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Warren Kinsella

"...[Kinsella is] a modern-day Machiavelli, the mastermind who ran war rooms for Jean Chretien and Dalton McGuinty... He's the ultimate political insider... [The War Room] has plenty of fascinating insights and is a must-read for political junkies."

- The Toronto Sun

"The top Canadian spin doctor...tells all!"

- The National Post

"Warren Kinsella’s new book is a must-read for anyone interested in political campaigning in Canada. And not just political campaigning.…I wish I’d had the chance to read The War Room before I became Stephen Harper’s campaign manager; it might have saved me from many mistakes and months of painful learning on the job."

- Tom Flanagan, The Literary Review of Canada

"The War Room is a rich, detailed, and substantive primer on how to run a winning war room - warts, pizza boxes, smelly couches and all - from a master war roomer."

- The Hill Times

"Kinsella has crafted a handy little guide for politicos and non-politicos alike. Just keep it away from the kids."

- The Winnipeg Free Press

"... a great read ... full of fascinating stories..."

- John Moore, CFRB

"...I don't want to say [he's a] genius...but there's valuable insights here..."

- John Oakley, AM640

"I just got one copy, but I plan to get more!"

- John Wright, Ipsos, CFRB

"I do recommend [The War Room] to everyone."

- Charles Adler, Adler Online

"He's Canada's James Carville...a must-read...If you really want to win, you need this book!"

- Tommy Schnurmacher, CJAD

"A fascinating book...full of great stories."

- Ken Rockburn, CPAC


...sounds like the title of an alt-country tune.

Mertl, by the way, is one of the best scribes around. A real pro. (And I think I spelled "testosterone" right, and not the CP headline-writer.)


Testostorone, caffeine fuel election campaign war rooms, say vets (FedElxn-War-Rooms)
Source: The Canadian Press
Sep 30, 2008 18:14

By Steve Mertl


VANCOUVER - The war rooms of the major parties in the election campaign run on a volatile mixture of testosterone, caffeine and sleep deprivation, says a former war-room vet.

They've inundated reporters with dozens of emails daily whose tone and subject matter sometimes descend to trivial, even juvenile levels.

They've also been stunningly effective, helping take out candidates from all the major parties by mining gaffes long past and embarrassing back-stories.

Soldiers in the Liberal war room notched a victory Tuesday when a Conservative speech writer fell on his sword, admitting parts of a 2003 speech on the Iraq war he wrote for then-Opposition leader Stephen Harper were lifted wholesale from one given by Australia's prime minister.

The plagiarism was unearthed by Liberal researchers toiling in the party's campaign headquarters.

Work like that gets grudging admiration, even from an old warrior on the other side of the battle line.

While decrying theirs as a weak campaign effortTom Flanagan, who presided over the Tory war room the previous two elections, saidthe Liberals still excel at putting research to work.

``Their ability to conduct and use opposition research, I think, is still as good as ever and that's probably helped save them to some extent,'' said Flanagan, once a key Harper adviser.

But whether the coup influences the ultimate outcome of the election in two weeks is another question.

``What a war room is supposed to be doing is incrementally affecting the coverage of their candidate and the other side's candidate over a period of time,'' said Warren Kinsella, who ran the Liberal war room for Jean Chretien's successful campaigns and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's re-election bid last year.

``What I always tell the young people I work with is there is no silver bullet. There's no scandal, there's no single thing that we can do that will win this election.''

The tit-for-tat warfare has been largely between the Liberals and Conservatives.

``We don't let any attacks go unanswered,'' said NDP communications director Brad Lavigne. ``When we get hit by the Liberal party's war room, we respond in kind but it's fairly rare that we'll initiate something against them because they're not our target, Mr. Harper is.''

The major parties' war rooms are set up pretty much the same _ teams of people monitoring banks of TVs and scanning newspapers, researchers trolling the web and writers generating news releases that land in reporters' mail boxes every few minutes.

They're staffed largely by men, though Jenni Byrne, a staffer from the prime minister's office, helps supervise the Tory war room.

That may account for the frat-boy mentality behind the Tories' pooping puffin web page that marked the first week of their campaign.

