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Warren Kinsella - GRITS THROW A PUNCH

"...[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


My Lord, someone up in Ottawa took the advice of me and my friends: get out the smelling salts!

Anyway, it looks good on them. It'll also have an impact, I wager.

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Should they go neg? Will they?

You know what I think, I suspect. This isn't about one man's views, anymore. It's about protecting the Liberal Party from a decade or more in the wilderness.

Here's a snippet from The War Room:


When appearing on televised pundit panels, or when being quoted by the print media, [politicos] know that it is not a good idea to sound too enthusiastic about hardball politics, however. So they will make soothing noises about the need to “do politics differently,” and to avoid “the old politics,” or what has been called “the politics of personal destruction.” They make these disclaimers because they know it is what the voting public wants to hear (even if it isn’t what the voting public necessarily believes, but more on that later). Watching them, you would think such politicos seldom would utter a discouraging word about anyone.

But that’s a pile of crap. Political people love duking it out with their adversaries, and people who vote love to watch. And that, partly, is what this book is about: it argues that the accelerated, aggressive, around-the-clock stuff done by war roomers helps to win campaigns. And not just political campaigns, either.

Now, before I became the Prince of Darkness, I was a University of Calgary law student and a part-time newspaper reporter on the police beat. On weekends, I would earn a few extra dollars at the Calgary Herald. Most of the time, I would sit in the newsroom and listen to the police radio. Whenever a drugstore was robbed or someone was murdered, I would hop in my battered old Gremlin and speed out onto Calgary’s freeways to learn more. If the car crashes I heard about over the police band were sufficiently spectacular, I would also file stories about them, and my news editor would almost always assign a photographer to take pictures. When there wasn’t very much else going on in the news world, we would run photos of the car crashes.

Whenever we did that, I was reminded of two things. First, you could publish a fistful of photographs of African children starving to death, corpses floating alongside an overloaded Indian ferry, or the bombed-out wreckage of someone’s home in a war zone, and no one would call in to complain. If they cared, they sure weren’t saying anything about it to us.

Second, if you ran a photo of a car crash involving locals — without bodies, of course — you’d better darn well make sure you had someone around the newsroom to handle the calls of complaint, because you’d get plenty. Subscribers would call in to declare, loudly, that we were insensitive, and ghoulish, and beneath contempt. They would call to cancel their subscriptions. But here’s the funny thing: whenever I was out at those accident scenes, scribbling away in my notepad, I noticed that everyone making their way past the orange pylons and the traffic cops — and I mean everyone — would slow down to take a long hard look. Every once in a while, I’d see them fumbling for a camera, so that they could take some pictures, too.

Later on, when I got involved in full-time politics, I remembered this car-crash thing. When a microphone is pointed in their direction, folks will insist they do not like it when political parties, or newspapers, involve themselves with life’s unpleasantness. They will tell pollsters they disapprove of those sorts of things. They will heap opprobrium on the perceived wrongdoers. But, believe me: ten times out of ten (and when they think no one is looking), they will slow down and take a look. Political consultants — the smart ones, anyway — know that. To mangle a phrase used by Dick Morris, one of the smarter political strategists around, it’s a mutually reinforcing deceit.

Political types say they don’t like doing the tough stuff — but they do. And voters say they aren’t influenced by tough stuff — but they are.

They are, they are.

