Ed Driscoll

Don Draper, Call Your Office

On Sunday, the dreaded discussion about Democrat branding and marketing woes made the rounds of the Beltway chat show hosts and their guests yet again. First up, the always objective and unbiased Christiane Amanpour, Nielsen-challenged host of ABC’s This Week, who dropped by ABC’s Good Morning America to reassure interviewer Bianna Golodryga, who — purely coincidentally — pay no attention to her own always objective and unbiased reporting — is married to Peter R. Orszag, former budget director for the Obama Administration:

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Well, Bianna, it’s the economy, as so many people say. People are feeling frustrated and worried about that. Unemployment’s still at 9.6%, stubbornly remaining there. It’s the messaging, Democrats admitting that some of the successful legislation they’ve passed and successful breaks and successful stimulus for many people, simply the message hasn’t got out. And the president himself told the New York Times that perhaps they were too focused on what they said was doing the right thing in terms of policy and not being as concerned or as attentive to politics and the politics of those actions.

On Face the Nation yesterday, Ed Rendell sounded a similar tone:

Two governors sparred over the message Democratic candidates are sending this election— if it’s the right one and if it is even being heard at all.

Governor Ed Rendell, D-Penn., started it all by blaming the Republican voter excitement on his party’s bad communication. Rendell said on CBS “Face the Nation,” “I think this administration has done a great job… We just did a lousy job communicating it. We let the Republicans, to their credit, out-spin us a year-and-a-half ago, and we’re paying the price.”

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, disagreed, “I don’t think it’s about communication. I think it’s about the product. They’re trying to sell something that isn’t any good. And what we have now is an economy that remains in the doldrums.”

Well, exactly. But note that all of the talk of branding, marketing and “poor communication” involves a president who has been compared by his acolytes to JFK, FDR, Lincoln and even Julius Caesar — and a Speaker of the House who was dubbed as recently as two weeks ago as “one of the most effective speakers in congressional history,” in a gushing profile by CBS’s Rita Braver. (Oh and Harry Reid…)


This weekend’s obsession with branding and marketing comes hot on the heels of Jill Lepore of the New York Times writing a couple of weeks ago:

Conservatives wish to turn the word “progressive” into an insult, in much the same way that the word “liberal” became a smear during the 1988 presidential campaign. Liberals are bad at labeling things, not least themselves, their political opponents, and their policies; conservatives are good at it.

Shortly thereafter, Joe Biden echoed those thoughts:

Biden, in the interview, called Republican criticism “phony” and said the Labor Department report “shows how wrong they were” in limiting assistance for states. He said more jobs would have been created if Republicans had approved an additional $150 billion originally in the stimulus and the creation of an infrastructure bank.

Democrats aren’t running on the administration’s accomplishments like health-care and financial-regulatory overhaul and the stimulus because “it’s just too hard to explain,” Biden said. “It sort of a branding, I mean you know they kind of want the branding more at the front end.”

As I wrote back then, Democrats, liberals, leftists, progressives, call them what you will, have control over Hollywood, academia, the dinosaur media, numerous statehouses, and at least until January, all phases of the Federal government except the Supreme Court.

And increasingly, based on the hyper-politicized ads we’ve discussed here over the past couple of years, wide swatches of the advertising industry.

So given all that intellectual firepower, (whoops, perhaps not the best word to use around the left these days, what with all of the Green Supremacists running amok), why is it that, as James Lileks recently wrote at Ricochet, “Ad people can make you want to buy Corn-flavored Ice Cream if they try hard, but give them a Big Issue and they act like someone who couldn’t sell a pail of water to someone whose pants were on fire.”

Fortunately, Tina Brown has a solution. “As soon as Tuesday’s drubbing ends, Barack Obama needs to embrace the theatrics of the presidency, however cheesy that may seem to him.” No really! It’s time for the return of the styrofoam columns, lowering of the oceans, and Lincoln-inspired train rides, I guess:

As from Wednesday, I’d like the president  to stop being so high-minded about avoiding corny symbolic theatrics and start playing to win. The absurd myth, for instance, that he’s  really a Muslim would be easier to knock out if he strode from the White House every Sunday with a big old Gutenberg Bible and marched his family—with the first daughters in adorable Sunday best—to the nearest Episcopalian church.  Back in his Chicago Senate days, when he was seeking greater black credibility, Obama was happy enough to attend the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ. What’s wrong with a bit of God-fearing symbolism of a different kind now?

Yes, by all means, Tina, talk the president into finding a church to attend in DC that’s the equivalent of Trinity United…

(But what would the neocons who bitterly opposed FDR in the 1930s have to say about that strategy?)

Update: Roger L. Simon responds succinctly to Tina: “It’s the policy, stupid.” And William Jacobson spots “The Definitive ‘They Didn’t Know What Hit Them’ Tweet,” featuring our old friend from the Washington Post and the JournoList, Greg Sargent, last seen standing at the crossroads between Obamaville and The Place Where There is No Darkness.

Oh, and speaking of Orwell references, this seems like remarkably prescient advice today for both sides of the aisle.