``It really does get a bit too much on the testosterone scale,'' said Kinsella. ``I do find when you have some smart women in there saying, `Hey, can we cool it and think about this,' it really has a levelling effect.''

Across their ideological gulf, Flanagan and Kinsella agree war rooms can get caught up in the daily firefight.

``There's a risk that you get caught up in the warlike atmosphere of the war room,'' said Flanagan. ``We tried to combat that last time ... I had the responsibility to sign off on everything that went out. I was sort of the final checkpoint.''

The famously ruthless Kinsella recalled instances where the war rooms stopped battling for voters' hearts and minds through the media and just started Blackberrying each other.

Sometimes the exchanges seem just silly. After the Conservatives issued a news release last week noting the Liberal election platform had the word Quebec only four times, the Grits dug out the Tories' 2006 platform to point out Quebec showed up there only four times.

The release was pre-emptive, said Liberal campaign co-chair Mark Marissen, to avoid negative reporting of the Tory attack.

But Kinsella said war-room operatives often feel the need to be doing something.

``They're like crack addicts,'' he said. ``If they've gone an hour without something on Canada NewsWire they start to get fidgety.''

The insiders admit the growth of web-based reporting and the increasing numbers of independent bloggers has spurred the rising volume of war-room material and speeded up response time.

Journalists ignore much of the daily deluge.

``If I were a reporter I'd probably discard about 90 per cent of what the war rooms put out,'' said Flanagan. ``We were releasing I suppose 15 or 20 products a day (in 2006).

``A lot of it turned out to be trivial or not picked up. But that leaves 10 per cent or so, just as a guess, that actually do become influential.''

Often it's not aimed at traditional media. Bloggers have become not only sources of information but also outlets for unfiltered party material.

But while the method and speed of delivery has changed, the tactic of dishing dirt on opponents is as old as electoral politics, notes Paul Knox, chairman of Ryerson University's School of Journalism.

The media have to learn to triage the flow and rigorously investigate claims.

``I don't see it stopping because somewhere in that haystack there's going to be a needle that both is verifiable when you check it out and relevant to the campaign,'' he said.


© 2008 The Canadian Press

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Exclusive, live footage of the speechwriters hard at work in the highest office in the land! Never before seen anywhere!

(Well, unless it was plagiarised from somewhere, that is.)

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...he or she gets fired. So what happens when it's a Prime Minister?

What a huge gaffe. As a former Chrétien speechwriter, I can assure you: if one of us had done likewise, our ass would be grass.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

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WINNER: Michael Ignatieff. Ignatieff’s speech yesterday morning to the Economic Club of Canada was significant – because it was good, because it was delivered with aplomb, but mainly because it almost anticipated the chaos that beset the markets a few hours later. Ignatieff asked the simple, but most obvious question: where is the Harper government’s plan for what almost certainly lies ahead? I encourage everyone to read the speech, supra – it is the best critique of current Conservative fiscal policy anyone has seen in this campaign. (And you can tell it worked by the number of Notional Pest lickspittles who were called into service to attempt to attack it, immediately afterwards.)
WINNERS: The Bloc. Assorted columnists – like the Muldoon fart-catcher-in-chief - sought to curry Tory favour by prematurely pronouncing the Bloc dead. They ain’t. (Neither are the Grits, if Léger is to be believed, which it usually should be.) If Stephen Harper is denied a majority, you can say merci to Gilles Duceppe.
LOSER: Jack Layton – for aping John McCain’s stunt. It didn’t work for McCain, Jack, and it won’t work for you, either. If you are worried about the leaders’ debates, don’t go. Ms. May will be delighted if you don’t.
WINNER: Gail Asper. All of us owe a debt to Gail Asper – and her deceased Dad, Izzy – for tirelessly advocating for a Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg. Said she: “If we are going to be the heart of the continent, then we have to have a heart . . . We have to eliminate poverty, violence, racial slurs and other crimes.” You don’t do that by calling neo-Nazis “martyrs,” either. So where are the political parties on human rights in this election campaign?
LOSERS: Gomery and his ilk. The “ilk,” in this instance, are nameless, gutless Conservatives, who are blaming the decision to appeal a scathing judgment excoriating the publicity-seeking former judge on a “committee” at the Justice department (why don’t you call them “the mechanics,” a la Paul Martin, boys?). Never mind that the appeal, destined to fail, drags the dying Jean Pelletier through many more months (and potentially years) of torment. These people make me sick.
LOSERS: “Unite the Left” forecasters. Listen, pundits and prognosticators: the “right” was united, ultimately, because (a) Stephen Harper pulled it off and (b) the two halves were originally one party. In this case, the NDP and the Liberals have never been anything but sworn enemies – and, moreover, I’ve never met a Dipper who didn’t viscerally despise Grits. Never shall the twain meet. But that won’t stop the commentariat from felling entire forests to peddle this bullshit in post-election editorial columns, no sir!
LOSERS: Media-obsessed conspiracy theorists. You’ll see this everywhere you look in the blogosweird: Conservatives who write, endlessly, that the CBC/Toronto Star/Jane Taber are a Satanic, black helicopter-driving trilateralist coven, disseminating subliminal calls for underage sex ed, fluoridation, promiscuity, abortion on demand and the Liberal Party – and Liberals who claim, over and over, that CTV/National Post/Mike Duffy are a covert band of democracy-hating, far-right Illuminati, bent on installing Myron Thompson as the head of a perpetual monarchy (well, that’s true in respect of the Post, now that I think about it). When they don’t like what you write, you are immediately evil. In this campaign, I have been condemned in equal measures by addled Conservatives and Hobbit-like Liberals – so I must be doing something right. Right?
LOSER: This, truly, has to rank as one of the worst photos of the campaign. What was Bob Rae thinking? Poor old Stéphane Dion is doing all he can to earn some respect, and Rae pulls a stunt like this? If he’d tried it on my former boss, he’d be experiencing a Shawinigan Handshake he wouldn’t forget.

