PO Box 351
Encinitas, CA 92024
December 1, 1988
Governor Michael Dukakis
President-elect George Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500
The Honorable Mikhail Gorbachev
General Secretary of the Communist Party
Moscow, The Soviet Union
Members of Congress
Christmas Greetings To All!
WHITHER THE DEMOCRATS
With the Presidential election now over everyone is asking the question: having lost five out of the last six Presidential elections, whither shall the Democratic Party now go in its quest to recapture the White House in 1992. Should it move farther to the right as the American electorate evidently has? In this case we may end up with both political parties to the right of center. Well, maybe it's not so bad just to let the Republicans have the White House while the Democrats retain a lock on Congress. With the current incumbent reelection rate approaching 100%, there is more actual turnover in the Supreme Soviet Central Committee. At this Christmas season, the Democrats should get down on their knees and thank God for the existence of Political Action Committees (PACs) whose contributions which go mostly to incumbents are instrumental in keeping them in office. As the Soviets become more democratized, we become more, for lack of a better word, Sovietized. While Gorbachev seems to have the mien and bearing of FDR, we demand in our President someone with the mien and bearing of Joseph Stalin. After all, he was tough on crime - really tough.
What actually happened to Michael Dukakis anyway? Well, chalk it up to his lack of the equivalent of Roger Ailes, media adviser to the Bush campaign. As Rocky's would-be manager in the original Rocky movie says, “I coulda been a contendah if only I had had proper management!” Michael Dukakis must feel a lot the same way since Ailes & Co. along with speechwriter Peggy Noonan stage-managed and scripted George Bush to the point that a whole new persona was created for him. Dukakis, meanwhile, acted more or less as his own media advisor. There's an old saying, “He who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” This could be said to also apply to Presidential candidates with regard to media advisors, for what we had in the Presidential campaign was not reality but full-scale political theater.
MACCHIAVELLIAN MEDIA MANIPULATION
Bush’s handlers and packagers had no illusions about the fact that they had to create and sell an illusion to the American public. The real George Bush could not have gotten elected. So presto, chango and wahla, the new Supergeorge, the superstrong, supertough superpatriot. The miraculous illusion that Ailes pulled off was to convert Bush's image from that of a wimp to that of Macho Man turning Dukakis’ image into that of a wimp in the process, a double image shift. Dukakis’ problem was not that he didn't define his stand on the issues or say who he was (he did a really good job of that), but that he didn't create a coherent mediagenic image. Dukakis was reluctant to become fully engaged in the Machiavellian manipulation of the media as did the Bush campaign and, to paraphrase Dan Quayle, a good offense always beats a good defense. In other words...oh, you get the idea.
Dukakis had some good ideas. Take the tank ride. It was a good idea, but he didn't have professional media management that could have taken one look at the videotape and called for “Take 2.” Dukakis was sorely in need of acting lessons. Forget Harvard Law. Today's serious politician needs acting school. With a little coaching between takes I'm sure Dukakis could have acted the part more acceptably. The idea was good but the acting left something to be desired. With a few acting lessons any politician can learn how to look passionate while delivering a speech whether he is or not. Ask George Bush.
Democrats who are seriously considering running in 1992 should start now by taking acting lessons. They should specialize in “tough guy” roles. Then the next thing is that they should start working out in a gym. Running is too yuppieish. Even Roger Ailes isn't perfect. He should have had George working out in a gym instead of jogging. The important thing for future Democratic Presidential candidates is to start now acquiring footage of them working out on the speed bag. But first learn to act the part of working out on the speed bag. Learn from Michael Dukakis' error. It is possible to look silly working out on a speed bag. That's where the acting coach comes in. When you get it down, then bring in the camera crew. It's not too early to acquire footage that will make good political ad copy later on. Secondly, if you're a member of the ACLU, cancel your membership immediately and join the National Rifle Association. Have your camera crew shoot footage of you in the duck blind for future campaign commercials. Don't forget your acting lessons though because it is possible to look silly shooting ducks in a duck blind. Get hired part time to teach marksmanship at a Police Academy. Again have your camera crew film you instructing students on the target range. Once elected, however, do everything in your power to outlaw the sale of handguns and put the NRA out of business. Remember there’s no "truth in packaging" law for political ads, and you can't be legally held to your campaign promises.
If you play a musical instrument make sure it's the guitar or the drums - not the trumpet. Trumpets are from nerdsville. They're not in, again a Dukakis blunder that professional media management could have averted. Get acting lessons in playing the guitar or drums. You don't actually have to be able to play them, only to act the part. After being filmed, the actual music (played by somebody else) can be dubbed in. It should be something from Iron Butterfly or Jimi Hendrix, something, above all else, powerful. It is of utmost importance to retain control of your image by not leaving it up to the media to film you. Remember if you film yourself, you have control over the footage. If something's not right, a little coaching and another take should make it right.
