Sunday, November 18, 2007

Book Review

I'm about two thirds the way through Robert Shrum's "No Excuses - Confessions of a Serial Campaigner". For those who have never heard of him, Shrum is a political consultant and speech writer for the American Democratic Party. As a consultant he is hired to help out with an election campaign. He has worked for most of the major American Democratic candidates, including many who were running for President.

To start, let me say this is an interesting book from a man who is a definite insider. If you want to understand how political campaigns work, "No Excuses" will be part of your education. Shrum is a man of obvious talents, despite the somewhat misnamed "Shrum Curse". But what I've been finding most interesting about this book is its insight to the liberal mindset.

Like most ideologies, liberalism has its own set of assumptions and basic beliefs. For example, it is a matter of canonical truth for American liberalism that George Bush stole the 2000 Presidential Election. Shrum mentions this, together with an ominous reference to the Diebold voting machines being made by a man who was a donor to the Bush campaign. But it's not a thought Shrum needs to develop because every right thinking liberal knows Bush stole the election. There is no need for the thought to be developed because it is a part of the liberal corpus of truth; to be accepted by all the faithful without question.

But maybe the most interesting part of this book is revelation of dirty tricks by the Democratic party. In the liberal mindset, Bush stole the election and Nixon's dirty tricks were inexcusable, but Shrum is able to unashamedly point to numerous dirty tricks by Democratic politicians. If Republicans/conservatives had done the same dirty tricks they'd be pilloried; since the dirty tricks were done by Democrats/liberals they were not only justified but not even requiring explanation or excuse.

For example, when Teddy Kennedy was running against Jimmy Carter for the 1980 Democratic nomination, the Kennedy forces knew a certain area of a certain State would vote heavily for Carter. To prevent this from happening, they phoned radio stations in that area pretending to be from the U.S. National Weather Service, warning people to stay home because tornadoes were expected.

When Teddy Kennedy was in a tight Senate reelection battle, there were concerns that Kennedy would look fat standing in front of a narrow podium during a debate. To get around this, they dressed a couple guys like workmen and sent them over with replacement podiums that were wider, and shipping the offending podiums to the far side of the State were they wouldn't be found.

When Al Gore was running for the Democratic Presidential nomination prior to the 2000 election, they knew a certain area of a state would vote heavily for Gore's challenger. So they sent Gore, the Vice President, into that area of town with the full Vice Presidential motorcade, snarling traffic so that his opponent's supporters couldn't make it out to the polling station.

In another election, Shrum's client wanted to distance himself from Clinton and his character "issues" so they produced ads stating that the opponent had sided with Clinton on hundreds of votes. But as Shrum points out, most of these were procedural votes but they avoided mentioning this in the ads. Procedural votes fall along the lines of "Shall we adjourn for one hour to have some supper?"

Now please understand, I'm not criticizing Robert Shrum. If these are viewed as acceptable activities by all parties, so be it. If liberals and conservatives are allowed to play by the same rules, so be it. But what is unacceptable is the idea that liberals can pull stunts like this, but conservatives can't. I personally would prefer a much more above-board set of rules that define acceptable behaviour, but I thank Robert Shrum for opening my eyes.

In short, if you are interested in how campaigns run and interested in the liberal mindset, read "No Excuses". It's a good read and worth the time. My thanks to Robert Shrum for helping with my education.


Anonymous jgriffin316 said...

This is vaguely reminiscent of what is going on in Canada right now. Conservative faith based schools are divisive but Liberal raced based schools are not. Conservative in-and-out financing is wrong but Liberal and NDP in-and-out financing is ok. Dealings between Schreiber and Conservative party members should fully investigated but dealings between Schreiber and Liberal party members should be ignored.

We can also talk about AdScam, Shawinnigate, the Gande-Mere affair and others but I think you catch my drift.

7:31 p.m.  

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