If you work in communications in politics, you should never be part of the story. In fact, it is axiomatic that if you, as a communications person, become part of the story, you have failed at your job, because your job is not to promote or draw attention to yourself, but rather to state the position of the politician/organization you are representing. If the media is reporting on YOU, it’s because you’ve screwed up in some way.
As I can personally attest, it is a job that requires the patience of a saint, especially when you are tasked with dealing with bloggers. Unlike more traditional media outlets, bloggers are prone to run with stories with less sourcing. Furthermore, when a mainstream media outlet publishes a piece that your organization/candidate doesn’t like, you can call to give them a contrary position, and they generally feel compelled to print it for the sake of balance. Bloggers, on the other hand, will take your explanation or statement, and if they don’t like it, will either refuse to print it or will print it and then mock it. It is a new era for comms people in politics with the rising influence of grassroots activists plugged into blogs like RedState. Thankfully, most communications professionals have adapted and are able to maintain relative equanimity in the face of the new, somewhat frustrating blogging phenomenon.
NRSC Communications Director is not most communications professionals.
Several weeks ago, we covered Walsh’s bizarre and intemperate attacks on RedState (via a California political activist). And now we find Brian Walsh yet again making himself part of the story by losing his top at the Chuck DeVore campaign, and DeVore campaign spokesman Josh Trevino in particular. The substance of this discussion is but a sideshow; the indisputable facts (which Walsh dances around, in typical comms shop style) are that the DeVore campaign has sent at least four communications to John Cornyn or his staff requesting a meeting with the Senator, all of which have been either ignored or rebuffed.
The important thing to note here is that a communications director for an organization ostensibly dedicated to electing Republicans to the United States Senate allowed himself to be quoted, on the record, in print, calling the campaign of a Republican Senate candidate (who has raised over a million dollars and polls identically to Fiorina against Boxer) unserious and incompetent. I’m sure that will play well in Boxer’s ads if Chuck DeVore wins the primary, Brian. Well played.
This attitude, of course, has been typical of Walsh’s attitude towards the DeVore campaign and is typical of a pattern of on-the-record comments alternately threatening and insulting towards DeVore and his staff. For example, in email correspondence provided to RedState, the DeVore campaign on October 21st of this year asked the NRSC about this story, in which Carly Fiorina bragged that John Cornyn had asked her to enter the race, “reaffirming [her] belief that Chuck DeVore can not beat Barbara Boxer.” In response to the DeVore campaign’s obvious consternation about the implication of this statement, Walsh dismissed these concerns and implicitly threatened them with a refusal to help in the general if the DeVore campaign made a fuss.
People often wonder how it is that the NRSC inevitably finds itself on the side of the moderate in these battles. The truth is that here, as elsewhere, personnel dictates policy. The attitude and culture of the career people at the NRSC (as opposed to the revolving chair) clearly demonstrates an entitled beltway mentality that fosters anti-conservative meddling in places where the NRSC doesn’t belong. And as much as we focus on the Doles, Ensigns, and Cornyns of the world, until the internal organizational ethos of the NRSC changes, we will continually find them making poor and unwise choices like the Crist endorsement earlier this year, and the de facto endorsement of other milquetoast establishment candidates around the country.