Joe Conason's Journal

If Karl Rove's 2004 media strategy is anything like the Pentagon's was earlier this year, you may want to get used to the term "President Dean."

Published October 22, 2003 11:48PM (EDT)

Rove's man lands in New York
For a preview of Karl Rove's media strategy at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York -- and a renewed appreciation for his "national security" campaign plan -- see today's New York Observer cover story by Ben Smith. Rove's choice as director of communications for the convention is none other than Jim Wilkinson, the flack who left so many reporters furious last spring when he handled Pentagon press relations at the Iraq War headquarters, U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar.

Already ensconced on-site at Madison Square Garden, Wilkinson told the reporter that he is considering such innovations as a stage in the center of the cavernous space, and that he may also stage some events at Yankee Stadium. "The embryonic war room in midtown is already up and running almost a year ahead of time. The big plasma screen in the reception area plays Fox News, like all the other televisions."

Wilkinson is a Texas Republican and veteran political operative who served the House Republican leadership before moving to the Bush-Cheney campaign. Smith writes that he "first left his mark on the 2000 Presidential race in March 1999, when he helped package and promote the notion that Al Gore claimed to have 'invented the Internet.' Then the Texan popped up in Miami to defend Republican protesters shutting down a recount: 'We find it interesting that when Jesse Jackson has thousands of protesters in the streets, it's OK, but when a small number of Republicans exercise their First Amendment rights, the Democrats don't seem to like it,' he told the Associated Press."

Later, as a deputy director of communications in the White House, Wilkinson helped arrange the Sept. 14, 2001, visit to ground zero that "redefined George W. Bush's Presidency."

Smith also quotes several still disgruntled reporters who feel that the press and public were ill-served by Wilkinson's machinations in Doha -- and who aren't looking forward to dealing with him in New York. "If they run that convention the way they ran the CentCom press operation, you might wish to acquaint yourself with the term 'President Dean,'" said the New Yorker's Peter Boyer.

Meanwhile, longtime Republican spokesman Rich Galen told me today that he is about to depart for four months in Baghdad -- where he will advise the Pentagon on how best to impart "good news" about the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Spin makes the world go round.

This hectic life resumes
My conversation with Rich Galen took place in a green room at NBC News in New York, just before a taping of "Tim Russert," the CNBC interview show hosted by the bureau chief of the same name. Our hour-long discussion of "Big Lies" will air this Saturday at 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m.

On Thursday at 7 p.m. I will be at Wordsworth, 5920 R St. in Little Rock, Ark., to sign books. Then on Sunday at 7 p.m., I will be appearing at Books and Books in Coral Gables, Fla., for a reading and signing with John Newhouse, author of "Imperial America: The Bush Assault on the World Order." (Newhouse happens to be my wife's stepfather, but you needn't take my word about his new book's excellence.
[5:30 p.m. PDT, October 22, 2003]

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By Salon Staff

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