Et tu, Robert?

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A smart guy from Global TV (there are many) wanted to interview me today, but with a twist: he wanted to do it as a Warren At Arms Length thing. He'd ask the questions, I'd look into my little Flip camera, and then we'd upload the results to YouTube - so that he could extract clips for the news. Cool!

So here it is: a YouTube of an interview. You will see me parry a question about my good friend Andrew Telegdi, try and be fair for once in my life, and look tired. I look bagged because I was up very late, talking to a very smart ten-year-old about the nature of life and death. He will be Prime Minister, one day, this ten-year-old. He is amazing.

Anyway. Here's the interview. Comment away, as usual, but not about the Michelins under my eyes, okay?

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The good news: the Republicans will be wearing this for years to come, and have likely handed Obama the keys to the White House.

The really, really, really bad news: all of us are going to feel this, and not in a good way, either. Globalization means just that. Get ready for pain on a global scale.

(Oh, and any Canadian campaign stuff that happened today just got relegated to the back pages and the end of the newscast. Only Ignatieff - see the final couple pages of his speech, below - seemed to anticipate this.)

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...is just finishing a speech at a packed room at the Economic Club of Canada.

It is more than a good speech. It is a speech that, had it been given earlier and more often by other Liberals, this election would have a very different dynamic.

I have asked his guys for a copy of the speech to post on this web site. I will let you know if I get it.

UPDATE: That didn't take long! Here it is:

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In the 1996 BC Liberal campaign - wherein Tories, Reformers and Grits worked together to beat the NDP, obtaining a lot more votes but somewhat fewer seats - my Conservative buddy Greg Lyle introduced me to the "four boxes" concept. I loved it, and immediately saw its uses.

Since then, all of my colleagues and virtually all of my clients - political campaigns, companies, unions, NGOs - have also seen how it can work for them. We use the concept so often, in fact, we now call it the Daisy Box.

With the Daisy Box, the basic idea is to challenge human nature. You see, people are awfully good at knowing their own strengths, and the weaknesses of the other side. But they aren't so good at thinking about their own weaknesses, and the strengths of their adversaries. The Daisy Box forces them to think about those things, and to prepare.

In our experience, if you can't quickly and effectively fill out the "Us On Us" box, you will lose your campaign. Picture a candidate on your doorstep, and saying: "Hi, I'm Jean Doe, I'm running for the Slackbencher Party, and I want you support because, um, er..." It is essential you define yourself before the other side does.

A while before the campaign started, I scratched out a Daisy Box on how I thought the race would shape up.

