Monday, May 29, 2006

The Road to Hell; Updated

In response to my recent suggestions that Jim Webb’s effort to win the Democratic senatorial primary on June 13 is perhaps being injured by his well-meaning blogging team, I’ve been told I’m misunderstanding their “passion.” They say, again and again, they are “working hard.”

Hey, “working hard” and “working smart” are two different things. And, only in a pretend world do good intentions trump all other concerns. Mistakes are made in campaigns, contests are lost because of them. Passion and hard work can easily be pissed away by bad strategy, or even bad execution of a good strategy.

The old saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” is one Webb’s so-called “passionate” bloggers ought to think about, long and hard. Commitment and elbow grease hardly justify mistakes. It’s simple -- I’m saying mistakes have been/are being made by the Webb camp. The difference is I’m not waiting until it’s over just to say, “I told you so.”

No. I want Webb to win, so I’m sounding an alarm now, while it could still do some good.

Sorry if feathers are getting ruffled, I’m just tired of Democrats losing elections because they can’t get out of their own way. Remember when Howard Dean’s nomination was inevitable? And, there was no shortage of passion there. What a crock that was!

Before it’s too late, Webb’s strategists and even his self-styled bloggers need to step outside the “echo chamber” and see what’s true in the real world.

Update:

Perhaps I haven’t made this point as well as I should have in my previous efforts to throw a penalty flag at the busy bloggers for Webb: When you try to sell your man as “different” from the rest, you can’t then package him as the “same” as the rest. A lot of people intuitively understand style better than they do ideology.

OK, negative campaigning didn’t start in 2006. I know most “experts” see it as necessary. Conveniently, that advice keeps them busy slinging mud for hire. Conflict of interest? You bet.

But in 2006 millions of people outside of the world of spin-to-win absolutely detest that style. They are way tired of it, and that works to keeps turnouts low. Many have turned their backs on politics forever. Still, others may now be so worried about the way the bumbling Republicans are running the show, they’re paying attention to politics again. They are shopping for a fresh face, a thinks-for-himself candidate, less caught up in the same ol' same ol'.

That’s exactly the profile of the voter Jim Webb must have on his bandwagon to beat Harris Miller, and then be a viable challenge to George Allen. And, to best an opponent -- especially one with more money and connections -- you can’t use the same mean-spirited style he does and then convince that independent voter you are different. Different from what?

For Webb to win he has to seem like an obvious breath of fresh air, not the bad air of spin doctors screaming that their opponent is “EVIL.” Webb’s bloggers may be having a lot of fun dishing smelly mud at Miller, playing a game of zingers.

My point is they are overlooking who else might be catching a whiff of it.

Perhaps Webb’s strong suit is the powerful sense of dignity he projects. That’s something you can’t buy. Few politicians today have that. I can’t grasp why his handlers and bloggers -- at least those who have any real experience in politics -- can’t see that angry finger-pointing and gotcha-last pettiness clashes horribly with their man’s persona. In my book that’s riding for a fall.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't think the Webb campaign belives you, but several of my neighbors now do.

We just returned from the Memorial Day parade in Falls Church. Besides getting sun burned (it must be 90 up here), we all noticed that Harris Miller and his wife and daughter were shaking hands and talking with people along the route. His supporters were carrying signs and passing out Miller stickers and flyers.

In the distance folloowing Miller's spot in the parade, we could hear the Webb supporters shouting "Harris Miller - Job Killer" on a megaphone or something.

By the time Webb came by along with his Jeep and supporters, the impression had already been made: Miller and supporters looked and acted like the were running for office; Webb and his folks looked and acted like they were either angry or on some type of crusade.

When I dropped by neighbors off a short while ago, they were still wearing their Miller stickers.

For my neighbors (and a lot of people we spoke with) this was the first time they had really realized or thought about this campaign. It was probably a lasting impression.

neo said...

Anon 4:19,

What a bunch of lies. I was there at the Falls parade with the Webb supporters (this was my first time with them by the way) and your report couldn't be further from the truth. Wow. It is no wonder people distrust blogs bcos anyone can go on blogs and post anonymously and slime people. This is classic.

I'll have more to pass on about the well-attended and pumped up parade today, but I'm hungry and tired now.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what you mean. That's what we saw/heard (we were standing on the right near the start of the parade). It was good of you to march in the parade, and there were a lot of people with you, but that's what we heard where we were standing before you got there. Are you saying that's not true?

neo said...

