The Republican Campaign Playbook Returns

—An essay by our member, William:

If you have followed national politics for any reasonable period of time, you know that the Republicans have an essential gameplan which they bring out for every election. It is to attack the character of the Democratic nominee, on as personal grounds as they can get away with. Note that they rarely want to engage on issues. This is because, 1) they sense that the voters favor the Democratic positions on major issues; and, 2) their own candidates are not very well versed in facts, or the intricacies of complex matters. So, figuring that enough of the populace also doesn’t know or care much about real issues, they try to turn elections into some kind of personal popularity contest. Like, who would you rather have a beer with? Or who do you prefer to come into your living room and talk? Whom would you most want to be friends with?

Let’s look back some other recent campaigns. We all know that the attacks on Bill Clinton started very early. All about personal matters, of course. There were of course the attacks on any sexual peccadilloes he might have had. But the Republicans went on and on about Clinton’s draft status; how did he manage to not get drafted? The fact that virtually every single Republican officeholder pulled just the same strings to avoid being drafted, seemed not to matter. No one ever questioned them about it. But we had week after week of this microscopic analysis of whom Clinton went to in Arkansas; when did he send this or that letter, or stamp something in? Of course it was truly much ado about nothing, but it was all in service of the character assassination which the GOP relies on to win elections.

There was more. The “did he inhale?” nonsense. We heard about this on a daily basis. When a later Republican candidate had a rather clear history of cocaine and alcohol abuse, their people told us that this was off limits, and how dare anybody bring it up. And then there was this non-story about Clinton’s protesting against the war in Vietnam while in England. A non-story, but one which filled the airwaves. And then there were even worse attacks: right-wing tabloids writing that Clinton was running drugs over the Arkansas border; that he murdered people. You have never in your life seen any Democrat make such allegations about any Republican candidate, but it is almost par for the course for the Republican side. Do you remember the Republicans discussing actual policy issues during that campaign? No, with them it is always strictly personal.

Let’s move on to Al Gore, someone who had a reputation at that point of squeaky cleanness in private matters. Well, first they started with this idiocy about Gore not being able to choose the right suit color; vacillating; as if this were a metaphor for how he would serve as president. Then of course their main line of attack: that Gore was a fabulist at best, or a pathological liar at worst. “He said he invented the internet!! Ha! Ha! What an idiot!” Of course Gore never really claimed to have “invented” the internet; just that he had championed the idea. This line of attack then morphed into the, “He said he went many times to stricken areas with the head of FEMA. But did he really, or was he lying???” Well, the truth was that Gore had indeed made such trips, but sometimes with the assistant head of FEMA, so a distinction without a meaningful difference. But if one has a good memory for such things, you will recall that this took at least two weeks of the media’s time to gnaw on.

Then John Kerry. A bona fide war hero who actually chose to fight in a war he could have easily avoided. So the Republicans dredged up the “Swift Boat Group,” to completely lie about his war record. They made it the lead story for about six weeks, doing inestimable damage to Kerry’s campaign. People said, well, Kerry should have dealt with it head-on, and that probably is true. But that really obscures the point that people were blatantly lying about something that was very personal and even psychologically painful to him: his war experiences. And then in a more minor key, there was all this about Kerry being a “Frenchified sissy,” or something to that effect. And then who can forget his somewhat ill-chosen bur actually legitimate statement about “I voted for it before I voted against it.” That of course had to do with political tactics, changing a position on a bill which now had a pernicious rider attached to it. But this of course became another campaign diversion; once again the theme that you could not believe Kerry, that he could not be trusted, that he was a dreaded flip-flopper.

In every case, you can clearly see the Republican tactics at work. Make the public think that the Democratic nominee is a prevaricator, a liar, someone you cannot trust. Do this by dealing with personal issues and then trying to make them a metaphor for how they would act as president. Make the only issue of the campaign, “Our candidate is a good guy; while the Democratic candidate is a liar whom you cannot believe on anything.” In one sentence, this is essentially the only play in the Karl Rove Playbook.

With Obama, this line of attack was more difficult because of the racial aspects of his candidacy. Republicans feared being called racists if they were too blatant in their attacks. And John McCain, who has many negative aspects in his politics and approach, was laudably decent enough to discourage it. Karl Rove did not run McCain’s campaign. And the economy collapsed in September of the election year, so that it was virtually impossible to avoid talking about it.

But now we have Hillary Clinton as the very likely Democratic nominee. And we are clearly going to see the most vicious and personal campaign of all. The Republicans hate and fear the Clintons, because they have been, and still are, the greatest threat to their dream of taking over all three branches of government, plus the media, and thus creating a literal oligopoly in which billion dollar corporations tell everyone else what to do.

