The Ari Fleischer of the CPA
Shorter Dan Senor:
Hey, remember those guys we used to ridicule and ignore back in the day? Man, they’re starting to make a lot of sense now.
Bonus Senor from Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City:
Stratcomm, as it was called in the palace, was the CPA’s public relations office. It was run by Daniel Senor, a lanky thirty-two-year-old with a receding hairline and a you’re-either-with-us-or-against-us attitude toward journalists. He arrived in Iraq with Garner but stayed on after Bremer arrived. His press relations experience was limited to a stint as a spokesman for a senator, but Senor was an ardent Republican and soon became a trusted member of the viceroy’s inner circle. He helped Bremer, a fellow Harvard Business School graduate, decide when to hold press conferences, which journalists to grant interviews, and what photo opportunities were worth a dangerous trip outside the Green Zone.
As the occupation wore on, Senor became the most visible CPA official after Bremer. Clad in a suit, he held televised press briefings several times a week in the Convention Center. The briefing room was decorated by a White House image consultant, who was flown to Baghdad to specify the dimensions and location of the backdrop — a gold seal emblazoned with the words Coalition Provisional Authority. The consultant also had two big-screen plasma televisions affixed to the wall so Senor could play video clips. While other CPA officials waited months for equipment and staff to arrive from the United States, the press room’s needs were quickly met.
Behind the podium, Senor never conceded a mistake, and his efforts to spin failures into successes sometimes reached the point of absurdity. “The majority of Iraqis . . . do they want the coalition forces to leave? They say no,” he once said. The CPA’s own polls suggested just the opposite. Asked why Iraq had such interminable lines at gas stations, he insisted it was “good news” — more Iraqis were driving because the CPA had allowed the import of a quarter-million new cars. He made no mention of the CPA’s delays in getting Halliburton and other contractors to solve the problem by repairing refineries. When Senor was frank, it was never for publication. In April 2004, a few reporters asked him about a paroxysm of violence that had Americans hunkering in the Green Zone. “Off the record: Paris is burning,” he told them. “On the record: Security and stability are returning to Iraq.”
So basically, on the record, Senor was a glass-half-full kinda guy. Off the record the glass was still half full, only it was half full of Iraqi blood.