Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Pushing Grampa Down The Stairs

A conservative lobbying group called USA Next has hired some consultants that performed the "Swift Boat Veterans For Truth" hatchet job on John Kerry, this time to go after the dreaded AARP. Apparently USA Next has a problem with the AARP's intransigence in their opposition to Bush's "plan" to eliminate (uh, "overhaul") Social Security.

"They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts," said Charlie Jarvis, president of USA Next and former deputy under secretary of the interior in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. "We will be the dynamite that removes them."

More like they'll be the Wile E. Coyote painting a tunnel on the side of a mountain in a vain attempt to foil the Roadrunner. Good luck with that, guys. This plan has "successmanship" written all over it, not unlike Bush's lame privatization scheme.

To help set USA Next's strategy, the group has hired Chris LaCivita, an enthusiastic former marine who advised Swift Vets and P.O.W.'s for Truth, formerly known as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, on its media campaign and helped write its potent commercials. He earned more than $30,000 for his work, campaign finance filings show.

Officials said the group is also seeking to hire Rick Reed, a partner at Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm, a firm that was hired by Swift Vets and was paid more than $276,000 to do media production, records show.

For public relations, USA Next has turned to Creative Response Concepts, a Virginia firm that represented both Swift Vets - the company was paid more than $165,000 - and Regnery Publishing, the publisher of "Unfit for Command," a book about Senator John Kerry's military service whose co-author was John E. O'Neill, one of the primary leaders of Swift Vets.


In the case of USA Next, the group and the White House say they are not working together. Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman, said the administration was familiar with the group and has interacted with it on issues in the past, but said that it had no input on its current efforts. USA Next says it has taken pains to disassociate itself from the administration, even declining to join the large lobbying coalitions the White House is working with to pass Social Security legislation.

Uh-huh, and I'm sure there are no in-house lawyers advising these guys either, right? Just like last time. Jeez, you can just about set your watch by these people.

Mr. Jarvis said donors have included food, nutrition, energy and pharmaceutical companies, which have given money to support various advertising campaigns.

In previous years, and often during elections, the money was used to saturate the airwaves with advertisements. In 2002, for example, the group relied partly on money from the pharmaceutical industry to spend roughly $9 million on television commercials and mailings supporting Republican prescription drug legislation and the lawmakers who backed it.

The group spent more money than any other interest group on House races that year, according to a study by the Wisconsin Advertising Project, and drew charges from Democrats that it was a stealth campaign by the pharmaceutical industry to support House Republicans. The group denied the allegations. Critics contended that the group was a front for corporate special interests. In a 2002 report, Public Citizen's Congress Watch denounced it, calling its leadership "hired guns."

In 2003 and 2004, USA Next was again heavily represented, spending roughly $20 million, according to the group's own numbers. It sponsored more than 19,800 television and radio advertisements last year alone.

To USA Next, the battle lines have already been drawn, and it does not shy away from comparisons to the veterans' campaign against Senator Kerry. "It's an honor to be equated with the Swift boat guys," Mr. Jarvis said.

Yeah, I guess it would be an honor for a shill to be equated with a pack of hyenas. It either doesn't occur or doesn't matter to them that there are plenty of legitimate concerns even with honest privatization plans, much less this dog-and-pony show.

No matter. They can publicly disassociate themselves from the White House all they want, but all these tactics will do is breed resentment against the Republicans. Art Linkletter aside, the elders are not going to take to kindly to getting strong-armed by these guys, and they're the one demographic that can actually do something about it. One commercial showing a purse snatcher mugging a little old lady and these clowns are done for, Art Linkletter or no Art Linkletter. And as Bush has made SS dismantlement the first cornerstone of his second term, a resounding defeat could be the first thread in a wonderful unraveling of their whole rotten tapestry. (Mmmm, mixed metaphors.)

So in the finest spirit of briar patch politics, oh no, whatever you do, please don't put out hit ads on the AARP!

1 comment:

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