05.11.2012 08:11 AM

Brilliant war room/oppo-y stuff: Obama’s move

I am a war room guy, and I look at the world through a war roomer’s eyes.  That’s why, for instance, I favour total warfare against political enemies (i.e.. always making sure the response is lightning-quick, using every means at your disposal, and twice as painful as the initial strike).  It’s why, for example, I look at Bob Rae with a war room guy’s perspective (i.e.., his tenure as NDP Premier of Ontario is too much of a disaster to erase from the public record, and he is therefore a wholly unsuitable candidate for Liberal leader).

Which brings us to the Democrats’ moves this week.  I was communicating with one of their top guys in D.C. yesterday, and they’ll never admit what I strongly suspect was the play this week.  But here’s what I observed, in Hegelian terms:

Thesis:  Obama announces on Wednesday afternoon, after an agonizing delay, that he now favours same sex marriage.  For a guy seeking re-election in a very conservative nation, that statement is not without considerable risk.  The story is everywhere.

Antithesis:  On Thursday morning, just hours after Obama’s statement – which the Dems knew the G.O.P. and their putative presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, were certain to denounce – a story appears in the Washington Post, detailing how a younger Mitt Romney was a vicious, gay-hating bully.  He led an attack on a student he believed was gay, hacking off his hair with a pair of scissors.  He used anti-gay slurs. The story goes viral.

Synthesis:  Obama is high road; Romney looks like a creep. Americans are much less indifferent to equal marriage than Canadians.  There, public opinion is split.  My hunch is that Obama decided when and how to make his historic statement – but he also turned to his Democratic war room team, to ensure that the gay-hating Romney stuff came out in the same news cycle.

Their calculation had to have been this: not every American favours gay marriage.  But most Americans oppose terrorizing, and bullying, gays.  The takeaway would have been: You may not like gay marriage.  But you dislike what Romney did even more.

On-point, swift and deadly: that’s good war room work.  And they’ll never admit they were behind it, which is also what a good war room does.


  1. Philippe says:

    I never linked both together (Obama’s position and Romney’s bullying) but it makes more than total sense. It’s too big a coincidence not to have been timed that way.

    I’ll say personally, regardless of the politicizing of it, I’m quite proud that the leader of the free world had the courage to come out in favor of equality. I don’t think that we in Canada have a sense of the intensity of the opposition to this kind of thing in the US political climate. It’s a gutsy move.

    I think politically it will be a wash (stats show a little over 50% of Americans favor same-sex unions). It’ll mobilize some of the opposition, but it will also energize his base. When ultra-liberals like Michael Moore are heaping glorious praise on you – you know your Liberal base is secure.

  2. Kevin says:

    Nicely done.

  3. Michael says:

    I have never worked in a war room, but I had the same thoughts. Effin brilliant.

  4. Ted B says:

    That’s so funny because as soon as I saw that Romney thing that’s exactly what I thought too. Classic war room stuff.

    It also boxes in Romney. The anti-gay vote is all Romney’s and he has re-invented himself as a hardcore conservative to get the nomination, but they still don’t trust him. At the same time, with the nomination in hand, he needs to tack to the centre. He’s a “Rockefeller Republican” and he needs to convince the moderates that he’ll be moderate. The moderates are much more indifferent to equal marriage than the Republican base.

    Romney would definitely prefer to campaign on the economy because he’s probably pretty split personally on the social issues. He’s flipped and flopped so much on social issues that he makes John Kerry look decisive. And Obama has forced his hand on this. And everyone will be looking at his response. And now he can’t even answer the marriage question from a reporter without getting an immediate follow-up question about bullying.

    The best part of this, and where it could have an impact even beyond the election, is the possibility that the entire anti-equal marriage position gets linked to bullying and the whole spectrum of anti-gay behaviour that is tolerated by the so many. We can hope.

    • Philippe says:

      It’s a bitch for them isn’t it? If you’re not hyper conservative, you don’t get nominated. If you’re hyper-conservative, you don’t win the general election. As much as the Cons rule the roost up here, they’re in deep, deep shit down there.

  5. It’s a bold and beautiful move because he’s reaching out directly to that set of voters, the independents, you discussed yesterday. And the contrasts between the President and the challenger are getting larger.

    – Mr. Romney boasted about being more progressive than Ted Kennedy on these issues during Romney’s failed Senate race in Massachusetts.

    – In the same news cycle Mr. Romney is on record as accepting credit for saving the auto-industry, claiming the President eventually came around to his idea. The bankruptcy Romney favoured was very different than what actually happened. The analysts all say the auto industry and the suppliers would have been decimated if the Obama government had not first stepped in to assist.

    We have to invent a new way to describe this kind of flip-flopping. Etch-a-Sketch is too kind.

  6. Ottawacon says:

    So do you reckon the Biden ‘tell’ was a gaffe, or recon?

