, claiming Executive Privilege.

    Rove is also heavily implicated in the Abramoff lobbying scandal, which has yet to result in full disclosures and federal charges. Given the linkages between Mr Abramoff and the use of Indian casinos for possible money laundering on behalf of the GOP, additional unanswered questions about Mr Rove’s legal and ethical conduct remain a shadow on the McCain campaign that result in Rove’s remaining ‘hidden in the background’ while advising Mr Schmidt…”

    Okay… I could go on and on and on and on… but if I can do this off the top of my head on a Saturday afternoon… where’s MY paycheck from the NYT? Jeepers….
    Bleh on Lizard Logic.

  3. MadDog says:

    Conclusion: AdNags and Jim Rutenberg conclude that this represents great improvement and the sign of a masterfully competent campaign, all thanks to Schmidt.

    Some poor MSM folks never seem to get the perspective quite right.

    For someone who spent the first 1/2 of the Presidential election season flat on his ass, I suppose getting up on one knee “represents great improvement.”

    Journalists are paid to write, not evidently to think.

  4. WilliamOckham says:

    This is totally bizarre, but predictable. As Prof. Rosen has pointed out, the political press worships at the altar of savviness. Apparently Schmidt has built up so much savvy cred with the NYT that even the perfect re-creation of the disaster he swore to prevent (during the acceptance speech, no less) wasn’t enough to throw off the storyline.

    Of course, why would total and abject failure at your stated goal matter when that fount of savviness, Karl Rove, endorse you. Right after the quote from Rove praising the campaign’s success since Schmidt took over, the NYT gets really strange.

    Read these two paragraphs closely:

    Still, the campaign’s new tone has been jarring to some veterans of Mr. McCain’s previous presidential run who worry that the campaign exudes a cynicism that undercuts the senator’s old reputation for “straight talk” and a more elevated style of politicking. On a number of occasions, Mr. McCain’s campaign advertisements have been described by campaign watchdog organizations as false or misleading, particularly those attacking Mr. Obama on tax votes.

    And the level of aggressiveness and risk-taking advocated by the hard-charging Mr. Schmidt leads to misses as well as hits; it certainly stands in contrast to the more orderly, controlled campaign they are facing.

    This is the NYT endorsing cynicism and lying about your opponent as a campaign strategy. Losers tell the truth with an elevated style of politicking. Apparently, the only problem with Schmidt’s strategy is when he doesn’t pull off the lie.

  5. Leen says:

    funny you should bring up “lime green” backgrounds. Watching Amy goodmans program on Friday, she is reviewing the convention and the lime green background is up. So is the sign that the Vets in the upper tiers put up “how can you win an occupation”.

    The c-span cameras caught it that night, wonder if any of the MSMers showed the sign on the news?

  6. LabDancer says:

    Been poking around the Web some recognition in the established corporate media of the meaning Stewart & Colbert took from the RNC; no luck yet-

    After last night’s extended dissection of how McMaverik was replaced by pod person McBush, I do not foresee McPOW on The Daily Show again- certainly not before Election Day

    [which may do in the weaselly septegenarian scam artist*].

    It was like Stewart was sending a break up letter:

    Dear Senator McCain:

    I know some called you nothing but a common carpetbagger. But over the course of more than a decade of semi-regular guest appearances on my show, you regaled my audience with taking pot shots at our established national power structure, portraying yourself as someone we could count on to Fight The Power, and proved yourself anything but ‘common’.

    As I sat through that orgiastic ritual of anointing a leader based on who could scarfe down the most human brains, I realized not just that you were prepared to pander to them to get their endorsement, but that to become their leader you had committed to doing a full Zombie on the people of this country, betraying- worse: pissing on every single value you appeared to espouse, and it finally dawned on me: that whole time you were just lying. You lied & you lied & you lied some more- TO my face- IN my face- all to serve your lust for power.

    In the interests of clarity here’s a little poem:

    Where Republicans pander
    And Democrats nag
    You claimed to be different
    You’re just a douche bag.