Shamelessly co-opt traditional Republican issues the way the Bush campaign shamelessly co-opted the traditional Democratic issues of education and the environment. One might think that the reason why the Bush campaign did not co-opt the homeless issue was that even they were not that shameless. Think again. The homeless do not represent a political constituency. They are politically powerless. Therefore, why mention them at all? Exactly the tack George Bush took. What's more to bring up “helping the homeless” sends up red flags in the minds of American taxpayers who do vote who have been programmed to believe that, if government helps anyone, especially the poor, it means higher taxes for them. So it wasn't for a lack of shamelessness that Bush didn't co-opt the homeless issue. It was smart politics. Future Democratic Presidential candidates should not campaign, therefore, on helping the homeless but, when elected, should do everything in their power to provide adequate housing for them.
If the Bush-Dukakis race proved nothing else, it proved this: the American people prefer a candidate who presents himself in the hero image to one who is substantively compassionate. Compassion has already been test marketed and it doesn't sell. If it did, you would see compassionate people in TV ads talking about compassion. Instead you see passionate people talking about passion as in the Elizabeth Taylor TV commercial – “Give me the man who is not Passion's slave.” Compassion equals nice guy equals loser in the American mind. When one thinks of the words “nice guy”, the first thing that comes to mind is “Nice guys finish last.” That's what's most closely stored in our associative memories. Therefore, prospective Presidential candidates should avoid the image of “nice.” Eliminate words like “responsible,” “helping,” “serious,” and “compassionate” from your vocabulary.
Finally, take a Dale Carnegie course in positive thinking. The goal is to become the reverse image of Chicken Little, to go around saying “Isn't this a wonderful day” when the sky actually is falling.
MOVE THE DEMOCRATIC IMAGE TO THE RIGHT
Yes, move the Democratic image to the right while moving the Democratic political reality to the left. Take a page out of the Republicans’ book. It's been anticommunists Nixon and Reagan, respectively, that have created a rapprochement with the Chinese communists and the Russian communists, respectively. Why not a gun-toting Democrat that once elected eliminates the sale of handguns? The Republicans have mastered the art of political reverse psychology. Why? Because they have professional management, that's why. To Democrats who agonize over moving the Democratic Party to the right, I say don't do it for two reasons. You'll be perceived as political opportunists, and you'll still lose if you don't manipulate your image appropriately. Why not move to the left, substantively, but create a rightward leaning image? In fact the trick is to create an image to the right of the Republican who's running while in reality retaining your basic Democratic principles. The other reason is that if a real crisis happens to this country in the course of the Bush Administration, we'll need the good ole Democrats to bail us out FDR style, and you'll lose credibility if you become a “me-too” version of the Republicans.
Bush, meanwhile, has his hands full, having painted himself into a corner with his pledge of “No new taxes.” But his really serious mistake, which could lead to political suicide, is that he is no longer being stage-managed by Roger Ailes and scripted by Peggy Noonan. They've gone home. It's almost as if he's said, “Well now, the political theater of the campaign is over so let's get down to business.” This is a fatal error. The American people elected the image of George Bush that was created for him by his packagers and handlers, the Bushpackage (Bushpack for short), not the real George Bush. They paid their money, so to speak, for four years of the George Bush show and now, if they don't get it, if they get four years of the real George Bush, they will feel cheated. No, George Bush must keep up the image of the George Bush that was created for him during the campaign if he is to be at all successful. One wonders, however, if Bush has the stomach for impersonating the campaign image of himself over the long haul given his political equivalent of a Freudian slip represented by his quip about “show biz phone calling” during the campaign.
QUICK, CALL ROGER AILES
Right now the feeling that the American people are getting is a little like the feeling they got the first time they saw a James Bond movie and Sean Connery had been replaced by a new actor as 007. When you're used to a certain image, it leaves you a little cold when you get a different, unexpected image. This is exactly the problem George Bush is having right now. It is a fatal miscalculation to think that now that the political campaign is over, he can drop the Supergeorge image. Instead, he needs to elevate the post of media advisor to cabinet level status. Notice how flat his image is these days and how vapid his pronouncements? He needs constant coaching and scripting if he is to look and sound as Presidential as he did during the campaign. After all he does not possess the innate acting skills of Ronald Reagan. What he has to do precisely on the deficit problem is to raise taxes while all the time creating the image not that he he's not raising taxes - that would be too defensive - but that he will never raise taxes. A consummate actor like Ronald Reagan actually pulled this off superbly well, but George Bush is no Ronald Reagan. He needs constant media advising or he will shortly be in deep doo-doo. Of course it helps, as in Ronald Reagan's case, if you don't actually know what has been promulgated in your name. The more detached from reality one is, the easier it is to look in the TV camera and do a credible acting job telling the American people one thing while actually doing another. George Bush's success or failure will hinge on his acting ability, and that is why he needs the daily presence of Ailes and Noonan to help maintain the winning image they created for him.
