Changed Domain

April 23, 2009

STOP!! GO TO MY NEW DOMAIN AT POLITICSDECODED.COM

Vice President Joe Biden has recently fed into the main stream media’s growing White House side story — his “single handed war” on the past Bush Administration. The latest chapter in the proposed saga came in the form of an interview unrelated to the subject, where Biden, in the process of answering the more or less softball question of “is the US more safe now than before”, made a controversial attack at former President Bush. 

Vice President Joe Biden sits down for an interview with CNN's Gloria Borger and Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.We are more safe. We are more secure. Our interests are more secure — not just at home, but around the world. We are rebuilding America’s ability to lead. I remember President Bush saying to me one time in the Oval Office — and he was a great guy, enjoyed being with him. He said to me, he said, ‘Well, Joe,’ he said, ‘I’m a leader,’” 

“And I said, ‘Mr. President, turn around and look behind you. No one’s following.’”

Enter former Bush adviser Karl Rove, who later, in an appearance in Fox News’s On the Record, fired back, assuming the political body and essentially answering for the Bush Administration: 

“Joe Biden said, for example, that he spent hours with the president. Joe Biden was never alone with the president for more than a few moments. There was staff in the room at all times. He never said these kind of things.”

“I hate to say it, but he’s a serial exaggerator. If I was being unkind, I’d say he’s a liar. … You’ll notice every one of these incidents has the same structure. Joe Biden courageously raises the impudent question. The president befuddledly answers, and Joe Biden drives home the dramatic response. And I mean, it just — it’s his imagination. It’s a made-up, fictional world. He ought to get out of it and get back to reality.”

Although it isn’t hard or illogical to start with jabs towards both sides in this debate — in my view its important to step back and take a look at what isn’t in this equation, and why. 

It surprises me in more ways than not that President Obama or any of his immediate staff has not stepped in with Biden, as his argument may not necessarily be gaining as much healthy traction as it was designed to receive. This, if I may go as far, may be yet another sign of the new administration’s naive nature, but it may very well be a seasoned strategy. I’ll explain:

Looking back into the illustrious and brilliant Obama/Biden campaign, one might recall the many Bush attacks that took place, which most of the time ended in long, back to back ad campaigns that I believe played a role in Obama’s overall win in the polls. These attacks were fully backed, and ruthlessly pushed forward by the Obama campaign, whether they started via mistake (i.e. Biden’s Indian Gaffe) or for a political gain. But now, as we see another attack initiated, President Obama has held back, unlike the past candidate Obama. So why?

My view is that Obama doesn’t believe Biden picked the best fight in the best time. 

In a time where the Oval Office is already juggling domestic and international congressional problems, as well as the new policies trying to are trying to implemented, most of the official word coming out of the White House has been positive. And because of this, the right wing is more or less starved of talking points to get out into the press — as they would be taken second stage to the President’s news, which is essentially flowing out in a more of less politically healthy way. 

So now that something has indeed come out as an attack, I wasn’t exactly surprised to see a response from the unofficial GOP within the day. Karl Rove, whether himself or a PR coordinator, sensed that this was the loophole that was exactly what they needed and politically pounced on it. 

And it was in fact a good idea. Vice President Biden does in fact have a reputation of both sides of the aisle of stretching the truth, and I am more than assured that this alleged “conversation” did not exist. And because of this exaggeration and Rove’s seasoned ability to pounce, he has created a handle for the White House in the GOP — Joe Biden’s mouth.

But again, there are many ways to play something like this, so I’ll open this up to the commenters: Where was Obama in this exchange, and why did he stay out of it?

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Back to Blogging

April 12, 2009

Bluntly, there is no other way to express where I have been the past six months besides the words: “I screwed up.”

In a nutshell, I suddenly abandoned my healthy readership, and disappeared into my supposed alibi consisting of sad excuses of overloading homework and events. I took a break, fiddled with a possible culturedecoded.com, and ended up less than I started with. And although I understand that most likely some of you — my readers — may not read my work again, I want to apologize for my naive pause from blogging and come back just as I left Culture Deocded. 

An overwhelming amount of events have occurred in the political world as I have left, and I want to discuss them as soon as possible. A President Barack Obama has taken countless actions to bring the free world back to where it once was, some of which I disagree with and some of which I agree with. Iraq has remained a focal point in the middle east, and there is still question in the air over when american troops will really pull out. Somalian pirates have put a fixture in the previously quiet Gulf of Aden, and America is torn over what actions should be taken. The president has purchased a long awaited dog, and Vice President Biden has taken swings at Karl Rove, and the press is taking sides.