    [* Mind you, I CAN picture the GOP machine having Sister Snarkya lift him up in her arms- I suspect she could do it- as his life force oozes out of his collapsed post-POW frame… passing on the torch to the Chukcheesian Candidate]

  7. LabDancer says:

    Colbert was even less subtle: right off the bat he brought up the Green Screen 2 and urged Colbert Nation to take a healthy snort of it & have at Old McBlood & Hypocrisy.

    And he replayed his classic first season interview with House Repod scum Lynn Westmoreland, at the end of which the Georgia Not-A-Peach reflexively thanked him, cutting back to the current Colbert, his face set in the purest, cold-running pay back to Congressman Uppity: “You’re welcome, Congressman”.

    My point in raising both this & the earlier comment on Stewart is that while the first was a 22 minute extended negative attack ad on McCain & this second was an invitation to YouTubia to let flee with the video bombs, both should serve to energize the 18 to 35 year olds the Obama campaign used to get the Dem nomination.

    I don’t do this as well as freepatriot, so I’ll put it bluntly: this will be a bloodbath. And hopefully put an end to the Rove Administration.

  8. Neil says:

    I don’t do this as well as freepatriot, so I’ll put it bluntly: this will be a bloodbath. And hopefully put an end to the Rove Administration.

    Nobody does. it’s his form. he owns it.

    • LabDancer says:

      Again, as I going boldly where all have gone before, in the manner of fdl’s legendary evilparalleluniverse, I recognize this stands to go MIA, but…

      Neil- I tend to take your comment seriously because you’ve posted so many good ones in the past you’ve earned it. On this point, however, might I suggest a bit more…uhm…nuance.

      The call-and-response dialogue format of the blogosphere still holds so much territory yet to be explored, but IMO there are also obvious shortcomings EG to get the sliced knowledge you often have to settle for short shrift

      [Bill Shakespeare, utility infielder, Boston Braves circa 1920…either him or the guy who wrote Richard III…..rt-shrift]

      [1] I see Rove as being:

      an icon for old saws like “standing on the shoulders of others” –

      in the case of Rove folks like Donald Segretti & Lee Atwater – indeed he seems to have taken on the most inhumane antiprogressive & politically effective ’strengths’ of both: IE Segretti’s rat fucking that is pure invention that is making shit up & IE Atwater’s willingness to find the message that goes right to the heart of the darkest part of the human soul to the point where the target audience doesn’t care whether it’s true what matters is someone had to scratch this itch that was botherin’ mah brainpan sumthin’ awful and by god that’s it EG McCain invitin’ in one a them darkies right inta his fambly

      “nothing new under the sun”
      “you can’t change human nature”
      and so on
      but importantly

      necessity is a mother- of invention
      necessity breeds
      in the case of Rove a motherfucker of invention
      the gross features of Segretti [who gave him his first break] and Atwater [who nurtured him] in Beetlejuice [his birth saint- or since he’s a Repod his ooze saint]

      You couldn’t kill Beetlejuice [He was already DEAD!]- but you could deal with him-

      in his case: say his name three times and he loses power.

      [It’s not the key to dealing with Rovejuice IMO, but it couldn’t hurt to say his name three or 8 millions times between now and Election Day]

      [2] What lies at the Heart of Rovejuice Darkness?

      [Besides lies of course]

      A lot of smart folks – those most immediately affected by the antics of Rovejuice IE Dems- have spent an awful lot of time thinking and studying how to deal with Rovejuice

      One strategy, the most common, appears to run through Washington DC- capitulate to take a stand somewhere else:
      thus Pelosi thus Reid et al

      Another strategy, which is really the old Vince Lombardi strategy taken into politics, and which is also a touchstone of Rovejuice- call it a fondleslimemould then- is: identify the opponent’s strength and go right at it – or grab ‘em by their balls and their hearts will follow

      One could argue that is Rovejuice prime directive- in fact I do.

      These folks who have studied Rovejuice realize that the model to dealing with Rovejuice is to go right at HIS strength, being:

      motivating the Zombie Nation base through hatred made of past disappointments & fear of an uncertain future

      intimidating the timids in the opposition through fear of consequences

      confusing the 20% blithely innocent thru generalized anxiety about change.

