Saturday, July 31, 2004

More speculation on bunny suit spin

Following up my earlier derision towards a recent column by R. Novak, Digby points to a New Republic piece on GOP oppo research. Revealing quote (emphasis added):

Example A was the headquarters Republicans installed a few blocks from the FleetCenter to coordinate their response to the Democrats. At center was a so-called war room--a dozen or so computer terminals arranged around a pair of TV sets, at which a team of young GOP staffers pulled up research on Democrats and skimmed the Drudge Report as they watched the convention. For maximum partisan effect, the office's walls had been festooned with blown-up quotes of Kerry saying various foolish or purportedly revealing things ("I'm a liberal and proud of it"), images of a recent Boston Herald front-page headline declaring John Kerry and John Edwards "left of ted," and, by Tuesday morning, multiple images of Kerry in that absurd blue nasa space suit. (Republicans seemed to consider this a defining moment in the campaign. Several staffers promptly made this photo their computer desktop image, and the office distributed a flyer juxtaposing the Kerry photo with the infamously goofy image of a tank-riding Michael Dukakis.)

No wonder Republicans think (or claim to think) that this bunny suit b.s. is going to get traction. They've spun themselves into a totally insular coccoon consisting of their own fantasies and talking points. Novak, of course, is not one of these young staffers, but he is undoubtedly part of the propaganda distribution network for which the oppo research staffers are the advance scouts.

Free clue for Republicans: there are many silly pictures of politicians. It's the inevitable result of the continuous media blitz in which they live, and people know this. For a picture to get traction, it has to resonate with some larger theme. The reason the Dukakis tank photo hit home was that it reinforced the pre-existing perception of Dukakis as ineffectual, wimpy, and not a credible military leader. This contrasted with the perceived strengths of Bush the elder.

Yes, Kerry in a bunny suit (which all visitors to NASA clean rooms are required to wear) is funny, but what weakness of Kerry's does it draw attention to? That he wouldn't be a good NASA engineer? That he's not strong on the space program?

So, actually, my thinking on this business is changing. I think the smarter Republican strategists cannot really believe this photo's going to get any traction in the general public at all. It's more of a propaganda poster to rally the (receptive/gullible) junior troops --- staffers like the ones in the oppo research room, who must be feeling pretty demoralized after six months of almost nonstop bad news for Bush, followed by the Democrats' execution of a nearly flawless convention.

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