The Republicans have so far not even talked about one legitimate domestic or international issue in their attacks on Hillary. It is all about “her character.” And once again, it is the same dreary but unfortunately dangerously effective tactic: desperately try to convince people that they can’t trust her, just like they tried to convince the electorate that Bill Clinton and Gore and Kerry and Obama could not be trusted. “They are not one of us,” goes along with that theme, of course.

Now, I have followed Hillary Clinton’s career pretty closely. I don’t believe that she had one even minor allegation of questionable actions, or having been influenced by outside lobbyists, or any of that, as an eight-year senator from New York. Had there been any of that, the New York media would certainly have uncovered it. Actually, she was a very popular Senator, with about a 70% popularity rating, including support from many Republicans, who grudgingly had to admit that she worked very hard, and was very effective.

As Secretary of State, she was again drawing raves, even across the aisle. Until Benghazi, in which she was completely absolved of any responsibility by an FBI investigation. Loyal trooper that she is, she verbally took responsibility; but if any American bore any responsibility for that tragedy, it was certainly not Secretary Clinton. And she was not a Secretary of State who helped lie us into war, or whose silence was tantamount to going along with those who did lie; or who helped conspire to violate the Constitution, and ignore a Congressional Act, as everyone should know was done by Cabinet members in past Republican administrations.

But even with all this negatve history on their own side, the Republicans move ahead with their very obvious tactic, the only real one they have. Impugn the credibility, trustworthiness and honesty of Hillary Clinton; so that if you cannot possibly beat her on issues, you can try to make her unelectable. In this sleazy effort, they are of course abetted by their tools and dupes in the media. The “email scandal,” also undoubtedly termed, “emailgate” (ever since Watergate, Republicans who insisted that was about nothing, and that Nixon was unfairly pushed out of office, have appended a “gate” to everything, thinking that this would prove that Watergate was unimportant), is of course a completely trumped-up faux scandal. The New York Times, in their eagerness to push a story; and also to satisfy the NYT’s rather weird and obsessive hatred of Hillary, wrote a completely false story, for which they were excoriated by other media, including Newsweek. The Times never saw fit to retract their story on the same front page which had carried it in the first place. This utterly false story about “criminal investigation” has caused damage, because as every sleazeball journalist knows, you can get a lot of traction out of a lie, even when it is later clearly shown to be one.

But what the Republicans are trying to do is to simply keep throwing up these things, and hoping that voters will give enough countenance to them to cause them to vote against Hillary, even though they might agree with her on 90% of the issues. I can virtually see the Republican ads now. A screen upon which is superimposed black letters, which scroll along. “Benghazi. Mailgate. Whitewater. Vince Foster. Travelgate. How can you trust Hillary Clinton to be President?” Of course, the Republicans invented all of these “scandals.” After spending about $80 million of taxpayer money, Kenneth Starr had to admit that there was no Whitewater story or scandal. “Travelgate” was Hillary replacing the members of the White House travel staff, completely within the purview of any White House occupant. Vince Foster’s tragic death was seized upon by vicious crackpots to claim that the Clintons were murdering people and hiding their bodies. The point is that none of these show any lack of honesty or trustworthiness whatsoever, and in fact were invented as fake scandals by Republicans; but the Republican strategists think that mentioning these names over and over again will sink into the popular consciousness, as a kind of shorthand.

Believe me, this is all that the Republicans have got. This is really all that they ever have. They will not dare to run on issues, even if the media occasionally tries to get them to actually come up with some specifics. They will run against Hillary on personality; and the only way they think they can succeed there is by trying to create a narrative that she, an eight-year senator with an unblemished record; and a very effective Secretary of State, respected and admired by most world leaders, is somehow untrustworthy and dishonest. The fact that there is no evidence whatsoever of this has never bothered them before. That’s how they go about trying to win elections, like the misdirection and sleight-of-hand of a magician. But this is not a magic show, it is about the country, and about the dreams and aspirations of hundreds of millions of people. For the Republicans, though, it is just about winning by any means possible. So watch Hillary continue to talk about issues in depth, while the Republicans engage in their customary attempts at character assassination. Let us see which the voting public ultimately prefers.


34 Responses

  1. Too bad the media won’t ever call them on it. The media actually HELPS them push the meme.

  2. Another great post, William.

    The media sucks.

  3. Yep, character assassination has been the name of the game for the right for 25 years now. Ever since the end of the Cold War that is all they seem to do. Of course, it’s not like they haven’t done a bunch of crazy things. I would think Hillary would be able to aim the guns right back at them.