What I noticed, right away, was that the Tory boxes - the one in which they define themselves, and the one in which they seek to define the Grits - were really, really easy to fill in. I knew what the Tories were going to say, generally, because they'd been telegraphing their message points for months.

The Liberals, meanwhile, presented a challenge. Some of the definitional stuff was straightforward, because I knew (or used to know) the Liberal Party of Canada. But a lot of the attack messaging didn't seem so salient or relevant.

Anyway. Here's the Daisy Box, below. Time has overtaken my scribblings, so I am amused to see that the Tories stole the "on your side" frame first - and, moreover, I note that the Tories didn't get as harsh in their critiques as I did. They didn't need to, I guess, which is pretty sad.

It'll be interesting to see how many of these themes made it to debate briefing books. (And, on that subject, read this.) Let me know what you think, and have a great week!

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LOSERS: The Conservatives. As this Le Soleil story details, Jean Pelletier is stricken with incurable colon cancer. He is dying. Knowing this, what do the Conservatives do to him? They appeal his victory against John Gomery, whom even they cannot bring themselves to meet, let alone defend. The Tories will lose their appeal, and they will have subjected a dying man to undue and untold suffering. They should be ashamed of themselves. This one won't be forgotten. (And H/T to Norman, who is the only anglo pundit who pays attention to the French media.)
LOSERS: Jack Layton. The guy just can't help himself. Polls show him to be more competitive than his party has been since the Broadbent years, so what does he start to do? He overplays his hand. There is no question that a lot female/urban/ethnic voters are on the move. They are unenthusiastic about the Harper Tories, and - clearly - they are unhappy with the Dion Liberals. Some of them are thinking Green, some of them are considering the NDP. In those circumstances, Layton and his team need to cool it, and demonstrate they have the maturity to be an effective Official Opposition, not the "saviour" of families. In the end, vote distribution - and the NDP's propensity to self-destruct - will ensure that the Grits remain the Opposition, I think. (That said, the way things are going for the Ontario PCs, I wouldn't be surprised if the NDP is the Official Opposition after the 2011 Ontario campaign.)
WINNERS: Um, losers. If you've lost innumerable campaigns, and you have no talent for strategy, tactics or interpersonal relationships, no matter! There'll always be a reporter, somewhere, who will write you up. Losers are winners, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength, etc.
LOSERS: Certain commenters who shall remain unnamed. They say one thing here, and the precise opposite somewhere else. Google searches are great at ferreting out hypocrisy, Grits.
LOSERS: Ontario Tories. You can't suck and blow at the same time, folks. You can't holler that your opponent is "talking down" the economy when, just a little while ago and repeatedly, your own Minister of Finance warned people about investing in Ontario. Pot, meet kettle. Black.
WINNERS: The BC Liberal War Room. They've been doing a great job in this campaign. Their latest catch: a wacko Tory candidate who calls refugees "criminals and terrorists," suggests (a la Palin) she talks to God, and (my favourite) that gambling leads to "one night stands" ("Nanny, no more bingo for you! We know where it leads, now!") Good catch. Now demand her resignation, and hope like Hell you don't get it!
WINNER: Susan Ormiston. A lot of Campaign 2008 is taking place online - as the legion of candidates felled by Google makes clear. Ormiston's spot - on a too-crowded, too-hard-to-navigate CBC Election site - is a gem, and the best place to go for news and analysis about the political Interweeb.
• WINNER: The latest Liberal ad is, again, a good one. I don't get the "Harpernomics" tag - "Reaganomics" was a generation ago, and in another country - but the Libs, again, have the best spots:

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I just did Brent Bambury's CBC Radio One show 'Mob Rule' with my Facebook buddies Monte Solberg and Antonia Zerbisias. It was fun, even if my head hurt. I told Brent that the headline in Antonia's paper - that the Liberals and the NDP are tied - more than blew me away. It was historic, I said.

It's sad, too. Stéphane Dion and his team didn't reach out to very many experienced Grits, so many, many folks are watching the carrnage from the sidelines. But I have to say, it's sad to see what we built up get pissed away.

Anyway. What can you do? Last night we got to hang out with Donovan Bailey. That's me and him up above.