Absolutely false. I was there from the very, very beginning since I mixed up the time of the parade with another parade and got there very early. I never heard anyone shout the slur you speak of. Nothing. It was all about cheering for Webb and handing out candies to the kids and campaign literature to the crowd. I marched with the whole group till the very end of the march. So I was there from start to finish.

How do you make up such lies and look in the mirror? Its sad.

juandedios said...

Anon:

You said that the Webb people yelled "Harris Miller - Job Killer". But, isn't that what describes him? Wasn't Miller the lobbyist who got all those IT workers replaced, killing the middle class?

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess you have just confirmed Mr. Rea's point in his article.

I commented on what we heard. Neo then labels my comments as "lies" and "slime" and I can't look in the mirror. Juandedios then seems to confirm what I said.

I don't think any more needs to be said.

juandedios said...

Anon: I wasn't even there. I just asked the question: isn't that what describes Miller? Miller is the lobbyist who shipped my brother's job overseas, isn't he? If that is true, then Miller is indeed a job killer. Just asking the question, de acuerdo???

neo said...

"I commented on what we heard"

So we are supposed to believe whatever an anonymous poster says on a blog? Right.

I'm not even going to bother with whatever else you "heard". Its just sad.

Anonymous said...

Was that anonymous as in "neo" or anonymous as in "juandedios" that should not be believed?

Anonymous said...

Well I was there from beginning to end, most of the time, I was within 10-15' from Ingrid with the megaphone and I never heard anything of the sort uttered! It's possible that one of the more than hundred supporters said something to that effect, as an individual, though I did not hear anyone do so. That said, the report of that statement being uttered from the megaphone is a complete and utter falsehood. It seems clear that you are exaggerating what you may have heard one individual say or you are simply lying.

I do not think it is being negative to point out falsehoods uttered by a campaign or a campaign’s supporters. Maybe that is why this thing has turned so nasty; the lying. The evidence is pretty clear and convincing from which camp almost all of the lying is originating.
Ken C.

Info_Tech_Guy said...

I am very, very skeptical of all reports which paint Jim Webb or his supporters in a negative light. Miller and his campaign team have provern time after time that they are adept at using proxies to slime Jim Webb and his campaign. First, Miller hid behind Claudia Kennedy to allege some sort of sexism during his tenure as Navy Secretary about 20 years ago. Next, Miller gathered together some African-American elected officials, who, offered up quotes out of context by the Miller campaign, offered criticism/concern re. Jim Webb's views on affirmative action. Then, of course, Harris Miller has traversed Virginia claiming that Jim Webb is a Republican -- an outright LIE.

The entire thrust of the Miller campaign has been to obfuscate and evade direct questions re. Miller's recent and long-time activities as a pro-offshore outsourcing/anti-union business lobbyist. While these charges have often been made with considerable emotion and anger, the simple fact is that they have NOT been answered by Harris Miller or his campaign.

Now, as one of the originators of the "Harris Miller, Job Killer" slogan on my site, The Modern Patriot, I would like to hear Miller answer the charges and explain his more than 10 year career of helping corporatations to offshore outsource American call-center, high tech and white collar backoffice jobs. I would like to hear Miller respond to the charges that offshore outsourcing is based on lies that he helped perpetuate of some broad economic benefit of job outsouring to the American middle class. I would like to hear Harris Miller respond to the charges that the "business visa" programs he has long championed are based on mythical/false "labor shortages" designed to allow in foreign replacement workers and to facilitate offshore outsourcing.

Of course, so long as the topic of blog discussion is fixated on alleged "negativity", the Miller camp is not being grilled on Miller's on the issues I've outlined. It is clearly advantageous for the Miller campaign to encourage a campaign of disinformation that Jim Webb is "negative" because it takes attention away from the many misrepresentations made by Miller, his staff and his supporters.

Finally, given all that I have offered up for consideration, when it comes to criticisms of the Webb campaign or Jim Webb, I believe it's well to take this in with some skepticism... F.T., I think that you're being sincere in your concerns; I think you mean well but beware of the people who will attempt to "spin" your comments to the advantage of Harris Miller.

F.T. Rea said...

Info_Tech_Guy,

Thanks for commenting.

So, if I don’t fall in line with the Webb bloggers’ style and tactics, if I criticize their tone of voice, I’m helping Miller? Even though I’ve written several times that I support Webb, and I’ve not criticized his positions or statements. That, while I have written more than once I doubt Miller has any chance of defeating Sen. George Allen. So, I should worry that my words might be spun by the evil Miller forces?

