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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Perscription for Wasting Our Time

By Keith R. Schmitz

Would McCain rather lose our future to win an election?

We've all had eight years of our lives wasted with what you could call a pointless administration in charge. Pure ideologues who were out of touch with reality, and the recent scandal involving the Animal House over at the Denver office of the Minerals Management Service is yet another example of this smash and grab administration.

With McCain's pick of Sarah Palin for veep, it is obvious that this was not done with us in mind. No one in their right brain could argue that she was the best available person, but it is a wonderful gimmick isn't it?

Want evidence of the cynicism of the pick? The campaign is steering clear of any serious press probing that a real candidate would handle except for swatting at softballs to be pitched by the affable Charlie Gibson.

This is essentially what John Nichols calls putting her in a witness protection program. So the question is, so what if she could kill and dress a moose if she can't handle Meet the Press? There will be world leaders far formidable than this.

Former Bush speech writer David Frum puts its well on the NRO web site:
A question I am often asked when I give talks or lectures is: Why did the Bush communication effort end so badly? How did an administration that once commanded such public support end by losing all ability to make its case?

My answer is that the ultimate failure was encoded into the initial success. The president's communication team - of which (McCain team member) Nicole Wallace was an important part - shared the same disdain of "elites" that permeates so much of my pro-Palin correspondence. It was not just the media elite that they disregarded. (Who could blame them for that?) It was the policy elite too. When the president wished to advocate, eg a tax cut, he did not argue his case before the Detroit Economic Club or send a surrogate to Jackson Hole. He made a rally speech before cheering supporters. That made for effective soundbites and exciting images. But it abdicated any effort to make an argument that could convince people who were not predisposed to be convinced.
Here's the payoff pitch:
At first, this abdication did not much matter. The president was popular, the public was united. But once the administration encountered trouble and adversity, it discovered - it found itself disarmed. It had no advocates other than its own in-house communicators and the most committed partisans. There were pitifully few respected independent voices ready to join the discussion on behalf of the administration's policies. They could not convince, because they had not been convinced.

Speaking directly to the people works when the people are intensely engaged. But big publics pay only intermittent attention to politics and policy. When that attention is diverted, specialists and enthusiasts reclaim their usual disproportionate impact.

By that time however the argument may well have been lost among that portion of the public that is still paying attention.
In essence what Frum is talking about is we have been wandering around for all this time because the Bush administration never had the faith in its policies to defend them publicly.

I don't know about you, but I am getting too old for more nonsense like this. John McCain used to be a serious Senator after he got religion following the Keating Five. Now he is in the clutches of his ambition and it looks like from advice from Karl Rove on who to have as his running mate.

Cute and clever speeches may charm the disengaged voter and fire up the rabid base and bring a win in November. But this very unserious pick makes me worry about McCain's competence in other areas.

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