"...[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 National Post
- Tom Flanagan, The Literary Review of Canada
- The Hill Times
- The Winnipeg Free Press
- John Moore, CFRB
- John Oakley, AM640
- John Wright, Ipsos, CFRB
- Charles Adler, Adler Online
- Tommy Schnurmacher, CJAD
- Ken Rockburn, CPAC
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
THE CANADIAN PRESS
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
• 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.
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.
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?
• 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.
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)
INDEX: ENTERTAINMENT POLITICS TELEVISION
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"
UPDATER: 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.
Ouch. It's going to be quite a caucus meeting! The once-great Ontario Conservatives. Too bad, so sad.
Seatless John Tory to address party unrest; MPPs fear pledge to be elected is doomed
The Ottawa Citizen
Wed 10 Sep 2008
Byline: Lee Greenberg
TORONTO - John Tory will attempt to quell growing unrest in his caucus when provincial Conservatives gather today in Barrie, as he is called to account for what some believe is a quickly fading pledge to be elected into the legislature by fall.
"It is the No. 1 item on the agenda, right off the top," says Conservative caucus chairman Frank Klees. "An opportunity for John to discuss his plans with caucus and to give caucus an opportunity to have that discussion with him as well.
"Mr. Tory has pledged to seek a seat in the legislature before the end of the year, ostensibly by convincing one of his 26 caucus members to step aside and allow him to run. He appeared to accelerate the time frame in June, however, raising expectations among some in his party.
"He told caucus in our last caucus meeting that he would be there in the fall," John O'Toole told the Citizen earlier this summer.
"So somebody has swallowed the bait, I think."
But a string of rumoured candidates subsequently denied they would step aside to make way for the 54-year-old father of four.
Now, as MPPs prepare to return to the legislature on Sept. 22, that fall target is increasingly unlikely (the session is scheduled to last until Dec. 16) and some MPPs are voicing their frustration.
"I've basically given up on him," said renegade MPP Bill Murdoch, stating openly what several others will only say off the record. "I don't think anybody's giving their seat up (for him)."
• LOSERS: The Tories, obviously, for the pooping puffin, now world-famous, the bird that this morning and last night unleashed a torrent of shit-related puns. Is it a one-day wonder, or a Reptilian Kitten Eater defining moment? We shall see. But I will say…
• WINNER: The Tory boss did what he had to do – he didn’t deny, he didn’t equivocate, he apologized a zillion times, and he moved on. Meanwhile, the party’s red-necked mouth-breathers thinks it’s all the media’s fault.
• LOSERS: The media, for falling into the “horserace” coverage trap. There are five weeks to go in this thing. A lot can happen, like the birdie B.M. amply demonstrated (eg. What did Stephen Harper announce yesterday? Don’t know? Exactly). What’s more, the current crop of headlines are not helpful to Team Tory – they are peaking way too soon. And, in 2004 and 2006, as you may recall, those “TORY MAJORITY” headlines scared the, um, crap out of women and many urban voters. Undersell and overperform, like someone I know always said. That’s what works best.
• WINNER? LOSER?: We don’t know yet – but today is the day the Liberal Party of Canada’s plane is supposed to be slipping the surly bonds of campaign-mired Canada. Will it fly? We shall see. But I’ll tell you this much: if it doesn’t, the Grits will rue the day they didn’t call someone at WestJet.
• WINNER: Stephen Taylor, and my fellow TVO panelists. All of the other guys, Greg in particular, noted that web tools have made design so easy, lots of dumb stuff is getting broadcast/posted way too quickly. The poopin’ puffin was clearly an example of that.
I don't recall any of this being an issue when they recruited me to write for the Citizen or the National Post. Hmmm.
"Clangers?" Gee, I recall a certain Asper telling me it was the funniest thing he ever saw. Before he became a Tory and all that, that is.
Media contacts are telling me (anonymously) that Tory spinners are - shades of Stockwell Day on that Niagara Falls thing, circa 2000 - blaming puffin-gate on an overzealous web person. They are saying, on the record, that the dumb Tory staffer's computer "mouse" was over Dion's shoulder, so senior campaign people didn't see the crap, it's not our fault, etc. etc.
I am not making this up.
So, we decided to conduct an experiment, seen below. You can do it too! See if your mouse's "arrow" is big enough to cover the offending stuff. You'll find it can't be done.
Bottom line: they saw it, they put it up, they did it. Puffin-gate.
Man, this is Reptilian Kitten-Eater for the new era - and all from the same folks, too!
Anyone else seen this? I haven't.
Not the Face Ad, per se, but still unbelievably dumb.
FedElxn Tories Droppings
Source: The Canadian Press
Sep 9, 2008 10:29
OTTAWA - It seems the Tories may have stepped in it when they released an advertisement on their website showing an animated puffin defecating on Liberal Leader Stephane Dion's shoulder.
The puffin is flying by as an announcer says Stephane Dion is not a leader and not worth the risk.
The offending fly-by-deposit was later edited out of the commercial but not before it was aired on national TV networks.
When asked about the advertisement today, Dion told reporters it says more about Prime Minister Stephen Harper than it says about him.
Dion says most Conservative voters will disagree with the ad and it could change their vote.
A Liberal party statement says the personal smear will backfire on Harper.
(The Canadian Press)
UPDATE: Harper has apologized.
• WINNER: Stéphane Dion, for staying out of this creepy “family man” dialogue that was happening on Day Two. Dion stayed above the fray, and looked better for it. His pithy rejoinder: “I'm a family man. I love my mother, I love my wife. I love my daughter and my brothers, even my brothers.” Having brothers, and having a relationship with them that is like the brothers Gallagher (sans the Toronto fan assaults), I found that last part funny. It’s true.
• LOSER: In a rare bit of same-day universe-balancing, Stéphane Dion, for calling Harper a “liar,” repeatedly. It looked awful, and it turned people (Liberal people) off in droves. Two irrefutable facts: one, voters think all politicians are liars, to some degree – so throwing around the “liar” tag, as John Tory did in the 2007 Ontario campaign, isn’t going to advance your interests. Two, Dion has said many times that he wouldn’t go neg – and now, 48 hours into the contest, he’s calling his opponent one of the nastiest of the nasty names. What’s left in the adjectival arsenal? Calling him a “criminal?” That one doesn’t work, either, by the way.
• LOSERS: Journalists who joke, á la Seinfeld, that this is “an election about nothing." And Mr. Fulford isn’t the only one who has done it, either. It’s journalistic laziness, to me. It also ain’t particularly helpful to one’s readers – because, in Election Year 2008, it’s manifestly false. Canada losing nearly 100 young lives in Afghanistan; an economy teetering on the brink; the Arctic ice shelf disappearing, and the air getting worse every Summer; dozens of people being killed by the food they eat; the list goes on. None of it is “nothing.” Do your job, reporter. You always say people want to hear about issues – so write about them.
• WINNERS: The Libs, Tories, Dippers and others who have abandoned the pretence of a real life, and joined a war room for the next few weeks. They’ll endure bad food, bad coverage, and get little sleep – and it’ll be some of the most memorable days they will have ever have. My hat’s off to you, fellow lunatics!