Well, that line of thinking mirrors President George Bush’s “if you’re not with us, you’re against us,” a threat he aimed at individuals and whole nations voicing opposition to his launching of a preemptive war. It’s tantamount to saying, “you’re a traitor if you don’t do exactly as I say.”

My criticism has been targeted at what I see as a growing problem that could deliver a close race to Miller.

Here at this keyboard I’m not trying to get a thrill out of inventing a slogan a few people might chant. Neither am I not trying to join a fraternity, or be accepted in a chat room. No. I’m trying to wake up some Democrats to the possibility that the fire they are playing with may be burning down their own candidate.

I'm starting to wonder if some of Webb's most strident/offensive bloggers are, in fact, Nixon-style dirty tricksters trying to make sure they face Miller in the fall.

Info_Tech_Guy, what will you say on the evening of June 13th if Miller's deliriously happy supporters are chanting on television, "Harris Miller, Webb killer?" Who will you blame for that if it happens?

My agenda is open to see: I’m trying to get Jim Webb elected, even if I need to step on some toes. Instead of blaming Miller’s camp for making them so angry, instead of blowing off advice from a friend to Webb’s cause -- because you don’t want to hear it -- maybe some of Webb’s thin-skinned bloggers need to stop and ask themselves what they are “really” trying to do.

Virginia Centrist said...

I just wish you'd post some SPECIFIC EXAMPLES of statements that hurt Webb, with evidence that flocks of voters are flowing to the other candidate.

I've seen 2 anonymous comments (can't remember where) that indicated someone's family member had switched sides because they were sick of Webb bloggers negativity.

I find this fairly unlikely - especially considering that Miller's mail/tv campaign is also negative. If anything, these "Ohhh no, they're too negative!!" voters are probably just going to stay home...

F.T. Rea said...

virginia centrist,

Thanks again for commenting, but sorry, no samples. I will say this -- arguing with Webb’s bloggers is like arguing with one of those doll babies that you pull a string and it has five or six different phrases it says. And, of course, it doesn’t listen to much.

So, we both know no matter what evidence I might offer to support my thesis, it would be dismissed as inconsequential for one reason or another.

Perhaps there are shades of difference between one Webb blogger and the next. In truth, I haven’t kept a record. Maybe some are less shrill/more savvy than others. Maybe some are even moles from the other side of the aisle, hoping to gross out potential Webb voters, such as some who might read SLANTblog, or other web sites for political insight.

Some of my readers have been reading my published rants on politics for over 20 years and they aren't bloggers. Instead of dismissing that bona fide fact, why not think about it?

Bottom Line: I’ve made my point on this "know-it-all, angry bloggers" business. Take it or leave it.

Info_Tech_Guy said...

F.T.:

I did not say that your comments were without merit nor did I dismiss them entirely. Please re-read what I actually said.

I merely expressed skepticism about the charge of "negativity" and pointed out that it seems to be overwhelming discussion of important issues which have been on the table for some time.

Like VC, I would like to discuss "negativity" in the context of something more tangible -- examples. I don't discount the fact that there may be some comments or behaviours which are counterproductive.

I think that you would agree that context is critical to the perception of negativity.

In my case, please don't label me a "Webb blogger" and pigeon hole my postings. I came to support Jim Webb after I entered into a deliberate effort to OPPOSE Harris Miller. I have been fighting Harris Miller and his allies in the worker replacement lobby for approx. 3 years...

The Richmond Democrat said...
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The Richmond Democrat said...
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The Richmond Democrat said...

Richmond, Virginia -- May 30, 2006

Dear Terry and Fellow Bloggers:

I am writing this open letter to address some of the things you have discussed in an ongoing series of posts on SLANTblog. You have expressed worries about certain practices employed by bloggers who support Jim Webb.

In fairness too I think I should point out to you that Webb showed remarkable restraint while Miller began attacking the day after Webb announced.

Webb and his campaign stayed positive until the Debate on May 19th in Norfolk when Webb finally let Miller have it. The "Webb bloggers" you describe don't work for Webb, nor did Webb encourage them in their attacks on Miller.

I think it important to point out as well that not all the excesses are situated upon Webb's side of the ledger. Some of the most extreme language and false attacks have originated with supporters of Harris Miller. At least one of these attacks on Jim Webb was considered so extreme, so off base, that Harris Miller's own campaign requested that it be taken down, and it is very much to their credit that they did so.