As far as the status of the blog, I encourage all of you visiting and returning to leave comments on what you think about the issue at hand. A successful blog is not just written by the author, but by its readers, and if you contribute, there will be very interesting conversations for a long time. 

So without further ado, I will continue where I left off, and work as hard as possible to initiate political discussions that will benefit everyone.

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Today Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin presented her second speech in as many days on the topic of opponent Barack Obama’s political involvement with past leader of radical group Weather Underground — a subject repeatedly punched by the McCain campaign. Palin’s words were responded with boos and shouting alike from the McCain supporting crowd, a harsh way of showing they wanted more. 

But has this been the response from the general public, especially neutral undecideds? 

The popular trend has been no, but past and present pollster stats have had a history of contradicting this claim. But in contrast, Barack Obama’s recent climb in the polls have been widely linked with the fact that his campaign has been running a lower percentage of attack ads. 

But in truth it really comes down to the campaign making their attacks carefully and with strategy. Although incredibly dated, my case in point is knockout campaign ad “daisy” by then-presidential candidate Lyndon Johnson. The ad (click here) was truly a textbook attack that although was in fact a PR gamble, paid off handsomely for the Johnson campaign, and is even credited at times in part for his presidency win.

Why? Though a gamble alone because of its topic, the ad was in fact very well played. The Johnson campaign found a large stumble by opponent Barry Goldwater where he stated that nuclear bombing Vietnam was a possibility. 

For those as young as me, to put this into prospect: the political importance of capitalizing on the uncertainty and fear of a nuclear war in 1964 was by all means not the equivalent but rather of the same concept as a candidate in this race falling on a political pot of gold. In other words, finding something (most useful would be a quote) coming out of the opposing campaign that involved the prospect of funding the people who are suspected to have started the financial crisis.  

 But once something like this has been discovered, the  campaign must in fact use their information carefully. 

 What is my point? There are essentially three steps a  campaign must take to orchestrate a successful ad — a juicy  and controversial topic (in Daisy’s case a nuclear war), a  somewhat truthful piece of information from the opponent  (the more untruthful it is the more skilled the director must  be), and finally a non-generic: “and this is why you should  vote John ’64″ quote. 

 And “daisy” not only hit straight on all of those topics, but  also found time to put fourth an intense start (the young girl counting roses that turns in to a T-Minus countdown for an nuclear bomb) that has made people think and argue for decades.

And what does this have to do with the 2008 presidential race? In a strategic sense, almost everything.

In my opinion, Obama’s lead has come from two things — his policies and the topic of this post — McCain campaigning. 

But not as you might suspect — I am not discrediting McCain for his negativing campaigning itself, but rather the fact that it has not successfully followed all the points to make a successful PR ploy. This is simply because he has thrown out way too many talking points as ads, and hasn’t followed what has worked in the past and will continue to — a central arguement.

It would be put well quoting that tonight’s debate “almost wasn’t,” far exceeding my expectations of a full out brawl.

But before I start, in a nutshell, what really occurred the most to me is that there never really was a knockout punch, a home-run swing — a bold statement or attack that either tore off the roof or declared a real winner. There were really more or less small policy jabs, and in that respect I think that Barack Obama came out on top strategically. 

 A conservative CNN guest commentator put it extremely  well, pointing out that in a social sense, there were truly  two different people debating — a confident foreign policy  candidate who will accuse, accuse, and accuse, and then an  intellectual candidate who very acknowledges his opponents  rights and points out his wrongs, playing out the debate on  the defensive. 

 Although I am not sure that I agree with the statement on  offense and defense, I think that the man raises a very good  point — that Obama will win a debate through his policies,  not his soundbites.  

And this is really where Obama came right off the bat strong, starting by discussing the economic crisis. His first message was ripe and straight to the point, first throwing out the problem and what he will do to fix it, then proclaiming in a more subdued way that his opponent will take a different and less successful path more towards our president. And I also think that he brought out the point of: “Do you want the next four years under a president similar to ours, who is by the way the same person who you give approval ratings below freezing to?” 

And I think that the general audience thought a second about that, liberal, moderate or conservative, and make their own decision. 

And I think at the same time, McCain felt his grasp slipping. CNN provided a audience reaction poll (it obviously debatable if it is accurate) which showed a huge advantage out of the gate to Obama. 

And this was a very decisive moment in the debate. 

