After Michelle Obama’s homage to suburban Mom dances on Jimmy Fallon on Friday night, Michelle Malkin responded with this on Sunday. You don’t have to watch it, because for the most part it’s painful:
Malkin’s response time is great perfect – her video was up before the original had a chance at Monday morning virality (which was a lock because it was actually kind of funny). That’s good, but it’s where the good stops; Malkin’s video is kind of lame.
[Note: It's still better than my video, which is linked here. Oh, that's right, I didn't make a video. Duly noted. Back to the cheap shots...]
The problem largely stems from the word “liberal” in Malkin’s title. While factually accurate, it raises the immediate flag that this is speaking only to a political audience, the kind that will descend on the National Harbor for CPAC in just a few weeks. There’s nothing wrong with rallying the troops, but Malkin can probably do better.
“Better” might be a mock video response that substitutes the First Lady for the President himself, bringing Michelle Obama’s decidedly non-political and self-deprecating bit into contrast with her hyper-political, self-aggrandizing husband. It would definitely drop the political labels, focusing more on DC versus regular voters, rather than conservatives versus liberals. And it would have to emphasize humor more than scoring week debate points, because in videos like this funny is most important.
Malkin tallied over 65,000 views at press time. That’s impressive, but if her audience wasn’t so narrow, she might have tripled that. There’s nothing wrong with rallying the troops, but real advancement of center-right ideas isn’t going to come from overtly political videos that preach to the choir.
[Still better than my video.]
Politico greeted night owls and early risers to a fantastic article about the White House press strategy. The tenets have been the same for every President, controlling the President’s public image through strategic use of information - but no President has had the options that Barack Obama has.
Since great minds steal, anyone seeking to copy the Obama team’s strategy should consider three major points:
1. News outlets are no longer the gatekeepers for mass media exposure.
White House photographers have been commonplace in the past few decades; Politico notes that the current White House has made those photographs ubiquitous on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. That these channels exist allow the President to go over the media’s head, but without mass media branding they wouldn’t work as well.
Ronald Reagan and his predecessors faced three networks and a handful of national newspapers. Bill Clinton presided over the rise of cable news networks, as MSNBC and Fox joined CNN to increase scrutiny on the sturm and drang of partisan politics; online media helped increase that during George W. Bush’s administration.
Big News is now the victim of its own success. There’s now a general awareness of political comings and goings, enough that political topics spill into entertainment shows. And think about all the channels on your TV dial today. Quasi-news shows – like The Daily Show, The View, and the Today Show – now allow politicians to maintain visibility without getting asked hard questions. President Obama will have plenty of eyeballs on him when he fills out his NCAA brackets this year, but ESPN’s Stuart Scott probably won’t ask him any pointed questions about Benghazi or gun control.
(Sidebar: Wouldn’t it be hilarious if Obama did run into a tough line of questioning on ESPN of all places? ”So you like Duke to come out of the South Region. What did you think was going to come out of the south when you shipped those guns to Mexico?”)
2. Brand matters
This visibility serves to underscore a certain identity. Visibility in and of itself is one thing, but carefully selecting the outlet where you’re seen helps create a message.
Obama wants voter to identify with him personally, so sharing his love for sports on ESPN helps. Brief interviews to network anchors, fluff interviews on The View, and vague calls to action in the State of the Union all serve to underscore that he’s in control, but not so wonkish that he would be unapproachable.
Obama is able to pull this strategy off now because he is the President, has had two national campaigns, and is a known personality to most Americans. During his 2008 primary campaign, he had to create that interest by launching a campaign that looked and felt different from traditional campaigns – from the Pepsi-ish logo to the embracing of supporter-created materials. Sarah Palin tried to eschew the “lamestream media” in favor of communication via Facebook post – but her story was already written for her when she abruptly resigned as governor. Her branding efforts were far more traditionally political, so they predictably flopped when she tried to use non-traditional outlets to reinforce them.
Palin’s attempt to bypass the media is a good example of how a clumsy, ham-fisted attempt to mimic Obama’s White House is doing can backfire. If you’re running for dog catcher and there’s no demand for media accessibility, some of these won’t work; however if you’re the person everyone wants to interview, you can call some of the shots.
