Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sen. David Hann's Messaging Incompetence

Yesterday Republican Senate minority leader Sen. David Hann told staff and fellow senators that he had hired as Director of Research Bill Walsh. Together with the current Communications Director, Brad Biers, he will be responsible for the republican senate caucus messaging.

The cumulative effect of Sen. Hann employing these two men, who simply do not know what they're doing, is akin to hiring Captain Smith to be at the helm of the Olympic had he survived the voyage of the Titanic. Smith's a known quantity, to be sure, but what on earth would be the substantive case on the merits for bringing him aboard? Apparently in the republican senate and house caucuses, familiarity doesn't breed contempt but a job offer, no matter how mediocre or outright incompetent the friend. Super.

The extraordinarily poor judgment exhibited by Minnesota legislative republicans since 2010 can fairly be reduced to that: friendship put ahead of whether a particular person is best suited for a particular position. Once ensconced, of course, those straphangers are virtually impossible to remove, even if there were brains and spine enough in leadership to want to do so.

A defining moment for me came when, as a State Central delegate in 2011, I watched the assembled Senate and House leadership, together with hangers-on and wanna-be's from their respective caucuses, line up behind Tom Emmer on the dais in support of his bid to be our Republican National Committeeman. One after another they prattled, utterly unable to read the mood of the delegates before them. Obsequious, vain, shallow and stupid: I may never see so many morons in one eyeball-full again before I die. Or at least before the next State of the Union address.

"I have Chris Christie on speed dial!" bellowed the guy who looked, and still does, like a used car salesman. The assembled legislators behind him clapped like trained seals. It's embarrassing when people who demonstrably are not think they're the cool kids.

The majority of us voting delegates on the floor turned to each other with a look that said: "These people just got elected and constitute a republican majority? We're in worse shape than we thought." The State Central Committee refused to reward failure, mediocrity and "friendship" and elected Jeff Johnson the RNC committeeman. Those on the dais went on to lose our majority status in as short a time as humanly possible; they deserved to be beaten with thin white Birch sticks.

Republicans live with that fallout to this day, only with some of those same failed people now haunting the political scene, not only unchastened but even, if possible, politically dumber than they were then.

Today, Brad Biers is in place solely because Sen. Hann likes him as a friend and colleague. He has no skill whatsoever in crafting and maintaining effective political communications. This doesn't appear to matter; if it did he'd be gone.

Hann indicts himself twice by adding the demonstrably failed Bill Walsh to the mix. The provenance of his failures is impressive, in its own depressing way:
  • His mentor, Tom Mason, was the genius in the 1990 Senate race who came up with having Rudy Boschwitz invent and play the "I'm more Jewish" than Paul Wellstone card because Rudy's kids were raised Jewish, Paul's Christian. That worked out well because not only do most Minnesotans actually not know any Jews, they don't much care for religious so-called divisions to be used as a decisive factor in electing one of them to federal office. No one who knows Boschwitz believes him to be a jerk but Mason's infamous "Jewish letter" made him out to be one. Boschwitz was the only incumbent senator not reelected that cycle, showing just how good we Minnesota republicans are at being screw ups. Mason's role in promoting Walsh simply cannot be overstated.
  • Walsh came up with the ill-fated "tip credit" issue when he worked on the Tom Emmer gubernatorial campaign in 2010. No amount of alarm or panic could dissuade this tone deaf communications "guru" that the issue was killing our candidate. When the not very political person on the street knows about the goofy guy who thinks restaurant and bar servers make $100,000, you know the cause is lost. Unless you're Bill Walsh. To be fair, the inner circle of the Emmer campaign was as message-incompetent as he was. Perversely, they currently all, in one way or another, now seek to be rewarded. Whatever happened to failure having consequences?
  • On top of the tip credit idea came the "town forum" harebrained scheme which resulted in a lovely, endless, video loop of the man who would be governor being showered in bright shiny pennies by some leftist loon activist. Emmer practiced his method acting by being a server in a Mexican restaurant, kind-of sorta undercover but with the campaign taking grainy, faux cinéma vérité video. We won't even go into when Walsh, as Executive Director of the Republican Party, left sensitive party documents at Moscow-on-the-Hill, a Russian restaurant in St. Paul, the last time anything interesting happened there because its food was and is abysmal. 
Rep. Matt Dean is also another influential booster of Walsh; indeed the latter is said to be the former's right hand man. You can make of this what you will; despite what some feel, I don't, in fact, blog or tweet everything I think.

Walsh also recently served in varying appalling capacities in the RPM under the tutelage of Chair Keith Downey. The messaging from the party during that time was so poor it defies description. The length, the tone, and the content of party messaging were all incompetent.

But Walsh is a friend of Keith's and it's Keith's friends who get hired or are given favors. The cronyism is worse than it has ever been under any previous chair & that takes some doing. Apparently (its never been announced to my knowledge) the party has an Executive Director making $125,000 who hailed from a healthcare company and has never worked in politics before. His qualification? Friend of Keith's.

Downey himself was given enormous financial support by Bob Cummins via the Freedom Club, whose members pretend they count; they don't. It's pretty much just Bob and Joan; eat your lunch. At any rate, so poor a candidate was Downey that even the hundreds of thousands spent on his inept campaign couldn't rescue him. Downey is doing the best he can repaying the favor to Cummins by giving contracts to Civis, Cummins' group, in excess of $300,000.

Oh yes: Downey fancies himself gubernatorial material but then some days so do half of the populace.

When Downey was unable to get Walsh hired by the party, Sen. Hann stepped in to reward the loyal apparatchik. Sen. Hann himself floundered at the end of his race last year and many thought it quite possible he'd lose. Cummins poured in money and, unlike Downey's, Hann's cause was not lost. Of course republicans lost both the house and the senate and no one was to blame! It just happened.

Cummins was the foolish engine behind the traditional marriage ballot initiative; our majorities in the legislature had neither the ovaries nor cojones to stop that completely stupid idea which caused enormous damage. There's a whole creepy evangelical angle to a lot of these relationships that I can't go into because I can suppress nausea for only so long.

Here we are then: a minority party that has learned nothing about either governing nor about how to message while in the wilderness, repaying incompetent friends because they are friends. When we need to be at our messaging sharpest, using the gale-force winds of the Obamacare debacle to advance our vision of less government while not abandoning traditional safety nets, we have people who are without a clue, calling the President a communist or a socialist.

Does anyone in the republican party realize we're north of the Mason Dixon line?

And what of the other republican senators? They seem missing in action but each of them fancies himself a leader. How can they see abject failure at every turn and do nothing? Practice, apparently.

The only race republicans in Minnesota have a realistic chance of winning next year is taking back the House of Representatives. If those in that chamber learn nothing from the ongoing failures of the party and the Senate, Minnesota will be doomed to be a one party parody of progressivism for the foreseeable future.

"Optimism is cowardice."


Anonymous said...

Will you publish a monthly list of the good and bad news releases and media initiatives that Czar Billy produces for the Senate GOP?

Anonymous said...

The recycling of parasitic, talentless tools could be interpreted as either an example of The Peter Principle or of the folly of MNGOP in working for its own extinction.