Someone at the table told me I should get Donovan to run for the Liberals.

"I wouldn't do that to him," I said, as Donovan listened. "I like him too much."

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WINNER: Stéphane Dion, for moving swiftly and decisively against bigotry. Claims that Jews had advance knowledge of 9/11, and removed themselves from the Twin Towers prior to the attacks, is only the latest of many centuries of anti-Semitic blood libels. Good on Dion for dropping a Winnipeg-area candidate who spouted such filth. So, now, why haven’t the Tories dropped a Calgary MP who says immigrants are responsible for rising crime rates? (And why is Ezra Levant, who defends Jim Keegstra and neo-Nazis, still an official Tory spokesman?)
LOSER: Jack Layton. Years ago, as everyone knows, a BC NDP candidate attended an environmental conference and “removed all of his clothing and stood naked, with an erection, in front of a large group of young women aged 14-17 years. The youth were face painting at the time and were completely clothed…” What was Jack Layton’s view of those who were upset this creep had been embraced by the NDP? Quote unquote: “Some campaigns seem to be based on people's efforts to get out the shovel and start digging around.” Uh-huh. Next time a New Democrat starts lecturing you about sexism, Liberals and Conservatives, make sure to have that Layton quote handy. What a disgrace.
LOSERS: Those already plotting the next Liberal leadership race, in the media or otherwise. If it’s a narrow Tory majority, the only thing that could force Dion out is a full caucus revolt. (If the NDP form the Official Opposition, Dion must resign on Election Night.) If the 2008 result is a Tory minority, like in 2006, I am not at all clear how the Liberal leader can be persuaded to find a new job. I have no skin in this game, as regular readers know. But it seems to me that the He Deserves A Second Shot argument – heard before with Mike Harris, John Turner, Dalton McGuinty and (oh yeah) Stephen Harper – is relevant if Canada ends up with another Tory minority. Am I wrong?
LOSER: Earl McRae. And here I had been thinking he was dead, too.
LOSERS: The media, for poll envy. Norman’s right: “Polls affect campaign coverage and they affect the spirit of campaign workers.” The mood among Liberals is dark, to say the least. It’s enough to make one long for the good old days, when nobody knew what was going on until Election Night. It would make things fun again, if nothing else!

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[h/t Calgree Grit]

I am going to be at a fundraiser, tonight, for hospitals in Jamaica. So I will be unable to watch and live-blog the Presidential debate.

Instead, feel free to send in your comments, below. You live-blog it, Team WK Dot Com!

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...they lead. Good on Stephane Dion for dealing decisively with bigotry.

Now, will Stephen Harper do likewise?


Dion ditches candidate over remarks about Jews and 9 11 (FedElxn-Dion)
Source: The Canadian Press
Sep 26, 2008 12:23

TORONTO - Liberal Leader Stephane Dion dumped a candidate Friday after she was accused of anti-Semitism.

Lesley Hughes _ who's running for the party in a Winnipeg riding _ had faced criticism for an old blog posting in which she suggested Israeli intelligence warned the United States in advance of the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center and ``Israeli businesses'' vacated the premises before the attack.

Hughes later described herself as a ``lifelong friend and supporter of the Jewish community in Winnipeg'' and apologized for the ``perception'' that she is anti-Semitic.

But the apology wasn't enough for her party leader.

``The Liberal party's commitment to tolerance and multiculturalism is paramount,'' Dion said in a statement.

``I have reviewed the past comments of Lesley Hughes and it is clear they do not meet this standard. While I appreciate her apology, I cannot condone those sentiments in any way.

``I have therefore asked Ms. Hughes to step down as the Liberal party candidate in Kildonan-St. Paul.''

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...and bright as a coalbin at midnight.


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What a bunch of idiots.

1. They Tories are going to lose. The Federal Court decision was clear, strong and reasoned. They will be embarrassed by the result they obtain.

2. They are hauling a very sick man - Jean Pelletier - back through the courts, for no good reason. They will, and do, look like heartless pricks.

3. They are doing Paul Martin's dirty work for him. They will derive no political upside from this, with their own base or anyone else's.

4. They are perilously close to getting all of Team Chretien off the bench.

You can decide for yourself whether, long term, that's a smart strategy. You know what I think.

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