White House May be Dictating, But We’re Not Stenographers
Ben Smith has an article on Common Purpose, one of the many groups Rahm Emanuel has set up to coordinate messaging among liberal interest groups.
There are a variety of vehicles through which this is done — the 8:45 am call, Unity 09, Campaign to Rebuild and Renew America — and they’ve been extremely successful. When the banks told the White House they wouldn’t cooperate with the PPIP plan unless they got their bonuses, and the administration made the decision to "ratchet down their rhetoric," the call went out to the liberal interest groups to stay silent too…and silent they remain.
Unions are getting their contracts slashed, bank execs are pulling in billions, and how many of the usual suspects are running campaigns about the $1 billion in AIG bonuses to be paid out in June and September? Go ahead, count ’em. I’ll be here, I can wait. . . .
Back already? Now add ’em up. Here’s a pencil. Carry the one, add the three. . . that would be. . . zero.
As Ben writes, one of the goals of Common Purpose is to punish dissenters in front of their peers:
Part of the group’s role is to enforce a kind of message discipline, and one topic of discussion there, sources said, was a campaign launched last month by some of the more liberal members of the coalition — the Campaign for America’s Future, USAction, and liberal blogger Jane Hamsher — under the rubric "Dog the Blue Dogs."
The White House, however, was in the midst of discussions with members of the congressional Blue Dog caucus, and objected to the slogan, which was promptly changed, and the page describing the drive is gone from CAF’s website.
Robert Borosage, the president of the Institute for America’s Future, which launched the campaign, said he wasn’t present at the meeting where the campaign was discussed but that he’d been made aware of the objections.
A couple of things. One, I wasn’t actually part of the campaign — US Action decided to join a campaign they were doing against four Blue Dogs with a CAF campaign against five "Bayh" caucus Senators. I was asked by Robert Borosage to join in on a conference call and be supportive. Which I was happy to do, I like both Borosage and Roger Hickey.
Second, the original press release on Monday, March 23, did say they were targeting Blue Dogs. That was the day I got involved, and I mentioned that since the Bayh caucus weren’t really Blue Dogs it was probably better to rebrand. So they did. When the campaign launched and the press conference was held on the Tuesday the 24th, it was actually targeting "Obstructionists," not Blue Dogs. By the time the White House whacked them on Tuesday afternoon, the name had already changed. So that ain’t why it happened.
Third — and most important — I had no role in scaling the campaign back, because it wasn’t mine, and I wouldn’t have done it anyway. I wasn’t at the Common Purpose meeting because the earth would cleave open and swallow Washington DC whole before I’d be invited to get White House talking points from some lobbyist, which is as it should be. Our big strength is being an independent voice.
Despite the message that was sent at the Common Purpose meeting that afternoon to play nice with the corporatists, this is what I was doing at 10 pm:
There’s a big problem right now with the traditional liberal interest groups sitting on the sidelines around major issues because they don’t want to buck the White House for fear of getting cut out of the dialogue, or having their funding slashed. Someone picks up a phone, calls a big donor, and the next thing you know…the money is gone. It’s already happened. Because that’s the way Rahm plays.
Just in case you were worried, that’s not a problem for us.