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WINNING WITH SATIRE (OPEN LETTER TO DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES

By       Message Steve Young     Permalink
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Dear Presidential Candidate (Who I'd Like To Win),

I heard you wanted to be President. That is so cool. You certainly are capable of doing a really good job.

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Did you know that Al Gore and John Kerry also wanted to be President? They were both pretty qualified too.

George Bush won.

Presidential elections haven't been going so well for your side lately. Ever wonder why? Ever wonder how to turn it around?

I was hoping you might consider the following.

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The public isn't dumb, but they will lean towards the side that makes understanding an issue the easiest, even if most times that is somewhat misleading. Talk show radio does it brilliantly using anger (their audience's and their own) to spin every issue into a diatribe against you. One of the reasons liberal radio hasn't worked as well as the one-note "we are right and they are wrong...hate-America wrong" is that the Left believes things are a little more complex. But just being smarter doesn't necessarily make for better radio. Except for Harry Shearer and Stephanie Miller.  NPR is so, well, so-so.

But simple doesn't have to be witless. I give you The Daily Show, out of little bitty Comedy Central. Stewart and his crew have gotten everyone's attention. Why? Satire. Smart humor that points to the absurd and gives the audience a little credit for having to think.

I suggest that you be well-equipped with a well-sharpened sense of humor and fast comeback.  If not, you better be handled by someone who can make you appear to have both.  Kind of like a funny Karl Rove but, without the disdain for truth.

And you better be ready to commit to a wide-scale offensive.  Turning every potential trip-up or rip by your opponent to your own satirical advantage isn't a drive-by effort; but it should look that way. And for that to happen it will take a fully-charged, pull-no-punches, war-room operation.

You will need your own writing staff - a miniature "Daily Show," if you will - ready to take the crap thrown at you and hone it into satirical fertilizer; pointing out the absurdity in the attack or diffusing an actual hit with self-deprecating humor. Television, radio, blogosphere, print, in person - everywhere you can be seen or heard, you've got to be prepared.  Balls ahead, ready to wax satirically.

And when you are in trouble - and you will be - nothing says "good guy" better than a scoundrel's quick acceptance of blame. If only Bill C. had immediately admitted Monica as a mistake. If you can do it with a sense of humor, you're in better shape than if you had never made the mistake in the first place. (Though in the case of Bill and Monica, being too quick with a "should have never taken the cigar out of my mouth," might have been what we call in the funny biz "too soon.")

From the stump speech to debate, from talk show to nomination acceptance, your clever serve-and-return is necessary to parry every real or Swift Boat-ian assault from your opponent (or his surrogates). Who do you think would be running for his second term right now if he had a response prepared by a comedy staff whipping up punch-lines pointing out the insanity of the Swift Boat vets blaspheming a war hero while they cheer on a war dodger? Sure, their attack was hypocritical, but you have to say so and make the voter recognize its full-fledged lunacy.  You need your own professional lunatics churning out your retort.

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But it's not only you. If you are to win you cannot go it alone. Besides those closest to you, those on the blogosphere and the anywhere-else-sphere must be pumping out the satire. Hear that blogger-guy? Get your underwear-clad bod over to the computer, tell your Mom who you still live with that you can't take out the trash right now. You're too busy saving America, one joke at a time. No attack, no matter how overt or how subtle can go un-satirized. It's about killing the malignancy before it has time to spread. And mark my words, the liberal mainstream media will take whatever the Right echo-chamber hammers into the "debate." It needs no factual basis.

Think "Gore said he invented the Internet." Think "Kerry was a coward." Think Dick Cheney giving Judy Miller the WMD misinformation that she copied verbatim into The New York Times and Cheney then pointing to the Times as the best place to find out what is really happening. Brilliant? Yes. True? Not so much. But it helped get us into a war. A war, for crissakes! All I'm asking is that you tell a damn joke so it doesn't happen again.

You can do it.  You really can.  Because, if I might paraphrase Stuart Smally, "You're good enough.  You're smart enough.  And dog- gonnit, people like you." 

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