Inside Bush's War Room

Published July 14, 2004 4:43PM (EDT)

Where does President Bush get the spin to attack John Kerry? The New York Times gives us a peek into Bush's war room today, a TV-crammed media monitoring center in Virginia that functions as a veritable soundbyte factory. Staffed by interns 24-7, the campaign's spin factory is an iteration on Bill Clinton's war room model, but with one major difference: this one is equipped to go on the offense. The Times explains: "Though far more technologically advanced, Mr. Bush's war room was built in the mold of Bill Clinton's pioneering effort in 1992, which combined campaign research and communications staff members to collect and disburse information to the news media, which are crucial in shaping perceptions and candidates, as quickly as possible.

That operation was rooted in defense, born of the Democrats' vows to never again allow Republican attacks to go unanswered the way they believed they did during the 1988 race between Michael S. Dukakis and George Bush.

"Mr. Bush's operation, however, is rooted more in offense, devised to seek out and exploit every possible opportunity to paint Mr. Kerry as a political equivocator who switches positions on important issues when it suits his political interest.

"As such, the war room is the nerve center of what Democrats, and some presidential scholars, have called the most relentlessly negative re-election campaign in memory - and what Republicans say is a necessarily energetic drive to hold Mr. Kerry to a record they say is rife with contradictions. On a daily basis, the assembled Republicans hope to pick new fights based on Mr. Kerry's most recent statements, and those from his past." And they're calling the Democrats the "coalition of the wild-eyed?"

By Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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War Room