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March 30, 2007

PR LESSON #2: Sometimes the Best Rapid Response in None at All

All press flacks learn an expensive lesson regarding blogs.  Sometimes the best rapid response is none at all.

This lesson is courtesy of Rich Galen at CNSNews.com.

A Rapid Response Story
By Rich Galen
CNSNews.com Commentary
March 30, 2007

* A feature of the modern political campaign is the Rapid Response Team.

* There was a time when it was considered unseemly for the frontrunner in a campaign to respond to a negative story because, back in the day, it was seen as giving credence to the charge and stature to the person (or organization) making it.

* Bosh! Was the preferred attitude.

* Then came the Internet and, more precisely, Google, where nothing written ever goes away. A charge made must be a charge answered -- whether it makes any sense or not.

* Big time -- and even small time -- campaigns now have a dedicated group of people who do nothing but scour the Internet looking for negative stories -- either about their opponents (which they will forward to their e-mail list of friendly bloggers and reporters) or about themselves (which will cause them to erupt into a projectile sweat and frenzied meetings).

* Hence, today's story (which is pretty long, but worth the read).

* On Wednesday, in a column pointing out where I thought the various campaigns stood, I wrote the following about Rudy Giuliani: "When Giuliani declared he was not in favor of a pardon for Scooter Libby, I suggested to one newspaper that was one more straw on the back of the Conservative camel and it appeared to me that the camel's knees were beginning to buckle."

* Pretty good line, but not much more than a one-timer. Actually, the big news out of that MULLINGS was the fact that I had spotted Romney's media guy, Alex Castellanos, sitting with Fred Thompson at a restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia.

* At the Giuliani campaign, that line about Scooter generated a DANGER WILL ROBINSON! Rapid Response alert.

* At 8:50 Thursday morning I got an e-mail from Giuliani press person Maria Comella -- who is held in pretty high regard in GOP campaign circles -- which said: "Hi Rich - I was reading your column in Mullings and noticed that you may have misstated the Mayor's position regarding Scooter Libby. He has not said he is against a pardon, but has indicated that this is a decision best left to the president."

* To which, I responded at 8:53 AM: "Right. That's like Hillary (when asked about General Pace's comments on the morality of homosexuality) saying: "I'll leave that for others to decide." When you want to be President (and Commander-in-Chief) you ARE the President and you ARE the C-in-C and you have to make those decisions. If you are running for President you can't duck difficult questions because you're not there yet."

* To which, Ms. Comella responded at 9:04 AM: "I understand your point and would admit that it would be fair for you to say that the Mayor did not answer the question, evaded it or insert whatever your editorial comment might be. My only issue was that you made the assumption that he does not support a pardon, when in fact the Mayor did not say that was the case. Anyway, appreciate you listening. Maria"

* To which I responded at 9:05 AM: "What's the answer? Does he or doesn't he support a pardon?"

* To which Ms. Comella responded at 9:45 AM: "The Mayor has said that we need to see what happens in the appeal process as this is an ongoing criminal case. This is quite similar to what Senator McCain has said on this issue."

* McCain: "That's a judgment that only the president of the

United States

can make ... The presidential pardon is a very, very serious thing that cannot be abused." (Henry C. Jackson, "McCain: Gonzales Should Not Be Forced Out," The Associated Press, 3/15/07)

* Neither statement can be characterized as opposition to a pardon.

* Which, in big-time politics is known as the "When in Doubt, Look to McCain for Cover" fandango.

* Moreover, it proved to me that this was being generated by the Rapid Response Unit which can pull up McCain quotes (or, I assume, Buster Keaton quotes) at will, because I am very comfortable in claiming that Ms. Comella had not previously memorized that McCain quote, nor the citation from whence it sprung.

To which, I responded at 9:52 AM: "I know that's what he's said. My question -- based upon your requirement to quote his position -- is: If he were President today would he pardon Libby?"

* To which there has been no reply as of this writing.

