Today's lesson -
"How to create even worse headlines than your opponent and push them off the front page in only a matter of days."
Okay, true, Democrats have been lax over the past two years when it's come to getting a bad headline. The best they could manage was John Kerry telling a bad joke. But of course John Kerry always tells bad jokes, so that had "short shelf life" written all over it from the start. And yet, even with Democrats finally getting a bad headline, Republicans not only managed to steal it back, but they put their vaunted Bad Headline Machine into high gear - and within just two days, they churned out so many bad headlines right under the election deadline that even the Masters watched in awe.
Buckle your seatbelts. Remember, this is the party that has controlled the government for six years, making its last pitch to put its best foot forward.
First headline. The President tells the country that he stands by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, and they will be staying through his term.
That rapturous cheering you heard was from Democratic candidates everywhere. The sucking sound was Republicans who had been distancing themselves from Donald Rumsfeld so far that they need vaccinations and a passport. Considering the 29% approval for the running of the war, staying with the Defense Secretary is considered in political circles Not a Good Thing.
In fairness, though, it looks great next to the President bizarrely saying he'll stick with Dick Cheney. His approval rating is 18%. Moreover, Mr. Bush is, of course, Constitutionally required to keep him. Yet there was the White House reminding the electorate days before voting that this is what a Republican vote is supporting.
Second really bad headline. Two federal agencies will be investigating whether government scientists were being blocked and censored by the Bush Administration. To show how truly bad headlines have been for Republicans the past week, something this awful got lost amid another far worse. The very same day: And that would be -
Third, the mindnumbingly disastrous story that the Administration had actually published plans on the Internet for how to make a nuclear bomb! Immediately, every Republican candidate running on the platform, "We've kept you safe from terrorism," was advised to rework their slogan by adding the phrase, "...providing terrorists don't have Internet access."
Keep in mind that these aren't horrific headlines over months. This is all within days. Less than a week before voting. When you're making your best case for re-election.
And the hits kept coming.
Fourth headline. The drug-and-sex scandal of Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangicals, perhaps the leading crusader against gays in America, and a leading evangelical advisor to the Bush Administration. In fairness, this is largely a personal matter between Mr. Haggard and his family, his God and the 30 million members of the NAE, but it does also have national ramifications.
After all, the Republican Party has tried to be seen as the Party of Morals. And Mr. Haggard is perhaps the most important moral advisor to the Party. So, it at least begs the question - what in the world he has been advising?? On the other hand, if these are the morals that the White House is getting, that begins to explain allowing New Orleans to be wiped off the map, under-funding "No Children Left Behind," the Abramoff scandals and covering up Mark Foley.
And fifth, as if all this wasn't enough, comes the headline topper from the 18% Man himself, Dick Cheney. In an ABC interview, the abnormally unpopular Vice President proclaimed that "We've got the basic strategy right" in Iraq and are going "full speed ahead."
If anything creates a perfect picture of the Republican Party coming up with disastrous headlines to take away attention from a now-forgotten bad joke, this is it: the Vice President, so crushingly unpopular that the President had to reassure the nation he wouldn't be unconstitutionally fired, saying that the Administration would be going "full speed ahead" in a war which 68% of the public is against, mere weeks after the President himself has insisted "We've never been 'Stay the Course,'" only two days before the election.
It is pure artistry itself. All of it. A textbook lesson in how to grab your own bad headlines in order to push someone else's off the front page. In mere days.
Days before an election, this is when a party controlling the government for six years is supposed to show the public what they've done for the country.
And remarkably, that's exactly what these headlines accomplish.
And there's still one day to go for even more headlines. One can only imagine what's next...