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WINNERS: The NDP. The Valley of Death, for the Liberal Party of Canada, is trading places with the New Democrats, as very nearly happened in 1984. If that were to happen, it wouldn’t be just Stéphane Dion looking for a job – everyone associated with the 2008 team would be gone, too, and unlikely to ever be seen again in a central campaign. So: is it true? Are the Dippers surging, and the Grits dropping? Not quite. While I think the Tory spin about the change in strategy is just that – spin – it can’t be denied that the polls contain trends that should concern any federal Liberal, particularly on the leadership front. Time to start kicking Dipper ass, Grits.
WINNER: The Hidden Agenda. There’s a reason why conservative columnists bray and screech that the “hidden agenda” tag doesn’t work – because it does work. Not that a Chrétienite “has been” should ever be giving the current crop of geniuses any advice, but has it occurred to them why Stephen Harper won’t let his cabinet, caucus and candidates ever get near a microphone? Exactly. Canadians suspect that a Trojan Horse is being quietly wheeled into their backyards by cardigan-wearing Tory youth, and that kind of makes them nervous. So why aren’t the Liberals kicking the crap out of the Conservatives for having a hidden agenda, in a systematic and relentless way? Tell them they are right to be afraid!
LOSERS: The Liberal debate prep team – if they don’t help to turn around Dion’s plummeting leadership numbers in a couple weeks. If they do, they’ll be big-time winners, and we’ll all be talking about them for 100 years. Stay tuned.
WINNER: Andrew Steele, a Chrétien and McGuinty man the Globe is lucky to have around. Because I like him so much, I will forgive his shameless theft of my pioneering “winner” and “loser” concept. Andrew is a smart fellow and worth reading.
LOSER: Economies. We were with a smart banker most of the weekend, and he was regularly eyeballing his Berry throughout. If Lehman Brothers falls this morning, and it looked like it would last night, the markets will be a shitstorm for days and weeks to come. It won’t be enough for the federal leaders to say it’s an American problem, either, as this collapse will cause a tsunami of economic woe everywhere. What are your plans for the economy, Messrs. Harper, Dion, Layton and Duceppe? We are all ears, today.

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No winners or losers today, folks. Just some thoughts about what I think is happening. They're worth what you pay for them.

First off, I don't get the impression Campaign 2008 has a Ballot Question yet. In any campaign, of course, the state of the economy is always a big concern for everyone. In this contest, so far, economic worries haven't motivated voters to the extent that I thought they would. With gas around $1.40 a litre, and companies shutting down, that isn't just unusual - it's amazing.

Secondly, the two Steves. The Harper one is performing very well - despite a gaffe-prone War Room and a near-invisible cabinet and caucus. He has become a very capable politician, one with a Chrétien-like focus on The Win. The other Steve, meanwhile - the Dion one - is having a tougher time. Dion is possibly one of the brainiest guys to lead a political party since Pierre Trudeau. He is also respectful of voters, and he always strives to provide them with answers and policies that are thoughtful and immensely complex. In the TV age, however, that respectful approach doesn't work and never will. Academe and politics are mutually-exclusive concepts.

Thirdly, you will always hear guys like me saying "campaigns matter." That's because, on balance, they do. Contrary to the media shorthand, most Canadians don't regard elections as an inconvenience. They're not. For those of us privileged to live in one of the world's great democracies, we know that elections are about choices - and the choices we make profoundly matter. In this race, the "choice" seems to relate entirely to Stephen Harper, and no one else. Is he ready for a majority? Can he control the extremists that may still lurk behind the curtains? Both the Tories and the Grits seem to agree this campaign is a referendum, more or less, on the Conservative leader.

So who is winning the referendum, then? Barring a dramatic emerging issue or a big mistake - barring a big shift after the debates - Harper is winning this thing. The only question, after a week, is by how much.

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Dum dee dum...CBC is going to regret this relationship...dum dee dum...


Ipsos: Conservatives 38%, Liberals 29%, NDP 13%, Green 11%, Bloc 8%
Nanos: Conservatives 38%, Liberals 31%, NDP 14%, Green 9%, Bloc 9%
Ekos: Conservatives 37%, Liberals 26%, NDP 19%, Green 10%, Bloc 8%
Harris/Decima: Conservatives 41%, Liberals 26%, NDP 14% , Bloc 9%, Green 8%

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LOSERS: All the political parties. All of the leaders had bad weeks, in one way or another – all of them. Harper had Puffin Gate, a war room in need of adult supervision, and resigning candidates; Dion had the “liar liar” epithets, a campaign in need of a plane, and resigning candidates. Duceppe faced former separatist supporters questioning the Bloc’s raison d’etre; Layton looked terrible (particularly with his own base) in the Elizabeth May leadership debate controversy; and May herself seemed to end the week calling Canadians “stupid.” Not a good start for any of them, particularly. Here’s hoping Week Two is better.
LOSERS: Those of us seeking a clear sense of public opinion. At the end of the day, I will always depend on Ipsos and Nanos (that rhymes!) for a better picture of public opinion. The other guys rely overmuch on Internet-based pools that aren’t sufficiently random, contain typical voters, etc. If Ipsos and Nanos are right, and I believe they are, there is a race still to be won.
WINNERS: Oil companies. Every single political leader agrees oil bosses are gouging us – but none of them seem to have ideas about how to fix that. Advantage: Big Oil.
LOSERS: The Tory War Room: Ezra Levant opposes bilingualism, hates Muslims, and wants Quebec to separate. Why is he still in the Tory war room? Why does he speak for the Conservatives on TV? I have heard from senior Tories asking me that, too – they despise Levant, and are certain he will damage their party (once again) in this campaign. More here.
WINNER: The handcuff line was funny, but I still think Layton wins with the “sweater has come off” joke. Not funny, but very effective, was Dion’s observation that he was saving Canada when his main opponent was building “firewalls.” True, that.

