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Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Here I Go Again

Here's some rather obtuse analysis for you from TNR, which should know better:

We don't entirely agree with the reasoning behind Dick Morris's prediction of a Wesley Clark flame-out. But Morris does have a point when he says, "The Dean candidacy is the first creation of the Internet age. By contrast, Clark's is perhaps the last of the media-created candidacies."

A number of conservatives (and non-conservatives) have compared Clark to Ross Perot to foreshadow what they hope are the soon-to-be-exposed flaws in Clark's candidacy--namely, that he's a little short-tempered, nutty, and prone to conspiracy theories. But the real value in the analogy between Clark and Perot has less to do with the characterological flaws the men share than with what Morris rightly identifies as the media-driven nature of their campaigns.

If Dick Morris says it, you can be sure it's utter bullshit and this one is a doozy.

Here are just a few of Dickie's greatest hits:

"Eventually, France will cave to the U.S. position." - On the Iraq/war alliance, New York Post, February 4, 2003

"Republican members of the Senate want their own person controlling the floor so they can have an independent voice ... When they reconvene in January, Trent Lott will still be there for one good reason: The Republican senators don't want him to go." - New York Post, December 16, 2002

"(U)nless (GWB) starts this war on schedule in September ... he's going to lose Congress." - Fox News Channel, Hannity & Colmes, August 5, 2002

"None, none." - The Sean Hannity Show, May 13, 2002, in response to Sean asking if Dick has any doubt that Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2008

Yeah, he's the fucking oracle of Delphi.

But his greater "point" (and that of TNR) is total nonsense as well. All campaigns are media driven campaigns.

The greatest political media creation is history is George W. Bush -- not Ross Perot and not Wesley Clark. Karl Rove managed to get over 50 million people to vote for a brand name in an empty suit for president. He further managed to turn this ventriloquist dummy into someone whom over 60% of the people believe is a "strong leader."

The Republican media operation managed the media so effectively during the last administration, with tabloid style manipulation and constant spoon-feeding of speculation and innuendo, that it created an environment in which the line between fact and fiction has narrowed to the point that our current president can lie blatantly about matters of life and death while the “press” meekly stands by and treats it as a purely partisan matter.

Politics IS the media. Rather than this election featuring “the last media campaign” I'm afraid we are really only seeing the beginning.

As I have said before, I agree that the internet is potentially a powerful organizing and communication tool. Lest people remain confused about the massive influence of the internet on ordinary Americans today, or the huge liberal movement it signifies, it would do well for them to read the PEW center report(pdf) on internet usage and attitudes on the Iraq war.

If you make the logical correlation between liberal politics, an anti-war position and internet usage, we are a long, long way from critical mass.

89% of all Americans reported that they get most their news from television. 87% of internet users report the same thing. In fact, only 17% of internet users reported that they get most of their news from the internet. 64% of those who got any of their news from the internet believed it was about the same as the news they got elsewhere. 76% said they got their news from American network sites, newspaper sites or US government sites. Only 18% reported that they regularly visited foreign and alternative sites.

6% said they got news from sites opposed to the war. 4% visited blogs.

In the days before the Iraq war, internet users supported the war by a 3 – 1 margin. They were more likely than non-internet users to think that the war was going well and that president Bush had made the right decision.

54% of internet users had said they sent or received patriotic e-mails or prayer requests with respect to the war. 10% received information from an organization opposed to the war. 5% communicated with an elected representative about the issue.

By the same token, while it seems terribly impressive that an estimated 70.1 million watched the first night of the Baghdad bombing on the eight major news networks: ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CNBC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, it should be noted that the January 2001 Super Bowl attracted 79.5 million viewers.

Just the top 10 rated TV shows on prime time gain a weekly audience of about 200 million viewers, on average.

The fact is that most Americans are going to vote on the basis of what they see in the mainstream media and a large amount of that through advertising and quick cuts of news images. They are going to make a decision based less on specific issues and more on an emotional reaction to the candidate and the party. They are not going to be largely motivated by the internet, no matter how much we news junkies and bloggers would like to see that happen. That just isn’t the world most Americans live in.

None of this is to denigrate Dean’s accomplishment (or the draftClark people, for that matter.) And I see no reason why Dean cannot win a media campaign if he gets the nomination. His rolled-up-sleeves, straight talking approach and feisty willingness to speak truth to power is a very potent television image, if handled properly.

Because, let’s face it liberals --- it’s not his stand on gun control or balancing the federal budget that gets you all excited about this guy either. It’s his attitude and personality that turns you on.

That’s what I’m talking about and that’s how campaigns are won and lost in this country nowadays. If more people watched the super bowl than the opening night of the war, I think it’s fair to say that we’re going to need to run a “media campaign” if we want to win this one.

Not even “Shock and Awe” could get as many viewers as the thrilling contest between Tampa Bay and New York --- and that super bowl was the lowest rated since 1990.