  4. This is sickening. Gov. Jindal just pulled funding for Planned Parenthood in his state. Is this a desperate attempt to push up his poll numbers in his bid for the presidency? Shameful.

  5. Imust, almost certainly. Sort of trying to highlight his brand, but of course in a thoroughly negative way.

  6. If it weren’t for the total repulsiveness of the Republican candidates, it would almost be amusing to watch their debate, and the way they desperately try to create a niche for their respective candidacies.

  7. Uncle Joe jokes, make that, flirts with reporter on the Are You Running?? question:

    This all seemed to start with that stupid column by Mo-Do and her so-called sources who said he was talking about it with friends and family, and of course the “Beau told him to” source. Anyway, this part was interesting in light of that article:

    Vice President Biden’s sister, who has led all of his past political campaigns, said Monday that she has not spoken to her brother about a run for the White House next year.

    “I have not had a single conversation with him about it,” Valerie Biden Owens told The News Journal of Delaware on Monday

    Things that make you go…hmmmm…….

  8. Great post, William. All of the examples you gave made me so angry at the time. I’m trying to be calmer this time around, for my health, but of course the republicans and the media are as rotten as ever.

    imust, Bobby Jindal is a nasty little worm. Fredster particularly hates him and is always posting stuff about how awful he is. Did you see his announcement that he was running? It was a film with his wife and kids sitting around a table outdoors talking about it. The lamest thing ever. And really badly filmed. Laker kept pointing out all the flaws in it.

  9. PSA!

    Stay away from fresh cilantro, most of which is imported from Mexican fields, which have been found to be contaminated with human feces and toilet paper. This unsanitary and downright disgusting condition is pinpointed as the cause of an outbreak in 26 states of Cyclospora cayetanensis.The FDA, after the horse left that barn, has banned import from all but a few approved processors. It wasn’t just sold to supermarket chains, much of it went to restaurants so stay away from anything made with cilantro.

    Filthy pigs.

    This is what trade agreements with countries whose filthy habits are not illegal like they would be in the USA. While we’re at it, all that fish you see imported from countries you don’t want to visit that have no health and safety rules, are also a cleanliness problem, considering only TEN percent of this fish is actually inspected before being allowed to enter our country and our bodies. Our food supply is being contaminated by trade agreements and companies who have taken their processing overseas.

    Every time I see an orange in the supermarket labeled from other countries, I get furious. What ever happened to Florida and California oranges??? Like, we’re not capable of growing cilantro right here….fortunately I hate cilantro, so I guess I won’t have to worry. But let’s face it, there have been all kinds of disease outbreaks thanks to imported produce.

    Thank God for local farmer’s markets! At least in the summer! I buy ALL my produce locally. And I buy my poultry and meats from local farms. It’s a little trip worth taking. At least I know I am not eating antibiotics and hormones and…..somebody’s shit. I don’t buy Big Agra eggs either, since the USDA turns a blind eye to their filthy habits right here in the USA. You will recall that massive recall of eggs last year.

    While you’re at it, frozen veggies do seem to be safer…..until you read the bag and find out some of those bags aren’t from the USA either. I don’t know what the federal government is spending all our money on, but it’s NOT food safety.

    Between Frankenfood and imports from filthy places, this is getting more repulsive by the day. Our government is owned by Big Agra that lines their pockets. All of them. Our government fails us daily with food imports and frankenfood. THe USDA is taken over by appointees from Monsanto, there is nowhere to turn but to your own devices. Stay local!!!

  10. Speaking of cilantro. I have tried growing it and it has died on me every time.

  11. Ga6thDem, it might need some Mexican fertilizer!

  12. Up, even before NAFTA, we imported produce from Mexico. They wouldn’t import our stuff. Gotta protect their consumers, doncha know. Lol.

  13. Of course, Mexican government is really protecting wealthy growers which is why they don’t force them to provide toilets and basic sanitation. Consumers and workers be damned!

  14. Thank you for an excellent post William.
    Uppity at 2am, telling it always as it is.
    By the by, are you a night-crawler?

  15. Annie and bellecat, thank you.

    I completely agree about the dangers of foreigh grown foods. I had to skip over some of Uppity’s comments about it so as not to get really upset. I think that the best thing to do, if it is feasible for one, is to go to local farmers’ markets where they have to show that they are growing their own produce. It may be xenophobic of me, but if I see that something in a store is grown in Mexico or any south of the border country, I will not buy it. And they try to trick you, too; they will sometimes say in the big stores, “Product of USA and Mexico.” To me, that means that they were grown in Mexico and sold here. Jerks. And then, and it depresses me to even think about it, there was an initiative on the CA ballot a couple of years ago to compel the labeling of any foodstuffs which were genetically ehhanced. And of course Monsanto spent $90 million or so to defeat it, by using the depressingly effective methods of scaring people that their taxes would go up; and it was narrowly defeated. And the less I think about that, the better. There is very little in the way of edible foods that I would buy in a supermarket, and that is a very sad thing, because we used to be able to trust those places. Something else for Hillary to try to fix! I have a lot of confidence in her.