When the topic switched to foreign policy, I noticed a McCain taking chances. The pinnacle of this was a very bold statement from McCain about Russian President Vladimir Putin, quoting:

“I looked into the eyes of Vladimir Putin, and I saw three letters — a K, a G, and a B.”

And although the strongly conservative crowd went nothing less than “ga-ga” about that comment, I think that in the long term that really lost the debate for McCain. But it essentially wasn’t the point itself, rather a small turning point in the debate showing the larger and larger chances that McCain was taking to make his points. And in the end, I think that people will think about the debate in a whole and move towards the conclusion that Barack Obama was more in control, not jumpy, and factual. But most of all, he wasn’t trying to start a World War Three inside that Mississippi auditorium, rather pointing out what is wrong and right. 
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Analysis: Sarah Palin is a force, from whichever prospective you may enter from. But the underlying question is how she has become one in the form of something completely different than what the political world has ever seen. 

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 Shortly after her “homecoming” speech in Fairbanks, Alaska, Sarah Palin opened up, making her first fresh address since her repetitive “stump” speeches after her GOP acceptance, provoking the first thought from me that explains her marvel. How has Sarah Palin accumulated this much press in such a short amount of time?

What me must first understand is the fact that this has been done before, by the person who has been hit most by Palin — Barack Obama. Long ago in political time, Hillary Clinton was once the king of the hill, and a sure-shot to at least make to the general election. And then Obama came, literately out of thin air, and getting more press and hype than Clinton has ever had — eventually overtaking her. 

And although on a bigger stage, this process has essentially repeated itself with Sarah Palin. And because of this, the Obama camp must understand how they took down Clinton could end up being the end of them — defensive rage. Clinton, down in the polls, switched from talking about her policies to using brute force, taking swipes at Obama from a defensive standpoint, something the public recognized as weak.

So what Obama must do is exploit Palin’s weaknesses without letting go of his strengths — discussing himself and what his plans are if elected. 

As I have explained in a different post, Sarah Palin has two big weaknesses — the press, and hand to hand combat. 

The first weakness is due to Palin instant celebrity status. She has fallen victim to what many politicians have feared — a press craze. One of the prices Palin has paid since entering the political stage out of nowhere is that every political or celebrity magazine must have her on the front cover. And because of this, most magazines or press outlets has attempted to discover dirt, hidden, or unexploited information about Palin so their article could be different. And this is what really brought out Palin’s family, greatly including her now infamous daughters, one with down syndrome and the other 17 and pregnant. This has exploded, and later sparking so-called attacks from the opposing party.

The first weakness is due to Palin instant celebrity status. She has fallen victim to what many politicians have feared — a press craze. One of the prices Palin has paid since entering the political stage out of nowhere is that every political or celebrity magazine must have her on the front cover. And because of this, most magazines or press outlets has attempted to discover dirt, hidden, or unexploited information about Palin so their article could be different. And this is what really brought out Palin’s family, greatly including her now infamous daughters, one with down syndrome and the other 17 and pregnant. This has exploded, and later sparking so-called attacks from the opposing party.

The second weakness of Sarah Palin, which could potentially make or break her, is hand to hand political combat. Palin has (and will have) success in what I would call mortar fire, attacking the opposition by way of press statements and campaign ads, which continue to play huge roles in the public, each one accumulating tons of traffic on the viral web and ending up as stories on news outlets such as CNN. 

But If you ask any political commentator of any party the main reason why Sarah Palin has become such a dartboard, they would say her politics. And this is mostly true — Palin is short on the offensive-defensive game of a sit down debate, and because of this, she will most likely not fare well in any sort of think-on-your-toes situation, which has resulted in this very visible tactic: stay away from any interviews or debates unless they are mandatory. 

This tactic, recognized by the McCain camp, has let Palin literately control American press in her direction without making it. More simply put, because she has already created an amazing amount of press and PR from bursting on the political scene and accepting her nomination, Palin doesn’t need to create any press in the form of an un-necessary interview or debate. And instead, she has created the occasional new story far back in her campaign headquarters with statements and ads reacting or criticizing to Obama and Biden. But this stay-back-and-shoot strategy hasn’t been publicly reported or written on, however, mostly due to the overwhelming news on her family, which has now been proved to act as a media shield.  

If Obama plans to take a vital advantage in the media, he must not only focus on his strengths, but exploit Palin’s tactical  weaknesses, which provides a gaping hole in her public image.