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Tory war room woes: kids gone wild or pressure driven mistakes? (FedElxn-War-Room-Woes)
Source: The Canadian Press
Sep 11, 2008 18:31

By Joan Bryden


OTTAWA _ It has become an almost daily feature of the federal election campaign: Stephen Harper forced to deflect friendly fire from his own war room.

The latest shot in the prime minister's foot came from the Conservative party's communications director, who was suspended Thursday after implying that a dead soldier's father was indulging in politically motivated criticism of Harper's Afghanistan policy.

The furor side-swiped Harper's message of the day, forcing him to apologize for the second time this week for a self-inflicted wound.

On Tuesday, Harper said sorry for an ``inappropriate'' Tory website that featured an animated puffin pooping on Liberal Leader Stephane Dion's shoulder.

So what's gone wrong with the slick Conservative election machine?

Warren Kinsella, a veteran of past Liberal war rooms and author of a book on the subject, contends it's a case of cocky, over-caffeinated kids running amok without enough enough supervision.

``This thing has a real frat boy feel to it and it's now officially hurting the Conservative campaign,'' Kinsella said.

``These guys who have so much money and all the latest gadgets don't seem to have much in the way of judgment . . . There's now a consensus developing that the Tory war room is out of control.''

But political scientist Tom Flanagan, who supervised Harper's war room in the last two campaigns, rejected that characterization. He contended that Tory staff are serious and experienced.

Even so, Flanagan said mistakes are inevitable given that war room denizens must provide virtually instantaneous responses to every campaign development.

``Everything happening so quickly, there's constant pressure to come up with a rapid response,'' said Flanagan.

``Inevitably, with that many people making that many decisions that quickly, there will be some mistakes. You can't avoid it.

``You have to be young enough to carry the workload but we're not using green, inexperienced kids.''

War rooms are a relatively recent concept in Canadian campaigns, imported from the United States after the success of Bill Clinton's 1992 bid for the presidency.

As originally envisaged by Clinton campaign guru James Carville, the war room was a small group of people devoted to dishing out rapid responses to daily events, ensuring that nothing an opponent said or did went unanswered by the next news cycle.

But with voters increasingly getting their news instantaneously online or through 24-hour, all-news radio and television channels, war room staffers have come under mounting pressure to produce responses ever faster.

Flanagan said war roomers are no longer simply pumping out news releases in response to mainstream media stories or an opponent's speech. They're required to respond to queries and rumours that pour in from an ever-expanding host of sources, including emails, blogs, websites and social networking sites _ all of which makes it harder to supervise.

Kinsella agrees it's a challenge for war roomers to be both ``as quick as possible and as accurate as possible.''

``Those things are mutually exclusive sometimes. What's inexcusable is lack of judgment.''


© 2008 The Canadian Press

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LOSERS: The Tory campaign – now being described by the media as “gaffe prone.” Not good, Team Blue. The Conservative war room, in particular, has been unbelievably unhelpful to Stephen Harper’s attempt to build majority support. Time for some adult supervision!
THE WINNERS: The other parties, of course – who are reaping the benefits of the Tory missteps. How could things go so badly in just a week? And is that a smile we are seeing on the faces of Messrs. Dion and Duceppe?
WINNER: Jack Layton, for the line of the week: “Looks like the sweater has come off.” Brilliant.
WINNERS: Conservative writers like Damian Penny, for having the gumption to critique their own team. You won’t see Conservative (or Liberal) bloggers doing that too often, unfortunately. They should do it more. Their teams will only benefit.

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This is the fourth day in the row that the Conservative war room has stomped all over that party's message.