* Those of you who know me understand that by this time I was way, WAY over the whole thing and would have been perfectly happy to move onto pointing out that Nancy Pelosi has an approval rating only slightly higher than George W. Bush.

* But, then I got an e-mail from some guy named Jonathan at Townhall.com (which had carried that edition of MULLINGS) at 1:08 pm: "The Giuliani camp is claming an inaccuracy in your column today. How would you like to proceed? Would you like to issue a correction, soften the language, or stand by the assertion? If you leave it as is, the Giuliani folks will probably ask for a editors' note registering their disagreement with the statement."

* Which I took to be a weak, stupid, and amateurish attempt to intimidate me, thereby elevating the whole thing to the equivalent of World War IX.

* I responded (this is approximate, as I was on my Blackberry and didn't send a copy to myself):
"Do whatever you have to do. I've had an e-mail exchange with the campaign and I'm standing by what I wrote."

* Which led to a phone call from a higher-up at Townhall.com at about 2:30 PM asking if we could talk "off the record."

* I said, if he was calling about the Giuliani thing, we could absolutely NOT be off the record but (as I had written to Jonathan) Townhall.com should do whatever it thought necessary.

* Jonathan, not knowing I had just talked to his boss, sent me an e-mail at 2:38 pm: "I assume by "the email exchange with the campaign" that you had a email exchange with the campaign yourself and weren't planning on quoting me."

* To which, I responded: Maybe. Maybe not.

* I lied. By this time there was no question in my mind that I was going to quote Jonathan.

* Frankly, I like Giuliani. If he wins the nomination, I would have absolutely no problem aggressively supporting him.

* But, if his Rapid Response Team is going to get its collective panties into a twist every time they come across something which isn't exactly as they would have written it, they are in for a very long and uncomfortable time between now and February 5, 2008.

* What I wrote was a throw-away line. No one would have noticed. Now they will.

* I hope the Giuliani campaign learns the lesson: Sometimes the best Rapid Response is no response at all.

Copyright 2007 Barrington Worldwide, LLC

Snowe Flack goes to Qorvis Communications

Jake Michael Ward has joined Qorvis Communications as a new director.  In that capacity, he will advise clients on communications and media relations.  Ward came to the public relations firm from Capitol Hill, where he was Press Secretary for Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).  Prior to working for Snowe, Ward was Communications Director for Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA).  (Congress Daily)

Navy PAO Moves over to DNI

William F. “Trey” Brown III has been hired as a spokesman in the public affairs office of the Director of National Intelligence.  Brown was a public affairs officer with the Navy.  (CQ People on the Move)

Harkin Names Vilsack Vet New Comms Director

Jennifer Mullin has been hired as Communications Director for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA).  Mullin was Press Secretary for former Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA).  (CQ People on the Move)

March 29, 2007

Comms Vet Named Communications Director for Mac Thornberry

George Rasley, a former Hanover College professor and recently Communications Director for Rep. Deborah Pryce's (R-OH) re-election campaign has been named Communications Director for Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX).  In 2004 Rasley was campaign spokesman for Scott Rolle, who primary challenged Rep. Roscoe Barlet (R-MD).  Rasley is a lifelong Political Consultant from Naples, FL.

March 28, 2007

Schumer Hires New Press Secretary

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has hired Andrew Koneschusky as his new Press Secretary.  Koneschusky comes from the office of Rep. Andrew Weiner (D-NY).  (CQ People on the Move)

Edwards Campaign Names Key Communications Staffers

John Edwards' Presidential campaign named the following key communications staff positions today:

Senior advisor for communications, David Ginsberg - Ginsberg has held senior positions in several presidential campaigns, including senior advisor for communications in the Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign.  He served as deputy campaign manager for communications in Edwards' 2004 presidential campaign and as research director of Gore-Lieberman in 2000.  He also served as research and policy director for Edwards for Senate in 1998.

Policy communications coordinator, Alex Navarro -Navarro joins the campaign after working as communications director for the Working Families Party.  He worked as press secretary in 2004 for Edwards’ New York campaign.  Navarro has worked in press and policy roles for numerous New York campaigns.

