News

Mulholland’s faux pas gets him in trouble–now there’s a surprise

Jerry: So how’s your karate class going?
Kramer: (pronouncing it “kar-ah-tay”) Karate, Jerry: Karate. The lifetime
pursuit of balance and harmony.
Jerry: But with punching and kicking.

In the world of fake news controversies, Democratic strategist Bob
Mulholland’s missive suggesting that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and North
Korean leader Kim Jong-Il share the same cobbler ranks at the top of this
year’s list.

And yet, Mulholland’s verbal shot, fired off in the only daily newsletter I
know of that still relies on 1990s facsimile technology, was heard round the
world, thanks to Matt Drudge prominently featuring it in bright red letters
at the top of the Drudge Report.

The international attention given Mulholland’s intentional faux pas allowed
Team Arnold the opportunity to show how quickly a couple dozen researchers
and communications staff can deliver a “rapid response.”

As fast as a NASCAR pit crew makes a stop for four tires and fuel, the
governor’s team quickly assembled statements and press releases, denouncing
Mulholland’s pointless–and meaningless–observation about the crazy little
man from North Korea. Pointless because Mulholland’s missive did nothing to
frame the Angelides campaign in a positive light. Meaningless because it
failed to illuminate the public about Schwarzenegger’s policy positions with
which Angelides disagrees.

California political writer William Bradley predicted in his New West Notes
blog that Team Arnold’s quick response to Mulholland “suggests that more
consequential gambits will receive very swift and vehement condemnation both
for him and the Democratic nominee.”

Or not. An event this week reported by Carla Marinucci in the San Francisco
Chronicle would suggest Team Arnold’s rapid response effort isn’t anxious to
confront what the Survey and Policy Research Institute poll suggests is
Schwarzenegger’s weak spot: President George W. Bush.

“Call it election-year politics, or GOP nervousness, or a desire to get
distance from an unpopular president–but, in a highly unusual move,
Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger attended a fancy White
House dinner Monday and his office wouldn’t acknowledge it.”

The dinner was to honor the governor’s mother-in-law, Eunice Shriver, for
her selfless work on behalf of the Special Olympics–a softball excuse for
going to the White House of a president with approval ratings in the 30s in
California, if ever there was one. Even liberal icon Senator Ted Kennedy
attended the dinner, as evidenced by photos on the Washington Post Web site.

Every bit as curious as why the governor’s team chose not to acknowledge his
attendance at a dinner honoring the highly respected Eunice Shriver (or
thought they could get away with hiding it) is why they would go out of
their way to avoid the potential for mean-spirited attacks from the likes of
Mulholland.

What better way to discredit your opponent than to open the door and invite
the sort of churlish attacks that neither Mulholland nor Angelides have the
willpower to resist?

One thing is certain in this campaign and that is Team Arnold’s messaging is
very disciplined. They need not take steps to look like they’re avoiding
criticism from Mulholland, which is how their refusal to admit to the White
House visit appeared.

Unfortunately, by avoiding the potential for Mulholland to criticize the
governor for attending the White House, the governor’s team gave him the
opportunity to sound like the voice of reason in his response to the
Chronicle’s story about Mrs. Shriver.

“Why would Schwarzenegger be so embarrassed about the president honoring his
mother-in-law?” Mulholland said. “That’s an embarrassment itself. Every
president honors people who have devoted their lives to helping others.”

Given the choice of taking the high road or the low road, Mulholland and
Angelides will always opt for the low road. By all means, don’t limit their
options.


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