Thursday, November 09, 2006

Heckuva Job Rummy

(Madame Speaker, how's that for a change?)

Well, at least when it come to Donald Rumsfeld, the President has no fear of cutting and running. In fact, he was against letting his Secretary of Defense go before he was for it. After running around the country telling America that a vote for a Democrat would be a vote for terrorists and defeat in Iraq, the President explained that he had simply lied a week ago when he told reporters “Donald Rumfeld and Dick Cheney are doing fantastic jobs and will stay through the rest of my term.”

He revealed today that in fact he had been in discussions with Rumsfeld and had been seeking possible replacements for him since well before the election. The W’s excuse? “I didn’t want to inject a major decision about this war into the final days of the campaign.”

Did Tony Snow and Karl Rove secretly go on strike? If this explanation is the President’s own best attempt at spin, my head is definitely spinning. In the meantime, last I heard the Vice President left for a hunting trip while everyone else of significance was campaigning this week. Is the president looking for a replacement for Uncle Dick as well? Even Rush Limbaugh turned on the administration by saying that he’d felt uncomfortable having to tout some of the now deposed congress’s policies. Apparently it was James Talent who forced Rush to make fun of Michael J. Fox’s tremors.

Wow! I’m being a bad sport. This is a time to be gracious. One of the hallmarks of American democracy has been that except for the election of Lincoln a lost election has never started a civil war. This tradition of orderly transition from one party to the other after an election may be our democracy’s most valuable asset. I congratulate both Conrad Burns and George Allen for respecting the spirit of that tradition by conceding their very close races.

While the results speak for themselves, one sign to me before Tuesday that the left was learning how to strategize in a 21st century election was my experience with Moveon’s Call for Change, a phone bank program that married flat rate long distance to the internet. The idea was very much around in 2004 when I made 200 + phone calls on behalf of John Kerry, but the database, script, and method were far cruder. This time, the script changed as the days passed, had several categories of useful information, and I stopped reaching people who were already the chair of the local party or who had gotten seventy four calls on the same day. It told me that the grassroots people had been listening, refining, and thinking through the technology very carefully and possibly matched Karl Rove’s firepower for once.

I’m fairly shy, so it’s still hard for me to call total strangers, but as far as I’m concerned any strategy based on regular people talking directly to other regular people has to be good for Democracy not just democrats. Hopefully, these kinds of strategies will always beat things like robocalling and spending billions on ad time.

Even more impressive, my friend Mr. Pogblog made more than 2,000 dials and over 600 actual live contacts with voters. In any case, she called so many times that she wound up number one on Moveon’s list of individual callers, something they tracked in the software (another good idea, if you’ve ever played arcade video games and looked at the hall of fame you know what I mean). She’s worked on political campaigns for more than ten years and has attacked every elective cause with the same level of energy. Up to now, she’s lost most of the time. Mr. Pogblog was one of many unsung heroes of the 2006 midterm elections. Call for Change claimed that over 6 million calls got made, so if Mr. Pogblog was at the top of the list an awful lot of people made calls.

I don’t know that having Democrats in control of both houses of congress is necessarily a cure all. I am, however, quite aware of the fact that for the last six years, they weren’t the disease. It was nice to wake up on a Wednesday morning and not cringe at the news. While it’s great fun at times to make Karl Rove and George Bush jokes, it would actually be far nicer not to have to for a while.

Still, I have to say that the election likely wasn’t about liberal vs. conservative. I suspect most of us just want public servants who actually serve the public. I hope both parties keep that in mind.


At 11/10/2006 01:52:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Madame Speaker. Sweet.

Hey, thanks a lot for the mention, cl. I was pretty darn stoked to make Election Day #1 and there is no doubt it's smart to have the hall of fame thing. I'm not sure I woulda quite stayed non-stop phoning all the way from 6:13 am to 8:45 pm (Alaska) without the goad. I might of hung it up at 8:30 p. The challenge and legerdephone is to make each call sound like it's the only call you've made. Pretty much the same words, but earnest and new each time.

My best line was 'Kennedy beat Nixon by one vote a precinct -- your vote really matters.' We all phoned for hours into the Webb precincts and in 2008 I get to say 'Webb beat Allen by 3 votes a precinct.'

The idea that I could call my heart out into all the key races is a tribute to MoveOn and the beautiful job they did of setting up the data bases and the interfaces and the support systems. Amazing. It was giga-swell to feel like such a pioneer of The Future.

Most important is that people like you not such a phone geek Did It Anyway, and next time, it'll be even easier -- you'll be an old hand. Hurray for you and the roughly 50,000 like you. It adds up. To about 7 million dials.

I'll tell more as I recover from major exhaustion of ears, but briefly it struck me that the Democrats elected a lot of grownups.

At 11/10/2006 07:18:00 AM, Blogger inkyhack said...

The New York Times had a great story yesterday about how a bunch of Republican candidates are really angry at Bush at the moment over the whole Rumsfeld resignation. If it's true that the president had already decided he was going to fire the guy several weeks ago, they wish he had done it before the election, because they believe it could have swung more votes their way. The country was ticked off about Iraq, and an early sacking of the guy could have at least shown the Republicans were listening. Instead, by preaching "Stay the course" when it was clear everyone hated the course, they think Bush ruined their chances Tuesday night.

At 11/11/2006 08:08:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am very happy with the outcome of the election and I think the American people have finally started to see through the rhetoric.

Good point inky. If Rummy had been canned earlier, the Repubs may have got some more crucial votes. And I think it was stupid of Bush to say he would stick with Rummy before knowing how the election would turn out.

I blogged about how every vote matters too. It's kind of scary and amazing that nonvoters just don't get it.

At 11/11/2006 10:24:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Mr. Pogblog, this is clearly a case of we should all be thanking you. I look forward to your take on your phonetastic feats.

Inky, the whole Rummy thing was clearly a gamble. W has traded on this whole I'm steadfast, I'm loyal, and I don't refer to polls to govern. Then one day, he shows up and says 'hey not a good idea, because well....that's what the people say."
If he was having doubts, you don't pretend the opposite, you just refuse to comment.

Every vote does indeed count. The margin in the senate was and is exceedingly narrow. I fear that some are going to think that all is right because of one midterm election. Rove et. al. already had a plan ready the day after the election.


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