  7. Lance says:

    Yeah, its a risk, but sometimes you have to take a bigger risk if you want a bigger reward. Good leaders know that you have to take bold risks and put your balls on the line sometimes. To me, that alone is worth a few points and says a lot about a politican. Guys like Chretien and Harper understand this.

    • Michael says:

      Bold risks, balls on the line?

      You can’t be referring to Stephen “I never met a group I don’t want to micro target and give a tax credit to” Harper.

  8. Liam says:

    A nice play for sure, but some of it feels like making a lucky three-pointer out of a busted play.

    I can’t recall where I read it, but somewhere wrote that they wanted to dothis in the summer in a, quote, “Bartlet-esque” inspirational moment, but they had to get out ahead of Biden having opened the door on the weekend. Also, the North Carolina thing played out serendipitously to allow Obama to provide a nice counterpoint to that unfortunate business. I’m not entirely unconvinced that the Romney-as-bully thing was part of the plan – that one almost feels like the media outlet dropping a story they had in their quiver to most comfortably fit into the news cycle.

    All that said, you still take the three points, and good rapid responders still absolutely have to know how to roll with the punches (to mix my sports metaphors). All in all, a solid play.

  9. dave says:

    It suggests a war room either knows how to manipulate our obeisant mainstream media, or maybe even has good pals there. The war room would have to be sure the media (the 4th estate, which tells us that an informed citizenry is essential to democracy, and that the media is what informs the citizenry) will not dig into the stories it is handed.
    I guess war room denizens would have a view of mainstream media even more cynical than that of lefties.

    • Warren says:

      Not really. We don’t consider them as friends or enemies – just people who have a job to do, like us.

      They aren’t the only avenue for getting stuff out. We now target social media and citizen media arguably more than we target them. It’s easier, cheaper and faster. It’s also where most of the eyeballs are. Sad but true.

      • Jason Hickman says:

        I get what “mainstream” media is and I get what “social media” is (or at least, I get what they’re usually defined as), but what’s “citizen media” and how’s it different from the other two?

        • Ted B says:

          Citizen media = online, non-mainstream media, mostly individual reporters digging into stuff, even if aggregated or regularly contributing to a bigger online media site. Like a lot of the bloggers or journalists who do independent research and reporting either on their own sites or at sites like Pajamas Media or Huffington Post. It would include some “citizen journalists” that are now quite big in their own right like Breitbart or Drudge.

      • dave says:

        Right – I can see focus on social and message boards and such. I imagine a problem would be to disguise the messages so as to look like involved citizens, rather than like political party or lobby group employees.

  10. Mulletaur says:


  11. William says:

    O’s announcement also follows quickly on heels of gay member of Romney’s staff quitting.


    • frmr disgruntled Con now Happy Lib says:

      Any self-respecting LBGT(closeted or no) who remains in the Romney camp(are there any Log cabin Republicans left?) should skedaddle after Thursday’s announcement……hopefully, they will……

  12. Tiger says:

    Of course it was the war room at work.

    Re Biden — maybe it was intentionally done, maybe not. A smart war room would know to work with Biden’s reputation as a motor-mouth, and go with it.

    And there go another few days when the press won’t be talking about the president’s economic record.

    So yeah, it’s a tactical win.

  13. Warren says:

    Have wasted too much psychic energy on that front, sir. I’ve moved on.

    • Chris P says:

      WHAT? That’s not what you told me when I remind you via your book that failure to come back and fight allows the cons to win which take money from and support BIG tobacco. What kinda soft punk rocker are you?

  14. A. Cynic says:

    Mr. WK, thanks for the War Room insight.

    Back to our home turf, do you know if the LPC has a war room, if so, what are they doing? Or, are they still in the wilderness wondering what happened.

    Your insight to this will be greatly appreciated.

    • Chris P says:

      Can we clone you? Seriously reconsider. What do we have to do to convince you that what Canada is facing is bigger than you or I?

  15. Philip says:

    What I love about this topic is: somewhere, on a dirt road in central Alberta, Mr. Tulk is alternately screaming at his iPad and banging his head on the steering wheel in frustration at not being able to comment. That makes me smile.

    • Michael says:

      I think he is also eating a burrito. 😉

    • Philip says:

      Absolutely. Mr. Tulk was his own worst enemy on this site. His Tulkisms would have been epic, as this particular topic would have pressed every one of his strange buttons.

  16. gray says:

    I didn’t see it as far as this, but as Obama’s team has been very proactive- no swift boating for them – it makes sense.

    I just thought it was to keep the culture wars in the news cycle – remember the contraception issue – where the mouth wing nuts rage and Obama picks up undecided moderate votes.

  17. Lord Kitchener says:

    Messina´s stock doubled for me on this one — now that is tacking an issue.

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