, 10.01.2018 06:38 AM

NAFTA: behind the scenes

Here:

Clow would not speak for this story.

But someone who trained him in working war rooms was happy to share some thoughts about him and the job. It was Warren Kinsella who brought the modern campaign war room to Canada in 1993, modelled on Bill Clinton’s 1992 run, and who also authored, “Kicking Ass In Canadian Politics.”

Kinsella demands three attributes from war-room staff: Keeping your mouth shut about the war room. Working fast. Doing thorough research.

These campaign operations shape news coverage by providing key components of a story, quickly, to journalists operating in a tougher environment of 24-hour news and declining research budgets: quotes, facts, and people willing to be interviewed.

“(Clinton aide James) Carville told me, ‘The media atom has split.’… You can’t just take (reporters) out to lunch and spin them and the story appears two days later,”‘ Kinsella said.

“(A war room is) basically a newsroom.”

It also provides a central hub so different offices are in contact, and don’t contradict each other. The Canada-U.S. unit includes the PMO’s Butts and Telford, Freeland, ambassador to Washington David MacNaughton, and writer Michael Den Tandt.

Kinsella was impressed with Clow’s speed, cool, and ability to pump out video content while he worked on the 2007 and 2011 Ontario Liberal campaigns.

The Trump mission is infinitely harder, Kinsella said.

Kinsella joked that in elections all his job entailed was pulling pins from grenades and lobbing them. This team must prevent explosions, while working with thousands of officials, multiple government departments, two countries, industry groups, one global economic superpower, and an unpredictable president.

The unit got to conduct early test runs.

When Trump complained about Canadian dairy and lumber, and threatened a NAFTA pullout, it handled the response. The Canadian side kept the temperature down; it responded to heated rhetoric with statistics and telephone calls, and things quickly cooled down.

“They can’t declare war on Trump,” Kinsella said. “In this situation you can’t throw hand grenades — we’re David, they’re Goliath.”

NAFTA negotiations last week offered a glimpse of the unit’s work.

The U.S. government began by complaining about Canada’s historic trade surpluses. Canadian officials were later in the lobby, handing out fact sheets showing a trade deficit.

“We used to call those ‘heat sheets,” Kinsella explained. He’d have his team slip them under hotel-room doors while reporters were sleeping, so they might shape the next day’s news.

“You build an incremental case,” Kinsella said.

“That’s how you win a campaign.”

7 Comments

  1. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    I continue to posit that soft-war war room tactics will fail miserably in this instance for several reasons: 1) this is negotiating with an Administration that we have never seen before. Their positions are not fact or reality based, nor are they in the economic best interests of a highly integrated North American economy. 2) As a political rank amateur, Trump is incapable of seeing the big economic picture and what is required to assure nationwide prosperity on a consistent basis. 3) Hardcore Trump voters aren’t about free trade, much less fair trade. They are all about a win for the United States that is so pervasive and one-sided — and the base won’t accept anything less. For Trump, for America to win, the other two inevitably have to lose.

    So Canadian and Mexican negotiators will quickly discover that this process is by no means a zero-sum-game for Trump. These negotiations will quite literally drag on for an eternity, unless and until Canada and Mexico meet hard-ball intimidation tactics head on with hard-ball. Trumps respects very little except strength. Go toe to toe with him and Canada has a chance. Fail to do so and we will have to walk away — and not just because of Chapters 19 and 20.

  2. cynical says:

    My suspicion, based on what I’ve seen so far from Trump, is that if you do go head-to-head with him, if you have a reasonable case and prepared ground (meaning that you can show mutual benefit, or at least a strong consituency IN THE US for your case, he’ll back down.
    In other words, he’s a loudmouthed braggart wimp wanker, and he’ll cave if you stand up to him. He’s too stupid and too uneducated in the ways of politics to actually use the legitimate power that he has.
    I’m not saying I’m optimistic, but NAFTA has to be about mutual gains, and walking away leaves things as they are.
    Does he need a congressional majority to abrogate NAFTA, or can he do it by executive order?

  3. David says:

    Trump could announce an end to NAFTA. The problem for him is that there are enabling laws in the US for the provisions of NAFTA. He can’t undo those without Congress repealing them. If Congress refuses, firms benefiting from the provisions would likely take the administration to court. As has been the pattern, Trump could huff and puff with denunciations but end up creating a big mess because of a lack of congressional support as well as legal actions in the courts.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      David,

      My sneaking suspicion is that the courts would be the least of Trump’s concerns. Take Chapters 19 and 20 for example. Why are they a red-line for Canada? It’s more about process than end result. Haven’t we won before NAFTA panels (along with at the WTO) at least twenty times, only to have the rulings continually superceded by Congressional American Trade law?

      Mulroney may have had genuine confidence in these quasi-arbitration mechanisms under the FTA, but that bloom is long off the rose as it relates to the NAFTA.

  4. whyshouldIsellyourwheat says:

    I wish the Trudeau government and their narrative facilitators in the mainstream media would refrain from declaring victory and how smart and clever they are before the negotiations have even begun.

  5. Gord Tulk says:

    President Trump wins again.

    By opening SM markets the LPC is admitting that the US/Trump is right on SM (as he was on NATO).

    Next up either another visit with the NK leader or the wall.

    The Kavanaugh hit has hurt the Dems badly.

    The mid-terms are just weeks away now…

    • James Smith says:

      Interesting insight. I guess by your careful analysis, the US will now be joining the TPP as they now get the same access to CDN Dairy as they would have with TPP.
      Oh, funny story about NATO, Canada should call more stuff “Military” like the US & others do, such as: Coast Guard, Veteran services Transfer Payments, Border Guards, RCMP, CDN space agency, CISIS, CSIC & some Medicare.
      You may be correct that Cry-Baby-Kegger may get to SCOUS by proving his lack of judicial temperament, thus shoring up his rep with angry old white guys & turning average Americans against him.

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