Here's a tip, fellas: lots of money and gadgets aren't what makes a war room a winner. It's judgment and accuracy.

These guys (and they are mainly guys) keeping dropping the ball. Next thing you know, they'll hire a loon who has opposed bilingualism, and wants Québec to separate.

UPDATE: Dawg has the blog post of the week.

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Bjorn, Ritalin Boy and Rayman, demonstrating their intelligence and excited about the big shew tonight, as simple-minded fellows would be.

The poster:

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I am informed that someone named Ezra Levant is working in the Conservative Party war room.

Would this be the same Ezra Levant who:

• Favoured Quebec separation, and in fact wrote a column in the Calgary Sun (from which he was later fired) titled ‘Ten Reasons To Hope For a Yes Victory’?
• In the same column, called for the elimination of bilingualism and multiculturalism, and said that it would give government “fortitude” to reject First Nations and those working to protect the environment?
• Defends, and promotes, the leader of the neo-Nazi Heritage Front in his attacks on Jews, gays, immigrants and others? Who defends a pro-Nazi woman who rails against Jews and calls for “racial purity”?
• Allows publication of death threats about other lawyers on his web site?

There’s more, lots more, all on the public record.

What isn’t on the public record – yet – is whether Ezra Levant is on a leave of absence to work on the Conservative campaign.

Could the Tories be that dumb?
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WINNER: Green party leader Elizabeth May, hands-down. Through sheer doggedness, she forced Messrs. Layton and Harper to fold like, as I put it yesterday, a cheap green suit, followed shortly thereafter by the media bosses. If the leaders of assorted fringe parties aren’t now going to take a stab at getting in on the fun, I’ll be amazed.
LOSERS: Hypocritical and dishonest broadcast executives – who, having run the debates like a personal fiefdom for years, are now attempting a whiplash-inducing volte face. Burman has always been a particularly loathsome creature, but he’s by no means alone. Watch for an avalanche of similarly self-serving op-eds by broadcast execs in coming days, as they attempt to persuade us all that they were always models of democracy and transparency.
WINNERS: Female voters. Women are smarter than men. It’s just a fact. God speaks to me, like She does Sarah Pallin, and She told me. And, as I told a Liberal caucus member yesterday, women will put the brakes on any potential Tory majority, just as they did in 2004 and 2006. There isn’t a man in Canada who believes that, but men are stupid. You’re welcome.
• Finally, no winner or loser, here – just the visual of the day. When one of my colleagues sent this shot around, I burst out laughing. I don’t know what he was thinking, but the expression is priceless.

"Puffin? What's a puffin?"

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So the boys are revising their opinions, mid-campaign. Having debated her myself, I don't see why they were so worried in the first place. After eyeballing this bit of video, even my most ardent red-necked, mouthbreather detractors were saying I won!

UPDATE: And now the media barons have folded, too:

May gets OK to join leaders debates (URGENT-FedElxn-Debate-Ba)
Source: The Canadian Press
Sep 10, 2008 16:59

OTTAWA - Green Leader Elizabeth May will get a chance to debate her fellow party leaders after all.

The TV network consortium that runs the election debates reversed course today, announcing that May can participate.

They made the change after Prime Minister Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Jack Layton both backed down from their opposition to May's involvement.

The pair had contended that including May would be tantamount to permitting two Liberal candidates because she has repeatedly expressed her preference for Liberal Leader Stephane Dion over Harper as prime minister.

(The Canadian Press)


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Yesterday, puffin poop, which made international news and resulted in hundreds of media impressions, all unfavourable.

Today, someone told me I was on "Dionbook." Went to check it out. Got a message that there is too much demand.

Uh-huh. Oldest political trick there is: book a smaller room, so it's packed for your rally. Applies to the Internet too, seems.

These guys have the dough to buy oodles of bandwidth, if they wanted it. They are trying to make it look like they are controlling the agenda.

UPDATE: Interesting comment on this entry: "If the bandwidth really got overloaded, all of notaleader.ca would have gone down, not just the dionbook bit. Since the rest of notaleader.ca is still up, we know this whole thing is BS. tfl | 09.10.08 - 12:40 pm"

Not that I am particularly interested in inside-the-weeb baseball - I'll leave that to the Tin Foil Hat Brigade - but now this is getting written up by the media. Day two of errors from one site? Not good.

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