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Presidential races have had a history of being dirty and under the rug, and political cheap shots were never hard to find. But this year, in an already breakthrough election, candidates have thrown out more ads recently than ever before. Political standoffs between two parties or campaigns have usually resulted (or been the result) of an attack ad, complicating already very political situations by letting the general public have an unusually high say on the outcome. Thus, TV spots have turned into political weapons — with endings both beneficent and disastrous to their authors. 

Most recently, these political ads taken huge strides in the form of attacks back and forth from the two remaining candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain. Although Obama has just recently started sending out “attack” ads, mostly as responses to McCain’s harsh accusations. The first real sign of this was McCain’s “Celebrity” ad, which was the result of a non lethal (in the sense of attacks) but heated standoff between the two senators.

The ad, sent out by a semingly fearless McCain squad, compared Obama to the star-struck Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, and was responded to in a surprising fashion — by Hilton herself. The response was brilliantly played out to both send a message to McCain, and — as another topic — improve Hilton’s public status. It worked, flooding out McCain’s original ad and setting the stage for Obama’s more political response, which delivered a more serious but at the same time up-beat message. 

This was really the start of McCain’s continuous but mild public downpour, in which his previous political gaffes have come back to haunt him, including his Iraq-Pakistan border nightmare as well as his foreign policy mistake in Jordan, pictured, which occurred during a press confrence.Obama, though, has never capitalized on these public weaknesses. Taking a position many politicians in his would have quickly decided against, the senator will only fight once attacked. This way, not only has he kept a very clean slate, he has had time to asses the attacks aimed at him, quickly differ what he can say, and then release a public spot with many more directions and points to make than McCain. This, however, has never been referred to as “weak.” Obama’s team has carefully picked apart attacks (some of this is public) and assessed where they can attack and how they can cover up their softer political spots.

A great example of this was Obama’s second major attack ad towards McCain, named “Fix the Economy“. The ad was placed a few days after the “celebrity” fiasco, and is applauded by myself as well as many political experts for its seemingly perfect timing.

The spot aired during the dubbed “aftermath” of the war-like celebrity dispute, where the public was waiting for more moves from the two campaigns. Obama immediately recognized the situation and sent out what I like to call his “smoke grenade.” Geared towards a topic not mentioned around that time due to the previous Iraq-centered debates, Obama took footage of McCain claiming the American economy was in good shape and threw it against clips of American’s disagreeing with him intently. The ad was politically and factually sound down to the finest details, even including the states the Americans lived in, which were battleground swing-states for Obama and McCain (Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky ect.) that are currently up for grounds in a political perspective. 

I call the ad a “smoke grenade” because it both did tremendous damage and put a cloud of smoke in-between the conservatives and the general public. The points made in the ad sent the McCain party wheeling for a response, and the eerie gap of time made an effective bad aftertaste towards the republicans publicly. What I mean by this is since political attacks were plentiful up to that point for weeks, the world had prepared itself for a McCain attack. But in a sense, it never came. So who can we credit this to? In my opinion, it has really been the work of Obama’s campaign working together, headed by the smart PR decisions of Jim Messina, the Chief of Staff. 

So as McCain keeps pumping out attack ads (here is the newest and the response), Obama will keep bouncing them back in the same way he always does — sifting through the ad and hitting hard on the facts. And that’s why Obama is not only winning in the PR department as well as the television side — he’s dominating.

More Buenos Aires

August 6, 2008

After a full day here in Argentina, you could say I got more of a feel for the city. One of the things I mistaked from the posh hotels and grand avenues is that when you get deep into the city, it gets more and more Western. As I surfed the sidewalk with my family for a SIM card for my dad´s hacked iPhones, I discovered many things about Buenos Aires. During the day, a thick mist smothers the street. Pollution is not new to me (I live in Los Angeles), but I didn´t notice this the night before, and I always imangined Buenos Aires and Santiago to be very clean. And another thing that was new to me is the different cars. The only American car I could find was a rare Chevy, but besides that, they were all very European cars like Fiat. There was also one car that I had never seen before, the logo on the gril looked like this — /// — (picure coming soon).

As far as technology, you can say that South America is part of the Windows kingdom. This became known as soon as soon as I exited the boat, with all the security and airport computers being Windows 98. Then 30 seconds after we left the airport, a Microsoft skyscraper came into view. There is little hope here for die-hards mac geeks like me and faroZ01

So after one day in Buenos Aires, a lot has changed in my opinion, but all for the better.

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