Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? Be A Consultant

I come here to praise James Carville's 1992 campaign, not to bury him.

Back in 1992, a fresh faced Governor from Arkansas named Bill Clinton decided he wanted to run for President. By his side, there was a Louisiana born and bred political consultant named James Carville who had a few new ideas about running a democratic presidential campaign. Bill Clinton won, and the accolades came in.

Carville's two big claims to fame from that campaign were the slogan "It's the economy stupid", and for developing an instant response war room, that would refute Republican attacks, and counterattack all within the space of the same twenty-four hour news cycle.

Praise was effusive. Carville had a brilliant strategy running Clinton's campaign.

Carville's star has rightly tarnished in the past few years. His romance with Mary Matalin on the 1992 campaign trail, his trashing of Howard Dean, his support of Hillary Clinton while praising her as an analyst on CNN, and lately his joint letter with his wife asking for leniency for Scooter Libby have all hurt brand Carville.

I would like to delve into the "brilliance" of that 1992 strategy in the eyes of a school yard child. Two children are fighting. One insults the other and says their mother wears combat boots. A typical child would say something like no she's not and you are ugly. A typical democratic strategist as a child would huddle back home overnight, decide if he wanted to respond the next day, and then come up with a list of points sketched out on graph paper about how he was so much better than the other kid. (War Room Instant Response).

Kids pick on the weak. It seems to be hard wired. In adult world in 1992, the economy was in pretty bad shape. People were out of work, and President George H.W. Bush seemed indifferent, had offended his base on taxes, and was trying to downplay the effect it was having on people. His polls were in the tank.

A kid faced with an opponent with a debilitating weakness would keep scraping at the scab. Showing no mercy, they would target the kid for being short, fat, ugly, red headed, with crazy parents, bad clothes and keep at it. A typical democratic consultant would suggest let's release position papers on 500 issues and cover all our bases. James Carville like a fifth grader, wanted to pick at Pappa Bush's womb.

In the Democratic consulting ranks, he was a genius. He did what a fifth grader would do. Can you say the same for Bob Shrum?

Better consultants please.