National spokesman and senior advisor for communications, Mark Kornblau - Kornblau will serve as Edwards’ traveling spokesman.  He returns to the Edwards team after serving as his press secretary during the 2004 general election.  He previously worked as New Hampshire communications director for Kerry’s presidential primary campaign and later as a national spokesman.

Research director and senior advisor for communications, Christina Reynolds - Reynolds was a researcher on Edwards’ 1998 senate campaign and the research director during his 2004 presidential primary run. She also has served in research positions for other campaigns dating to 2002.

Director of communications planning, Candace McAdams - McAdams was most recently the director of marketing and communications at the White House Project.  In 2004, she worked on Kerry's presidential campaign.  She previously worked at Dan Klores Communications, a national public relations and marketing firm, where she specialized in crisis management and political, corporate and non-profit accounts.

Deputy director of communications planning, Teresa Wells - Wells most recently served as the traveling press secretary to Gov. Jon Corzine.  Previously, Wells worked on Corzine's gubernatorial campaign and the presidential efforts of Kerry and Bill Bradley.

Deputy press secretary, Andrea Purse - Purse most recently served as a press advisor for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and press secretary for Rep. George Miller, following communications positions at the Center for American Progress and Campaign for America's Future.

Deputy press secretary, Jenni Lee - Lee previously worked as deputy press secretary at Edwards’ One America Committee. During the 2004 campaign, she worked as assistant to the campaign manager for the vice presidential nominee.

National press secretary, Eric Schultz - Schultz joins the campaign after working as New York Sen. Chuck Schumer's communications director.  He has also served as Schumer's press secretary.  In 2004, Schultz was the New Hampshire communications director for the Kerry-Edwards campaign and the New Hampshire deputy communications director for the Kerry campaign during the primaries.

Deputy national press secretary, Kate Bedingfield - Bedingfield served as a regional press secretary at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2006 cycle.  She joins the Edwards campaign following work at the AFL-CIO and the Kerry-Edwards general election campaign.

Senior advisor for online communications, Mathew Gross - Gross was director of Internet communications for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2003 and 2004. He has served as an online and communications advisor to numerous non profits.

Senior advisor for online communications, Ryan Montoya - During the 2004 general election, Montoya served as Elizabeth Edwards’ trip director.  In 2000, he served Vice President Gore in several capacities. Montoya worked on the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1996 and was a presidential appointee in the Clinton administration.

Director of online communications and organizing, Ben Brandzel - Brandzel joins the campaign after working as advocacy director at MoveOn.org, a Democratic grass-roots organization.  He also founded the MoveOn Student Action organization.  Brandzel has also worked as an online engagement consultant for the United Nations World Food Programme and Oxfam America.

Online communications manager, Tracy Russo - Russo most recently worked as the blogger and online outreach coordinator at the Democratic National Committee.

Senior advisor, Jennifer Palmieri - Palmieri, who served as national press secretary in the 2004 Edwards for President campaign will be an advisor to the campaign.  (Raleigh News & Observer)

Sanford Campaign Manager Named Giuliani Deputy Communications Director

Jason Miller, who managed Gov. Mark Sanford's (R-SC) 2006 re-election race and was then named Deputy Chief of Staff for Coalitions, has been named Deputy Communications Director for the Rudy Giuliani Presidential campaign.

Before running Sanford's re-election campaign, Miller was named campaign manager for Senator George Allen's re-election, but he left when it appeared Allen would not have a real race.  His last day in the SC Governor's office is April 6.

Charles Chamberlayne Named Bond Press Secretary

Charles Chamberlayne, Deputy Communications Director for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (Republican staff), has been named Press Secretary to Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO).  (PF tipster)

March 27, 2007

Eaton Promoted to Press Secretary for Senate Commerce Committee (GOP)

Brian Eaton has been promoted to Republican Press Secretary for the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.  (CQ People on the Move)

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