3. Working harder and smarter trumps media bias.
For decades – decades! – Republicans have groused about media bias. They’ll point to surveys that show reporters tend to vote Democrat, and they’ll moan that no Republican will get the same treatment as Obama.
There will always be folks like Chris Matthews who fall in love with candidates like Obama and worship them with an illogical fervor that gives cult followers a run for their money. But the creation of good coverage by the Obama Administration is more the result of meticulous work than a happy accident of reporter preference. The communications team knows where the President needs to be seen and how to make the most out of each channel they use. Backed with the currency of access to the White House, they put themselves in a position to write the rules of engagement – and aren’t shy about doing so.
Will [INSERT GOP CANDIDATE HERE] be able to create a carbon copy in 2016? Probably not in terms of outcome. But in terms of overall attitude, strategies, and tactics, a lot of what the Obama Team does is worth swiping.
Over the weekend, Outside the Beltway had an excellent critique of a New York Times op-ed from Helen Rubenstein, who was suddenly upset that she couldn’t siphon internet from her neighbors. Rubenstein is a Brooklyn college professor (thankfully of writing and not ethics), and apparently feels that she should get a service for free that other suckers pay hundreds each year for; OTB rightly calls her out for her self-centered attitude.
Buried in her complaint letter to no one in particular, though, is a hint that his is more than simply an op-ed from a spoiled academic who demands everything for free:
In an ideal world, the Internet would be universally available to anyone able to receive it. Promisingly, the Federal Communications Commission in September announced that it would open up unused analog airwaves for high-speed public wireless use, which could lead to gratis hotspots spreading across cities and through many rural areas.
In 2011, there may be similar announcements to the one Rubenstein references. The Obama FCC makes no secret that they like the idea of pushing broadcasters off the airwaves to make sure there’s more room for the internet. Their vision of the future would keep traditional TV stations on cable, but would limit their ability to broadcast over the air. (If you don’t use rabbit ears, you might not notice; if you do use rabbit ears, it would be time to call Comcast.) Wireless internet providers and cable companies would win; traditional over-the-air broadcasters would lose.
The sales pitch to the consumers will likely be similar in tone to Rubenstein’s op-ed: Wouldn’t you love for the internet to be everywhere, like TV is now?
Notably, the FCC’s goal of replacing over-the-air TV signals with internet signals isn’t due to a lack of available bandwidth, but because the segments used by television is the prime segment of the broadcast spectrum (or, as a former FCC official once described it to me, the broadcasting equivalent of “beachfront property”).
This is a Washington, D.C. policy battle where a five-member panel will determine winners and losers. Voters can expect both sides trying to drag them in – and whether or not she was recruited by the proponents of re-allocation to pen her op-ed last week, Professor Rubenstein has kicked off the fun.
(Disclosure: I previously worked at a public affairs firm that represented the National Association of Broadcasters – who, as you might expect, were and are very concerned about this issue. I don’t work for that firm anymore and NAB is not a current client. Sure, I sympathize with them… but they haven’t paid me to do so.)
Since I’ll be away for a couple of weeks, here are some of what pass for greatest hits when you run a two-bit nickel and dime blog:
- Why Apple’s iPad is the Sarah Palin of the tech world.
- We know it will happen, the question is how: my thoughts on integrating location-based networks with political campaigns.
- Have you gotten your bottled water, batteries, and ammunition for the coming American political apocalypse?
- Are you listening Hollywood? Here are three books about politics that would make great movies.
- My most popular post ever provided a warning Sarah Palin and other politicos about the dangers of engaging in a debate with entertainment media. (Think that post is popular because it’s witty and insightful? It’s a trap! Apparently lots of people Google Admiral Ackbar quotes.)
- This post has precious little original thought, but it’s fun to think about how past events like the moon landing would be different in today’s media environment.
- Best crisis communications expert of 2010? Conan O’Brien.
- From the baseball file: Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium and a Washington Nationals phenom’s possible career paths.
Erick Erickson of Redstate reports on a county council race in Ohio that features candidate Tim Russo. The twist: Russo was arrested and convicted in 2001 on charges of soliciting minors for sex – turned out, the minor was actually an undercover FBI agent.