REDEFINING THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM
What does Left and Right mean anymore? As Michael Dukakis said, “I thought that the first thing a conservative did was to pay his bills.” Well, after the Reign of Reagan I guess we know that conservative doesn't mean that anymore. And I thought that socialism was something out there to the left of liberalism, but with the Soviets redefining what socialism means - evidently it doesn't mean public ownership of the means of production any more - what does it mean to be a Leftist? Certainly, it can't mean bigger government and higher taxes. The Republicans have convinced us of that. What conservatism has come to mean after we divest it of all the phony baloney is being for policies that favor the rich and powerful. After all Reagan's budget deficit can be seen as the privatization of the financing of the Federal government, raising money for government expenditures the same way it's done in the private sector - by borrowing it. Thus instead of taxing the rich, we create investment opportunities for the rich. And the obligation for paying the interest on these investments falls primarily to those who can't loophole their way out of paying taxes, namely, the middle class and the poor. Tax breaks for the rich combined with the creation of investment opportunities for the rich adds up to government which strengthens the hand of the rich while weakening that of the poor and middle class.
If the Right end of the political spectrum truly represents the rich and powerful, then the Left should represent the poor and the vulnerable. Another definition would be to let the far right represent absolute freedom and let the far left represent absolute social responsibility. The middle then would represent a balance between freedom and social responsibility. Therefore, an issue like fiscal conservatism would really be a leftish issue. After all it is socially responsible to pay one's bills, not to waste and to live within one's means. Therefore, this should really be a Democratic issue in the new political spectrum. With an issue like gun control, the socially responsible position would be to restrain their sale and the freedom position would be to let anyone that wanted one have one. On an issue like drugs the socially responsible position would be to restrain their use and their sale and the freedom position would be to legalize them and let their use be controlled by the market. On an issue like poverty, the socially responsible position would be to help those in need even if the more fortunate were “taxed” to do so. The freedom position would be to let everyone fend for himself and not to restrain the freedom of the more fortunate by “taxing” them.
With the new political spectrum, Christian conservatism would be about the opposite of what it is today. What we have today is social welfare for the rich and a thousand points of light a.k.a. Benign Neglect for the poor. A new Christian conservative would be one whose priority would be to help the poor. Then, if there were money left over, help the less poor. Real Christian conservatism is what the Catholic Bishops in their pastoral letter of a few years ago on the US economy called a “preferential option for the poor.” Therefore, providing adequate food, shelter, clothing and medical care for those who for whatever reason were unable to provide it for themselves would take precedence over providing Social Security to those who were well off. If something has to be cut, cut the aid to the most well off first. That would mean cutting agricultural subsidies which go mainly to the rich while providing support to the poor family farmer. That would mean cutting social security to the rich elderly and transferring it instead to poor children and juveniles. That would mean cutting tax breaks to the wealthy and providing through negative taxation at least an income somewhat above the poverty level to the poor. From the Christian conservative viewpoint things would be ordered priority-wise from least expendable to most expendable. Least expendable would be aid to the poor. More expendable would be aid to the middle class. More expendable yet would be aid to the rich, and most expendable would be weaponry and the creation of nuclear waste and implements of destruction. Today's entitlement programs go mainly to the middle class and the wealthy. Less than 10% actually goes to poor people, those most in need.
So, you might ask, if the Democrats represented the poor and the homeless and the 37 million Americans lacking medical insurance, how would they ever get elected given the fact that the poor and the homeless by and large don't vote? After all the majority of voters are affluent, so why should a politician stick his neck out and appeal to the interests of non-voters? The answer lies in the fact that, as discussed above, it is the politician's image, not his reality, that gets him elected. One of the things that would correct the political circus that constituted the 1988 Presidential campaign would be passing a law prohibiting American taxpayers' money from being used for the creation of political ads whose purpose is to brainwash American taxpayers. Barring that, the Democrats should not abandon their principles but they should get serious and start taking acting lessons, hiring professional media advisors and portraying themselves as being strong and tough and the Republicans as being weak and wimpy. Remember it's not too early to start creating that ad footage for 1992!