Monday, October 09, 2006

How to Keep the Foley Scandal Brewing

The Republican strategy for managing the Foley scandal has been brilliantly effective so far. For the Democrats. Since the GOP is apparently hell-bent on self-destruction this week, here's a quick abstract of their kamikaze strategy.

1) Keep the story on the front pages by quibbling over as many details as possible.

You have a scandal that's a pure loser. You can't possibly win on the big things. So grasp at every detail where you can get at least the illusion of a little traction. Well, it was e-mail rather than actual sex. Well, one of the pages was 18 by the time that particularly explicit exchange took place. (Legal, you know, like Mariel Hemingway in the last reel of Manhattan.) Well, what about Gerry Studds in 1983?

It's not simply that each of these claims isn't terribly powerful. (One of the former pages was 18 ... but the kid asked to describe his masturbation technique wasn't.) It isn't just that making these claims makes you seem out of step with the shocked and horrified audience that you're trying to spin. The real power of this strategy is that it generates more and more coverage of the basic scandal itself, "feeding the monster." The more petty counter-claims you make, the more often you can get the media to repeat the basic charge. Well done.

2) Make charges based on the facts that have yet to be established, spurring people to investigate those facts.

Look, all the facts that have been established are ugly. So let's just claim that there are some yet-undiscovered facts out there which would look better. What facts? We don't know. They haven't been discovered.

One of the key desperation talking points of the moment is that the Democrats sat on this information until the end of last week, and so that somehow they are really to blame. The beauty of this charge is that the people making it don't actually know how those e-mails got to the media. Making the charge is rolling the dice. And, as in bullet point 1), the charge gives people a reason to investigate the charge, keeping the whole mess in the news. Bravo.

The really brilliant plan is to say, "At least Foley didn't actually get his hands on anyone," and then "At least he never actually got his hands on anyone under age." If you can't confirm that yourself, some journalists will be happy to see if they can confirm or deny it. Won't it be a thrill if you're wrong?

3) Try to bring up the most popular living member of the opposing party as often as possible.

Absolutely, mention Bill Clinton as often as you can. Make sure all the voters remember that guy with the approval rating in the 60s. And while we're at it, why not bring up the old adultery raps on JFK and FDR?

And say "hypocrisy" a lot. This isn't just a scandal about a pedophile. It's a scandal about a pedophile who voted to impeach Clinton. So "hypocrisy" will be a great issue here. Go, GOP, go!

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