Newt Gingrich wasn’t buying David Gregory’s MacGuffin today. Some people might be asking themselves, “gee can I do that?” Yes, but realize the secret to emulating the persuasive power of Newt Gingrich and the late Andrew Breitbart lies principally in never leting the media set the frame. Never buying the MacGuffin. Notice how Gingrich took back the initiative from Gregory at the earliest possible opportunity.
The single greatest advantage a broadcast interviewer enjoys is control of the setting. You are on their killing ground, an enormous advantage. As Steven Zaloga pointed out in his analysis of combat between Panthers and Shermans, even the poor old M4 would knock out the Panther nearly every time if it got to bushwack the German AFV. By the same token, even a mediocre broadcast interviewer can break down a more formidable opponent by pre-scouting the weakness and going for it bareheaded.
Unfortunately for Gregory, Gingrich (like any good speaker) had a set of immediate action drills which allowed him to break contact with David Gregory’s narrative and reframe the debate in ways that were impossible to refuse. Gingrich contrasted Limbaugh’s words to Obama’s groveling on the Koran burning issue which he described as “appeasement of extremists while making war on the Catholic Church”.
At that point Gregory had to answer, even if it meant moving out of his killing ground right into Newt’s sights. And the consequences were pitiful to behold.
But if Newt relied on his tactical skills to get out of a jam, Breitbart worked at the operational level. His method was to prepare the frame at the level of campaign: the teaser, the bait and the shutting of the trap, never giving the other guy a break.
His approach to media warfare is reminiscent of the Autralian ambush of the 5th Japanese infantry division at Gemas. Accustomed to seeing British troops withdraw before them and unaware they were now facing dastardly and low Australians, no gentlemen these, the soldiers of Emperor poured over a bridge in pursuit as they always did, and were astonished when it blew up behind them. Only then did they notice the high embankments to either side of the road were lined with Australian machine gun positions.
But Gemas made no difference in the Malayan campaign; and perhaps Breitbart will ultimately make no difference if the one side fights according to the Marquis of Queensbury while the other like Kimbo Slice. Professor William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection says that only the Left truly knows how to wage “total political war” in contrast to conservatives, who should never stoop to that level.
When King & Spalding agreed to represent the U.S. House of Representative after Obama changed positions and announced that the Justice Department no longer would defend DOMA in court, there were not only protests against King & Spalding, but threats to picket and protest clients of the firm who had nothing to do with the dispute. The threat that clients of the firm who were completely unconnected to the dispute would be harrasseed was enough to cause the firm to withdraw the representation.
Similarly, when the new Rhode Island Attorney General announced that he would cooperate with the federal goverment in the enforcement of federal immigration laws, protesters not only invaded the lobby of his offices, they picketed his house and confronted neighbors about the issue. Dragging his neighbors into a dispute which had nothing to do with them did not cause the RI AG to back down, although not for lack of trying.
Which brings me to the present dispute with Rush Limbaugh … This total war, in which no one is allowed to be non-political and neighbors and clients become mere pressure points, is a dangerous development …
I would not be surprised to see a similar reaction from the right to the left’s attacks on advertisers, but that would be a mistake.
Why would it be a mistake? Since, Jacobson says, it would make conservatives “like them and engage in their tactics, although the temptation will be great.” It’s the same old moral conundrum: win dirty or lose fair.
So do you want to be like Newt Gingrich or Andrew Breitbart? Part of the secret is in their skill. But mostly the secret sauce is in their attitude. Neither wants an even fight. Even fights are for losers. Their whole being was devoted to struggling for the frame so that the enemy could do nothing but go down like David Gregory.