14 August 2009

ABC: Always Be Closing

Okay, let's be clear about one thing: Say what you will about the former U.S. administration, they were well-versed in the black arts of marketing.

Case in point: Pres. G.W. Bush, the huckster-in-chief, and his cronies sold this country an unnecessary (war of choice, adventure) war of aggression (designed principally to stabilize the price and flow of Middle Eastern oil so U.S. and multinational oil companies could more predictably calibrate their—and their suppliers' and servicers'—profits) as an existential war on terror, just like his father, that cagey old snake-oil salesman, before him. Recall, too: George Herbert Herbert Bush tried to sell tort reform (i.e., putting a cap on the amounts juries and judges can award for pain and suffering of patients who prevail in medical malpractice and product liability cases) as a panacea for health care.

Their M.O. in both cases seems to have been identifying a real (at least for them) problem (Sadam Hussein's chokehold on the price and flow of oil, on the one hand, and "tassel-loafered trial lawyers" who are the bane of corporate profit, on the other [notice a trend here?]) and, instead of attacking the problem head-on, linking it to what they rightly-identified as a more-salable casus bellum (respectively: 9/11 + GWOT and health-care reform), i.e., something the people would buy. Right causes, wrong (pet) targets.

Now, their methodology—and this is what the current administration doesn't quite get—was not to make the end-product crucial to their own political ends (which, of course, it absolutely was), but to convince 50% +1 of the upright citizens of the direness of the threat and screw the rest: scare them to control them.

In other words: FRAUD. Got that?

To their credit, they were incredibly disciplined. They put up a unified front: the PATRIOT Act, DHS's unified control over the intelligence that penetrated the spheres of the decision-makers, the Pentagon. They bamboozled, degraded, and ostracized State, turning it into their PR organ. They cowered Congress. The bait-and-switch they pulled on Iraq was breath-taking in scope: 'we're going to take Saddam out because he's got WMD ("We know where they [Iraq's WMD] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south, and north somewhat...") and he collaborated with OBL on 9/11'; 'well, not WMD but WMD capacity'; 'well, he had WMD, we know 'cause Don sold 'em to him, but we don't know what he did with 'em'; Saddam was a tyrant: he gassed his own people for pity's sake and he's a threat to his neighbors'; 'it was all about regime change'; 'they'll greet us with chocolates and flowers'; etc.

Think about this: there were literally millions of people protesting the invasion of Iraq in the streets not only of this country, but around the world. No one paid attention to them—not the government, not the media, and hence not the rest of the citizenry. The administration just went ahead and did what it intended to do all along. Today, by contrast, a minuscule handful of shouter-downers at a few, usually-lazy August town hall meetings, because they are getting airtime on CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, CNBC, talk radio, newspapers, etc., are seemingly having an outsized influence on the direction of health care reform. They might even be able to kill it on behalf of their corporate and Republican sponsors. Why is that? Discipline.

Likewise, the previous administration had timing. Another thing the current admin doesn't seem to quite get. Remember Andrew Card's (GWB's PoS CoS's) great slip w/r/t the run-up to the unprovoked invasion (rape?) of Baghdad? `From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.'' We are certainly seeing the wisdom of this POV today as a highly-organized and vociferous minority is making a unified attempt to derail health care reform by disrupting congress members' and Senators' otherwise sleepy constituent meetings.

Those guys knew how to run a marketing campaign. I am not being nostalgic, simply observant. They were supply-siders all the way. They knew how to sell their product (that is to say, ram it down our throats), even though people didn't really want or need it. The Obama administration simply doesn't seem to have those chops. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm just saying...

President Obama is, by trade, logical, a rational persuader, a consensus-builder. Yes, health care reform may be what this country direly needs right now. And, yes, his policies may indeed be exactly the right solution at precisely the right moment. But he's not willing to scare people into buying it. He doesn't want to appear to be a fraud. He wants people to accept the rightness of his POV. Base marketing (which so often is tainted by fraud) qua style just seems alien (distasteful) to him.

Today we read that "he's willing to be a one-term president if that's what it takes to get health care and energy reform." How noble. How misguided: self-sacrifice for the good of the country. That's what Jesus was famous for—and look what happened to him.

Being Mr. Nice Guy is not what's going to close the deal. The President has got to make health care (and energy) reform absolutely urgent for the people. Fact is it is, but he's got to overcome the ignorance and intransigence of the mob and the demagogs and drive home what's at stake—the rank, urgent self-interest for these people in having reform. He's got to get down in the mud and make reform as crucial and urgent as the false urgencies of the 'death panels' and 'socialism' and 'naziism' and not letting 'some gov'ment bureaucrat' decide whether to 'put grandma down'.

Maybe he's gulling us (trans. see 'rope-a-dope' ). Maybe he's letting the opposition have its say in the public square. Maybe he's allowing them, rabid as they are, to bluster and blow themselves out, exposing their own ignorance and intransigence in the process. Maybe he believes he can absorb the political blows and still come out on top. Maybe he's planning to compromise. Maybe he's planning to counterattack. It's not clear now.

Maybe he's waiting until September to unveil his true marketing plan... Who knows. All I know is coffee is for closers.

(This post is in response to this fine post by an acquaintance of mine Drew Westen, not that HuffingtonPost needs to be linked to by me.)

1 comment:

A. Ominous said...

Jim, I wonder if any amount of spin could overcome the force of the fact that, in the end, GW was the perfect mouthpiece/mascot/avatar of his *natural* constituency... while Obama can't really even have one (which explains why "the leader of the free world" found himself virtually fellating a lowly white cop recently; try to imagine Dick Cheney donning those kneepads or a buddy of his being fucked with by a Crowley; Crowley would be in Guantanamo Bay the following weekend). Certainly, the serfs are fooling themselves on that one, but haven't they always? Self-destructive and deeply-deluded or not, the "masses" are fated to enter into the same bloody pact with their "leaders" (who is leading whom?) over and over again: do what you *know that we want you to do*, and, if it works, you're a hero... if it doesn't, you're history's scapegoat.

Eg, the Native American genocides (I include Mexico in that) were massive successes because the spectacular land-grabs worked; without them, the USA would be smaller than Belgium: the relevant Presidents therefore got their alabaster busts on plinths. Vietnam didn't turn out quite as nicely, so LBJ and Nixon (even Kennedy, increasingly) suffer clouded legacies. Why is Reagan so beloved that Obama even borrowed some rotting glamor from the fucker on the campaign trail? Because the masses think the spooky dimwit's doddering brinkmanship won the Cold War.

Eg, you can't tell me that 10,000 profoundly energetic fascists of Central Europe in the early middle of the previous century managed to exterminate 11,000,000 people via subterfuge. You also can't tell me that if the Nazis had been *successful*, there'd be culture-wide soul-searching in Germany today. Not only History, but Morality itself, is re-written by the Winners. And, PS: the Bushes haven't lost yet. Can't you hear the cry? Jeb 2012?

Anyway, re: American health care: first things first. Stop the blank-cheque slaughter of the citizens of various sovereign nations and *then* we can start worrying about American asses. Americans keep getting that detail, very wrong. Obama, now, especially.