All that being said, I do agree with you up to a point: namely that the language used by many bloggers needs to be toned down. I would like to remind everyone who writes or comments on blogs that Google stores a permanent record of everything you type that can be accessed even if you subsequently delete it. Don't blog when angry, lest your intemperate language come back to haunt you.

I would also point out that one of the least effective ways of counteracting an attack (by a Miller blogger for instance) is to respond to it in a red-faced, shrill tone. It is of no use what so ever to shout at a true Miller partisan: you will never convert them. When it comes to solving disputes, the "screaming" matches that pass for debate on some blogs are as efficacious as Cartman's version of "Rochambeau." Do not allow yourself to be provoked.

Recall, dear readers, who your target audience is: the undecided Democratic voter. A far more effective and persuasive way of countering a false attack is to respond with moderate language that fully explains all the facts and circumstances. Calling fellow Democrats names, using profanity, or any language that might be construed as a slur should be avoided.

For example, using an insulting nickname that rhymes with "Harris Miller" is probably not as effective as simply explaining that Harris Miller supports the unlimited outsourcing of American jobs, coupled with the unlimited importation of foreign workers to undercut the wages of American workers. See how easy that was?

Of course the rhymed sobriquets I've referred to are mild in comparison to much of what I've seen. That kind of language does nothing but gratify the ill temper of the person who writes it. It does not help any candidate, nor would any candidate I have ever known wish it to be employed on his or her behalf.

It is time to get on with the serious business of the Democratic primary. Take Terry's advice, and mine, and consider carefully what you write and where. Consider too whether your time might be more beneficially employed at a phone bank in support of the candidate of your choice.

Regards,

--J.C.

F.T. Rea said...

J.C.,

As always, your comments are welcome here.

OK, I realize the bloggers for Webb range from pro to amateur, from smart to whatever, from soup to nuts, like any group. Some are hired guns; others are total wannabes, still wet behind the ears. I haven’t made any attempt to keep a record of what has made me cringe, to cite extremes, or to name names. That won't do any good.

What I’ve been offering is a little tough love from a longtime political writer, one who has seen more than a few elections lost because the campaign backfired on the candidate. Rather than sit on the sideline and continue to shake my head at what I saw as a golden opportunity to defeat George Allen being fumbled, I decided in the last few days to try to make a positive difference.

As you’ve seen, if you’ve monitored the posts, I’ve flushed out a reaction that helped make my point: The over-the-top style being used by Webb’s most extreme bloggers is one that will piss off some number of potential voters he will probably need to win an election.

How big is that number? Let’s guess, because that’s all we can do.

OK, here's what I'd tell Webb's staff and supporters to do, if I had their ears:

Shift gears. Two weeks can be an eternity in politics. Just think what a ripple it would cause if Webb himself, and his staff, and his bloggers, suddenly all went positive -- poof! -- for that period of time.

From the bloggers -- all positive verbiage on what a splendid fellow Webb is, on how inspiring he is to them, and why. No more reacting to smears, etc. All positive, all the time, until June 13.

Well, it would certainly puzzle the Miller camp. It would also immediately be appreciated by the reporters, who would be grateful for a new angle to write about. What could possibly help Webb more with the apathetic and undecided than a rash of upbeat stories in the days just before the election, speculating on the possible impact Webb’s accentuating-the-positive strategy might have on the primary results?

Such a sudden, eleventh hour switch would be called a stunt. But I say it would work like a charm, because I‘m sure it would generate news stories. If it was done with no warning, it would not only catch Miller’s camp napping, it would make Webb look like a man who is in charge, totally.

Most importantly, it would make him seem “different.”

There you go J.C., free of charge -- a plan to seize the initiative. At the worst time for Miller, the story in every newspaper would be about the Webb camp’s bold and imaginative June-Surprise.

Thanks again for writing. I hope I’ll see you at the Blogger Summit.

Anonymous said...

Terry,
You make many excellent points. Yet, as ITG points out, it has been Miller who has been constantly negative. Miller started by metaphorically, and to some extent literally, by hiding behind the skirts of Gen. Claudia Kennedy. That didn't seem to get him much traction, so next came the "Henry Marsh Show". Miller had the audacity at that time to include Del. Don McEachin amongst his group of "Webb Bashers". When Don found out about what happened he immediately issued a statement from his office reading in pertinent part..."“Contrary to published reports, I have not at this time endorsed either candidate." It's safe to assume that the "published reports" Don referred to was the Miller posting on the Miller campaign site. If memory serves, Don's name was removed by the Miller campaign within an hour of Don's April 18th statement. Of course, today Del. McEachin endorsed Jim Webb.