      Of course, our champion is, or has been, running on a platform of “change”

      [I say “has been” because now McCain is running on “reform” = change, and that twaddlehead David Broder even has the plaudacity to title his WaPo piece today as “Change vs. Change”-

      all to confuse as much of the 20% blithely innocent as can be confused-IE
      just about all of them]

      At the heart of Rovejuice darness is PARANOIA.

      IMO this is why it’s so easy to trave that the essence of the post WWII GOP derives from Nixon. Nixon, forced on Ike by the GOP party bosses, left to freelance his way towards building limitless never ending executive branch power, both observed and actively participated in the Commie In the Woodpile McCarthyism of the 1950s.

      And with a distinct advantage over all who came before and after him: among all Repod candidates, certainly since WWII, he in fact WAS a paranoid.

      That is, it was pretty damned easy for Nixon to launch a credible and unrelenting paranoia-based campaign for office and once in office to keep doing it, because he had such a bad case of it himself it was effectively turned from an Axis 1 disorder to an Axis II personality trait [See DSM V or VI or whichever it is now].

      So the strength to go right after is paranoia- which at the same time while reliable in the sense of being in everyone to some degree, is also inherently unstable in the sense of leading inevitably to failure.

      Thus Obama: Those Republicans are pretty darned good at campaigning, but they’re no good at governing.

      That’s not just a clever line: it hints at the speaker having an understanding of the essence of conservative authoritarian right wing wingnut Republican religiotic patridiotic political strategies.

      Thus David Plouffe- David Axelrod- Ron Hildebrand- all those who joined up with Obama on this trail, some of them a decade or more back:

      all with the same essential understanding.

      [3] How do you respond to a campaign of Rovejuice IE based on paranoia?

      Ad men [Mad men] know.

      Rule 1: a new brand. I don’t think we need to dwell on this- it’s pretty obvious with Obama and Hillary that Dems were finally inclined to go to a new brand this year. Obama was able to portray himself as being the newer brand, as it was too easy to see so much of the old brand in her.

      Rule 2: understand how to work da yout’ vote.

      What’s the dismissive Rovejuice response to this? That it’s all b.s. because in the end youths don’t turn out to vote in anything like the numbers of those who have got used to exercising their franchise for reasons other than personal benefit- in the end the older the voter the easier it is to motivate that voter to vote and the more likely that voter will pull the same lever he or she pulled once, twice or ten time before.

      And to use the unfortunate elliptic, I don’t disagree. However, there are times when the youth vote can be made higher, somewhat, and this is one of those times: a young new brand versus an old, decripit worn out jalopy. I don’t overstate it, though; though I do expect it will be overstated when the pundits come to punditize on the impending huge Obama victory.

      But the real gift to the Dems in Obama is that he and his campaign understand the youth vote the way attentive intelligent caring progressive parents understand parenting: talk to them like people, listen to what they say without preaching back or appearing dismissive, and always keep ‘em busy doing things.

      This gets right to the heart of the ground game. How come David Plouffe hates the two[now three] daily tracking polls? Because they are useless to him, useless to the Obama campaign, and useless to getting the Obama vote out on Election day. They are useless because they do not provide any useful information as to WHY those polled said what they said to those doing the polling.

      The only way to find out what the voters will do on Election day is to go find them, and get in thru their doorways and to their kitchen tables, and talk nice to them to remove the fear and ignorance factors, and listen to them talk, and go back again and again and again to check on “How YOU doin’” to show you care and you listen- and Obama listens. And then at the critical moments to each race you tell them: Hey, Obama has listened- so he’s going to do [fill in the blanks of what the voter wants]. And then the candidate and campaign come out with the announcement. I don’t know- a week, 3 days, two weeks, whatever time before Election day it takes to optimize the campaign commitment’s ability to move or cement the commitment of the voter to vote and to vote Obama.

      That is: the Ground Game.

      Related Dispatch 1: As Plouffe told Mark Blumenthal of Pollster and others in his interview on daily tracking polls, the Obama campaign has thousands upon thousands of workers on the ground and they are simply not running into McCain ground workers.

