hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Friday, June 14, 2002
Kurtz's article is on the whole very good, and clearly
shows that Fabiani and Lehane, though good guys, tried
to endlessly manipulate the news in ways large and
small, and kind of had political tin ears, often
missing the forest for the trees.

Just a small example is the "football game", which was
painfully hokey and weird. Somehow Fabiani thought the
public, on tenterhooks with anticipation (my stomache
was in bad shape at that particular point) would find
watching the Gores' play touch football without
speaking appealing, and Gore for some reason bought
into that.

On a somewhat larger point, they thought that the
phrase "Is he ready to be President?" would be
politically effective, when it was definitely not. As
a line it does not resonate or persuade at all while
making the Gore team look bad for attacking Bush

But Kurtz also overlooks some important facts and
questions, questions I would have like to have seen
addressed, if not answered.

First of all, he says the Bush team followed a "more
straight-forward approach", which proved more

However, he overlooks the dedicated staff at RNC
headquarters who thoroughly investigated and
formulated quite manipulative attacks on Gore (can you
say "inventing the internet" or "Love Story" or "I was
the one that started it all"?) and relenlessly
disseminated such "research" to the media. He also
overlooks that the Bush team may have been trying just
as hard to spin the media but may simply have been
, and more discreet, about it.

One example is the the negative Bush ad soon after the
convention, which the Bush campaign was supposedly on
the verge of running when Bush himself was said to
have stopped it, due to his great nobility, because he
didn't want to go negative. (A similar ad ran later in
the campaign, which somehow did not put Bush in a
similar ethical quandary). However, all the media had
for some reason gotten a copy of the ad, and it was
run and discussed incessantly on the free media, yet
the media still gave Bush credit for "pulling the ad"
and Doing the Right Thing.

Another example was the Confidential Rove Internals in
the days just before the election, when Rove shared
(just between you and him) internal polls which showed
Bush within striking distance in Illinois, California,
etc. In hindsight, it should be obvious that when Rove
was purportedly "sharing internal polls" with
reporters, he was actually lying to them.

Gore won those states by double-digits. The
conventional polls also underestimated Gore's lead,
but internal polls are supposed to be more accurate,
and any accurate poll would have showed that Gore had
those states locked up. Once again, reporters
credulously believed the Bush campaign, when in fact
they were being deceived.

Another place where Kurz doesn't perhaps ask the right
questions is when he asserts that despite the best
efforts of Fabiani & Lehane, the public "simply
doesn't like Gore". But that ignores that Gore's most
effective public speeches- His father's eulogy, his
convention speech, his concession speech- were
speeches he largely wrote, and where Fabiani & Lehane
in particular did not get anywhere near it.

Significantly, Kurtz's article largely ignores Gore's
convention bounce, making no attempt to explain it
except a perfunctory reference to "Gore's fiery
populism" But Gore's recent concession speech was not
populist, yet the public for some reason found him
appealing there as well.

Kurz doesn't examine this, nor does he ask Fabiani &
Lehane to reflect on why Gore's convention speech was
so effective, while their careful months of leaking
and massaging the news cycle had either no effect or a
negative effect.

Lastly, Kurz treats the media in the passive voice,
frequently writing "but the story lasted only one news
cycle" or "the story disappeared into the ether", as
if God kills stories or promotes others. But stories
are killed or promoted every day by the media as a
whole, presumably for their own reasons. What are

Just one example I would like to know more about:
There were numerous lies & exaggerations told during
the first debate, but I will name only two: Gore's
assertion that he had accompanied James Lee Witt to a
Texas fire, when he had not, and Bush's assertion that
a particular senior would get benefits under his
prescription drug plan, when he would not. Both were
clearly false statements. There was little ambiguity
in either case. Surely its a very important question
as to why the media focused on one clear, unambigous
lie and not the other?

Its important not to be too harsh. I agree with
Fabiani and Lehane that Gore should been more
available to the press, and I definitely agree with
Kurz that Fabiani and Lehane should have been less
obsessed with winning news cycles and been more
straight-forward and more concerned with the big
picture of giving voters persuasive, simple reasons to
vote for their candidate. Kudos to Kurz for once again
giving us important facts and an insight to how
campaigns are run.