You are absolutely correct that the tone has been too clamorous, but perhaps the memory of John Kerry’s non-reaction to his being “swift-boated” by the Bush-Rove Hate Machine is still all too painfully fresh in our collective memory. Yes, the tone is strident and “over the top”, but please consider these factors, a) failure to respond appears to be weakness, Kerry and indeed our country now all suffer together from his failure to respond, b) Miller refuses to “back off” despite having been warned to do so by Chuck Schumer, c) Miller has no alternative but to attack, he stands for nothing except a past that champions outsourcing of American jobs, he does make every attempt to hide his past (hell, you can’t even find out his true birth date!), and Jim’s supporters must show support by defending against the continued lies and falsehoods aimed at Webb from the Miller camp, d) the blogs and their regular readers all know where each stand, but the casual reader may not (true, that could be a double-edged sword). But my guess is that the casual reader might find the information about Miller’s past outsourcing highly relevant in making a decision and may find it quite different from the Miller mailings they have received, thus encouraging them to explore each candidate in more depth.

Finally, a prime example of Miller’s supporters following their candidate’s lead in spewing forth falsehoods was the anon report about someone with a bull horn yelling Miller “Job Killer” at yesterday’s parade in Falls Church. I was there, most of the time within 15’ or so of the “bull horn” and can attest it was a flat out lie! Either that or I am going completely death and though we are both now past our prime, I, for one, still have pretty good hearing.
Ken C.
Kenny from Joe’s in the Fan League

F.T. Rea said...

Good to hear from you.

Yes, I’m familiar with that list of Miller transgressions. Can’t say much to knock it down. I haven’t written much about that stuff, nor will I do so. I’m not trying to help Miller, I’m trying to help Webb. Boring my readers with that insider stuff will put them to sleep. Then they won’t vote at all.

A low turnout probably helps Miller.

However justifiable it may seem to insiders, to harp on such revealing dirt is usually counterproductive. Dwelling on it makes you sound like every other spinning campaign, trying to cast aspersions at its opponent any way it can. Zzz...

Voters just starting to focus on the primary don’t want to hear about a bunch of grudges leftover from the distant campaign trial. No. They want to hear something that will instantly attract them to a particular candidate.

Otherwise, primaries are easy to skip.

When I read the Webb bloggers side of things, both the rubes and the pros, what jumps out at me is they sound like over-coached witnesses.

When five guys all use the same phrasing to describe an event, using the same inflection, judges usually smell it. It doesn’t mean they are lying. It does mean they got their stories together. It makes the listener feel uncomfortable.

Well, that’s a problem in court and it’s a problem in public relations.

You know my background. I came from the world of show biz. Long before I began writing about politics, in the mid-‘80s, I was selling movies and Rock ‘n’ Roll to the public. My instincts as a promoter, as a plotter of schemes, had plenty to do with me deciding to write what I have on this matter.

To me, the image of Webb's campaign is currently at odds with his strong suit -- he projects dignity. That needs to be fixed ASAP.

I’ve offered my suggestion for an alternative (see above). You’ve known my politics for years, so you know I’m not trying to sabotage Webb.

Thanks for your comments.

Anonymous said...

Ken C -- You are likely deaf and blind if you continue to assert the following:

"Finally, a prime example of Miller’s supporters following their candidate’s lead in spewing forth falsehoods was the anon report about someone with a bull horn yelling Miller “Job Killer” at yesterday’s parade in Falls Church. I was there, most of the time within 15’ or so of the “bull horn” and can attest it was a flat out lie! Either that or I am going completely death and though we are both now past our prime, I, for one, still have pretty good hearing."

1. Several people heard that, and you know it. It is not a lie.

2. I'm sure you've seen the Webb comic flyer of the exact same theme (if not see RK or NLS) and download for yourself. Is the flyer a lie?

3. You surely know this ("Harris Miller - Job Killer") has become the last push chant of the Webb bloggers and commentors. Just scan the blogs.

4. And you know that the person who coordinated the flyer with the "Harris Miller - Job Killer" theme was the very person using the bullhorn at the parade.

Your continued denials confirm, continually, the original thrust of the Rea piece.