      Why? In part its because Rovejuice doesn’t work the same kind of ground game. Rovejuice does not whip the base into a constant state of red alerts because burnout results. Instead, Rovejuice trickles down to the base through talk radio, TV ads, RNC speeches, constant constant snark shots to annoy and bother and distract and maybe even cripple the opponent and in any event soften him up, and then about two weeks before Election day the base limousine service starts its engines at the same time as the GOP candidate and his campaign throw everything including the kitchen sink at the opponent.

      Corollary: Now, that isn’t working out so well this year, because the GOP bosses are having to spend so much time and effort hiding their usual funding in order to maintain a reasonable chance of supporting a not guilty plea to campaign financing charges should Obama win. In part this has shown up in the fact that McCain has gone with public funding, and the limitations that certainly don’t work this year, whereas Obama is turning on a no-limit [well, effectively no limit] tap of funds. It takes a lot of energy out of a campaign to have to constantly go get funds, hide them, tweak them, then use them in a way that isn’t going to necessitate an indictment, and it comes with a very high psychic cost to the participants as well. It can be exciting, but more like trashing a neighbors new car or doing a bank heist than anything resembling “inspiration”.

      Related Dispatch 2: Who in hell are those “thousands upon thousands” of Obama ground workers?

      Ahh…da YOUT’ movement. As above: give ‘em something to do, trust them to do the right thing, give ‘em responsibility, and they’ll do it out of love.

      It sure ain’t money, because the ground crew at the basest level is actually or pretty close to pure volunteer. Some get nothing because they don’t want it. Some get their expenses paid cuz they need that. Some get paid a little because they have to eat and mom and dad can’t send a lot of money.

      How many are there? We don’t know and the Obama campaign sure isn’t going to tell, but we can make some gross assumptions.

      First: They are not in every state. I absolutely tip my hat to the degree to which Obama & Plouffe at al have been able to pull off the so-called 50 state bull. As we now know the Obama campaign has concentrated its ground troops in 18 states [one ironically being Alaska].

      Two: It’s not obvious how those 18 states were chosen. Some are obvious: Ohio, Michigan, Pennslyvania. Some missing are puzzling, though not really: New York, New Jersey- after all they are the Dems Dixie. Some of the rest seem to have been chosen strategically well: Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado- others not so well: Alaska, but over all kinda sorta counterintuitively, like the Palin pick. Which was deliberate in part to catch the Obama campaign off guard.

      As were some of the states on the Obama 18. Exactly.

      But early on this year, when Obama had a lot of dough to blow, a lot of it went to ground offices in way more than 18 states. And meanwhile Rovejuice had no money to play with and no plan to deal with it. But deal with it they would have to…

      Corollary 1: Today it’s noted that McCain and Palin are off to Missouri to throw up sandbags. Score one for the Obama 50 state head fake. He doesn’t need Missouri. But he’s forced McCain to spend time and money putting out fires than might be real or could turn out real. Watch for more of the same.

      Evidence: I look at three sites every day: Pollster, Nate Silver’s 538 and Chris Browers & Paul Rosenberg & David Sirotta’s folks at Open Left.

      Open Left is about “what’ll we do now”. Nate’s 538 site is lively, stimulating and fun, but lacks some objectivity. Pollster is the most boring, as the most academic- but has the most data for insight.

      And here’s what I see: day after day of the corporate establishment media gawking and cackling at the national popular vote, in a contest which in the end- AND IN THE BEGINNING AND ALWAYS- about the state electoral votes.

      So today for example: Some polls are showing a tie, some are showing McCain ahead- BUT:

      there remain 260 Electoral votes in Obama’s bag or close to, and only 179 in McCain’s bag or close to, with 118 too close to call, of which Obama needs ten [10!] to win.

      It’s been like this all frickin summer long.

      The question isn’t “who”, it’s how much.

      So to end: how do you deal with Rovejuice? As you say, like dust in a desert home, it never goes away, because its ubiquitous. But you can deal with it. How do you deal with your neighbor’s paranoia? Invite he and his family over for a barbeque.