But Russo has an ardent defender in blogger Howie Klein. Klein calls the 2001 incident “the most boring episode of To Catch a Predator ever” in a cross-posting at both DownWithTyranny and The Huffington Post:
Easily the most reactionary pope since Hitler’s boy Pio, Ratzinger didn’t have a problem with priests raping young boys– as long as they stuck with conservative dogma. When he ran the Munich diocese that was also the birthplace and heartland of the Nazism that he once fully and openly embraced, the future Pope had hundreds of child rapists and mentally unbalanced priests in his ranks and he never said a word beyond, “don’t get caught, boys.”
My mistake – that last paragraph was Klein criticizing the Pope and the Catholic Church for covering up instances of adults taking advantage of minors. It was written way back in those simple times of late March 2010.
Of course, Klein has a point – no matter how much you agree with someone philosophically, if they do something wrong that has consequences. Unless, apparently, it’s a political candidate Klein supports:
Russo has the sort of leadership experience Cuyahoga County desperately needs at this dangerous, hopeful crossroads. But local media are doing their best to scuttle his campaign before it really begins. Why? Because in November 2001 he solicited sex from an FBI agent posing online as a minor and was made Pervert of the Day for an entire 24-hour news cycle. Local media want him to pay for that for the rest of his life.
Clearly, Russo has paid for his crimes, but there are a few mistakes which you simply can’t pay off – and soliciting minors for sex is one of them. As Edwin Edwards famously quipped, the scandals which end political careers are getting caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.
Russo has compounded his crime with his own words, sounding more defiant than understanding of the reluctance to embrace him. “Bottom line, I survived it. Many would not have. That should tell you all you need to know,” he writes – just before asking for donations.
Riding down Highway 165 through the Arkansas Delta, I knew I was about to experience one of the timeless traditions of Arkansas politics.
For more than 60 years — there is some dispute whether it is 64 or 67 — people have descended on the little town of Gillett to participate in the Gillett Coon Supper, where the main course is the exotic meat of locally hunted raccoon but the real dish is the political undercurrent that is impossible to miss. Within this humble event lies perhaps one of the most important lessons in Arkansas politics.
Matt Lewis had a neat post at PoliticsDaily yesterday, talking about how the dreaded “24-hour news cycle” that has (paradoxically) made political discourse more pundit/sound bite-driven has also done the same for sports.
Here is just one example: Recent speculation on ESPN about dissention brewing among Favre’s new Viking teammates (some of whom are loyal to the Vikings’ former quarterback) reminded me of the never-ending leaks that flowed out of the McCain campaign and onto the pages of Politico — usually in regard to Sarah Palin. Be it a campaign or a football team, one disgruntled “unnamed source” can provide a days’ worth of material for cable networks– all of which need to feed a 24-hour news cycle.
A former colleague once called Washington, D.C. “Hollywood for Ugly People” – a town driven by a core industry (electoral politics) with many auxiliary sub-industries (lobbyists, contractors, regulators, think tanks, etc.). But there’s also a highly competitive streak, just as one might find among professional athletes, but among people who can’t do this.
Instead of show business for the homely, maybe politics is sports for the weak?
It isn’t hard to see that people are still processing this week’s election. That’s a good thing: quitting cold turkey might lead to withdrawal symptoms. Of course, the results mean different things to different people, meaning post-election analysis has been diverse and educational. Here are my favorites:
Down in the dumps? Ten reasons why you shouldn’t be. Fellow UMass alum and conservative author Dan Flynn has five reasons why he’s excited about an Obama presidency. The Next Right‘s Karen Soltis is looking for five positive outcomes from Tuesday’s results.
What happened? Like C3PO talking to the Ewoks, Colin Delany of epolitics summarizes the Obama camp’s revolutionary online tactics and superior infrastructure from the primaries and caucuses through election day. Republican online guru Patrick Ruffini finds that Obama’s appeal among black and young voters translated into 73 electoral votes.
Good for a laugh. Townhall.com’s Matt Lewis kicks off the long-predicted post-election GOP soul searching with a thank-you memo to conservative pundits who trashed McCain. But the best and most insightful summary of the election came from my brother Mike.