  16. Annie, every time I see Jindal, I am amazed that anyone, even a right-wing nut, would support him. He is almost laughable. I remember several years ago when I actually listened to Rush Limbaugh for an hour, because the Republicans had lost the election, and I thought it would be fun to hear him get angry about it. Someone called and asked him who he thought was the most attractive upcoming Republican candidate, and he said Jindal. I had barely heard of him then, but I thought that this Jindal must at least be clever or in some way appealing to the dumber voters. But I think he is a buffoon, albeit a dangerous one, as they all are in that party. And he appears to actually be a bona fide social darwinist, having no concern whatsoever for anyone. Does he manage to get away with this because of his (Indian?) ancestry? He is like some “let them all starve” Gilded Age social darwinist philosopher out of the 1870’s, but less educated and articulate.

  17. Another theater shooting. In Tennessee this time. Looks like he didn’t kill anyone, thankfully.

    He was armed with a gun and a hatchet. They said he wounded someone with a hatchet first and then shooting began when police arrived.

  18. William, many GOP stars get kicked to the curb. They drop them like old newspapers. One day you are hearing (Rising Star) For President! Next thing you know…….crickets. These are major fickle people. They actually expect their candidates to agree with the far right to a tee. One ounce of disagreement and it’s over. Top of the list is Don’t WOrk With Democrats. Well now there’s an intelligent idea….great way to get NOTHING done. And nobody gets Nothing Done better than they do.

  19. imust, apparently the guy never shot at anyone, til the cop showed up. So they plugged him. Boo Hoo. You want to not get shot by a cop? Try not pointing a gun at him! Asshole. A true candidate for this year’s Darwin Award. This moron’s parents should have had oral sex instead.

    Now we won’t get to listen to (and pay for!) a month long trial where it’s claimed that his mother’s failure to tend to his diaper rash was a factor.

  20. Buy American. Start with food.

    85% of the food I eat is local from farmers that I know. I gloat when there are recalls. I suck like that. 😉

    Yes, it costs more and takes time to go to farms and farmers markets and still more time to make nearly everything from scratch, BUT I am not afraid of my food.

  21. By the way, cilantro doesn’t like it to be too hot, humid, or sunny.

  22. Upps, thanks for the psa. How utterly gross. I also avoid stuff that isn’t grown here, and I do check the frozen bags. I’ll buy frozen fruit from Canada. And products from Europe, like Spanish olive oil and Italian pasta (DeCecco) and cheese from all over.

  23. Widdershins has an especially good post up about the rethugs and their pacs. Lots of funny lines that will make you laugh, and statistics that will make you furious. Especially at the 5 horsemen on the bench, who unleashed this monster.

  24. One thing I am really, really looking forward to, if Hillary does win, is the consternation of the Republicans regarding the Supreme Court, which they have grown to take for granted. I do not wish for people to become ill or infirm, but I am hoping that at least one of the conservative justices retires. Of course the right wing will demand that none of them ever leaves until another Republican can be elected.

    If we do have that precious chance to pick the swing liberal justice, the strategy will be fascinating, if Republicans control the Senate. They will fight with every weapon to stop the swing. Will Hillary pick a liberal canddiate, knowing that he or she will likely be defeated, and then go for someone a bit more moderate? Will she pick a Senator, knowing that comity usually gets them approved?

  25. I know there’s no love for Rolling Stone here, but they do have a good debate drinking game.

  26. There’s a great article about Hillary at Huff n Puff, but the comments are so horrible I don’t want to link it. The people there are just cray cray.

  27. imust, yes, its the obots all over again. Now they’re the bernbots.

  28. I saw that, imust. Stellar article, sicko comments.


    Should we start a meme? #RandPaulUntrustworthy #RandPaulSecretive

    Nah, it’s just Rand Paul, who cares.

  30. The decline of the so-called Democratic Left into a bunch of unhelpful, bitter carpers, is a pathetic thing. I would love to see a really good article about the psychology of these HuffPost type people. Do they think they are accomplishing anything useful? Were they so gratified by the Obama tenure? Or is it just a personal game to them, like junior high school cliques?

  31. Happy first GOP debate day.

    New post up

  32. “I do not wish for people to become infirm or ill”

    You’re a better man than I, William.

  33. LOL GWM!

    Some of them ARE ill from the neck up.

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