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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes and Politico’s Mike Allen

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Yesterday I conducted long interviews with Stephen Hayes about his new book Cheney (transcript here) and Politico’s Mike Allen about the presidential candidates’ communications staffs (transcript here.)

Both men have unique positions from which to understand their subjects. Hayes spent more than 30 hours interviewing the Vice President over many months and at different settings, and had hundreds of interviews with family, friends and colleagues, including President Bush and most of the senior officials of the Bush Administration. The account of Cheney’s early life is riveting, and the trajectory of his career a history of the post JFK American politics. When arrived in the #2 job it was as the most experienced Veep in history, and 9/11 changed his mission in that job. Said Hayes to me:

I think he woke up on September 12th and basically asked himself two questions. Where’s the next attack coming from? And what can I do to prevent it? And I think he’s basically woken up every day asking himself the same questions. And while a lot of the country, and certainly the political class has moved on and doesn’t feel that sense of urgency, it’s very clear that Dick Cheney feels that, and that it never left him.

It is a long interview and a long book, but if you are interested in how the war has been waged –and why– read them both.

If you want to get a sense of what is going on in Campaign 2008, you have to visit Politico every day –sometimes a few times because of bloggers Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin post early and often. The team there is deep, but Mike Allen is a wonderful talker who an energizer bunny approach to political information. His morning e-mail, “The Playbook,” is a tip sheet to the news cycle ahead and well worth signing up for.

Allen brought attention yesterday to the fact that the big three GOP candidates have shaped their communication approach along the Bush-Cheney model of ’04 which was itself crafted in large part by Steve Schmidt:

MA: And you were talking a little bit before the break about how the campaigns are adapting to this new media, and they’re using it around the clock. A fascinating thing about these Republican campaigns, and that is Giuliani, McCain and Romney, all of their communications operatives are schooled in the Bush-Cheney school. You know Steve Schmidt…

HH: Yup.

MA: …who was the director of rapid response or the deputy communications director, all of them learned under Schmidt’s rules, and it’s his premise that the news cycle ends with the late night comedians, Lettermen, Leno, and it starts when the AP starts sending out its fresh stories a little after Midnight. So the point is, the election cycle always goes. And when I wake up in the morning, I think about what’s going to be news in a few hours. They also are thinking about what’s going to be news in 24 hours. And so you have them putting out the nut of a speech, and then they’ll put out excerpts of a speech, and then a text of a speech before it’s delivered, and then you get the color when they deliver the speech. And so…they do that with their own positive message. And at the same time, I know this will shock your listeners, on a second track, many of these campaigns are reminding you, let’s say, of things about the other guy.

Schmidt is now in consulting in Sacramento, but expct one of the remaining big three campaigns to make the McCain-leaner a key part of their effort.


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