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Rudy’s Ukraine Antics Come Back to Embarrass Us

So how stupid was that whole Ukraine thing? Stupid enough to extort the new president of Ukraine into digging up dirt on Trump’s perceived enemies. Stupid enough to get a career diplomat fired because she wasn’t corrupt enough for the Trump administration. Stupid enough to get Trump himself impeached. Stupid enough to land Rudy Giuliani — “America’s Mayor” — in so much hot water he could easily die in prison. And for what? The announcement of an investigation. Not even an actual investigation, mind you, just the announcement of one. Just announce to the world that Hunter Biden broke the law. Which law? Of which country? Doesn’t matter. Hey Ukraine, just do us this one little favor, tell the press this one little lie, and we’ll make your problems go away. We’ll free up that weaponry you so desperately need from the bureaucratic crack it somehow fell through, so you can defend your eastern border from Trump’s pal Putin. What was in Rudy’s mind? Did he think this would be
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Democratic Branding is Not an Oxymoron

After decades spent shooting themselves in the foot, Democrats are finally learning what Republicans have known for fifty years: marketing matters. There’s a billboard up in Times Square — a huge red, white, and blue electronic display. High tech, high visibility, letters several stories high, spelling out: “Thank You Joe Biden and Democrats.” Imagine that. Democrats taking credit for something. Democrats letting people know who’s responsible for that cash in their pockets and those shots in their arms. Admittedly, Times Square isn’t the media powerhouse it was pre-pandemic. But still. We’re talking Democrats. Democrats take blame better than credit. Or they used to. Now they seem to be doing real marketing. They’re putting out a coherent brand and they’re doing it with a degree of sophistication. Yes, they’ve long had the technology side covered. Yes, they’ve long known how to micro-target the electorate and put out custom messages to each zip code, and y

Branding the Party of Stupid

Let’s talk about the Republican brand. An unpleasant subject, I know, but well worth watching as it turns rancid. Marketing has always been a strength of the GOP. They don’t do policy at all, and they’ve stopped even paying lip-service to reality. But they’ve always had a singular knack for mass manipulation. From Lee Atwater to Karl Rove to Roger Ailes, the party has long been a showcase for brilliant but bent marketing talent, people who understood their target audience and knew what messages would resonate. Those messages have always been deeply fraudulent, and for good reason. They know they can’t tell their audience the real story. The one about who they are and what they stand for. Because the real story is tax cuts and deregulation, nothing else. That’s what they want their brand to be about, but it’s a lousy product. Nobody with a net worth of less than $10 million has any interest in it. So rather than promote it, they’ve had to put up smokescreens to divert attention

Both Sides Now

Back in the nineties, Holocaust denial enjoyed one of its periodic but thankfully brief revivals. It was an old idea given new life, thanks to some shrewd but cynical PR and a few credulous members of the media. Spread virally, or what passed for virally at the time, the “story” — that the Holocaust never happened, that six million Jews were never exterminated — actually percolated up to the mainstream media as a “controversy” for a while. TV news and talk shows, both national and local, worked hard to fan the flames, actually giving serious airtime to the charlatans perpetuating this sludge. But the producers of these shows, sensitive sorts all, couldn’t believe how hard it was to recruit actual Holocaust victims to sit across from the charlatans. They were offering good money, after all. Why would these old folks not want to go on camera? Why would they not want to relive those unimaginable horrors that scarred them for life, listening to some toxic putz who’s trying to conv

The Long Lost Center is Staring Us Right in the Face

Lately there has been much written — and more than a little hand-wringing — about the fate of the fabled American “Center,” that vast majority of sensible people who just wish we could all get along. In particular, there was an op-ed in the Times last week by Thomas B. Edsall — a seasoned, generally respected journalist — that goes to great lengths to lament the neglect of this supposed Center. Edsall places the blame for said neglect on “polarization,” on an electorate that’s been “pushed by political extremes.” He cites an impressive number of recent studies to show us how big but politically powerless this Center appears to be. One of these studies makes the point that: Bipartisan majorities consider the following to be “essential rights important to being an American today”: ‘“clean air and water” (93 percent); “a quality education” (92 percent); “affordable health care” (89 percent); and the “right to a job” (85 percent). These high levels of demand for

A Peek Under the Hood at the Koch Agenda

It’s hard to feel sorry for a guy like Kyle McKenzie. Knowing he’s the research director for Stand Together, an advocacy group owned by the Koch family, I’m not inclined to sympathy. But as a former advertising guy, who once sat through too many focus groups to count, I know well how consumer research can undo the best-laid plans. In McKenzie’s case, the plans were to figure out how the Kochs should handle HR1 — the massive voting rights bill now reaching the Senate — where they are once again on the wrong side of history. McKenzie was charged with finding ways to undermine any positive perceptions the public might harbor about making it easy for people to vote. What they were looking for was a message — any message — that might convince the public that the right to vote is overrated. We know this thanks to the amazing Jane Mayer of The New Yorker . Somehow, she obtained this eye-opening audio of a ten-minute conference call, in which McKenzie presents his research findings to

Why Would 60 Minutes Want to Screw Up a DOJ Investigation?

For all its faults, I’ve generally regarded 60 Minutes as real journalism, practiced by real journalists. Even so, their political coverage of late has been irksome — with too much both-siderist nonsense delivered none too subtly. The lead story on the March 21 show , however, went beyond both-siderist, to what I hope I’m misconstruing as subversive. The thirteen-minute segment featured an interview with former Associate Deputy Attorney General Michael R. Sherwin, a career prosecutor who until leaving office two days before, was in charge of DOJ’s investigation into the Capitol insurrection. It was a jaw-dropping interview, at least to a non-lawyer. For thirteen minutes, Sherwin took us through the investigation in startling detail, pointing out some of the rioters in the Capitol photos, outlining the kinds of charges they might face, and generally getting viewers salivating over the prospect of righteous restitution. But to anyone in the legal profession, the interview set off