Politics & Policy

Operation Thorn-in-Side

Ready in Denver.

Denver — On the second floor landing of the Republican National Committee’s temporary headquarters here, a couple of volunteer coordinators stand over a large laminated map of the city like generals plotting what could easily be labeled Operation Thorn-in-Side. Plastic toy soldiers, guns at ready, are strategically placed to mark locations where young McCain volunteers, many clad in NOBAMA T-shirts and giddy with the prospect of carrying their flag into the Belly of the Great Purple Hope-Mongering Beast, will soon be dispatched.

“We’re here to set the table from our end and basically encourage as much mayhem and sow as much dissension as possible,” McCain campaign Deputy Communications Director Brian Rogers jokes, but no one here works very hard to suppress the glee engendered by the Happy Hour for Hillary the RNC threw on Monday night or providing a platform for former Wisconsin Hillary Clinton delegate turned McCain supporter Debra Bartoshevich to tell the world nearly within earshot of the DNC festivities, “I just truly believe Sen. Obama is not ready to lead this nation.”

“The dynamic on the ground at the convention itself is something we have little control over,” Matt McDonald, a senior adviser to the McCain campaign, explained. “That Hillary Clinton supporters are, for example, not united behind Barack Obama, is something we can’t rightfully take credit for — that’s all the thanks to the Obama campaign’s poor outreach. There is, however, room for us to take advantage of some of these realities, even if we didn’t create them.”

Phil Klein has aptly compared the headquarters to CTU from 24 — i.e. a nondescript building nestled away from easy view, the dullish appearance of which belies its import and activity. Thus, it is appropriate that the receptionist seated before a phalanx of flags bears a not insignificant resemblance to Kim Bauer as she cheerfully greets visitors passing through glass doors festooned with signs bearing a Joe Biden quote: “It can’t be on-the-job-training.” Or least it couldn’t be until the Fifth Nag of the Apocalypse was on the ticket.

A flat screen tuned to Fox News buzzes nearby. Off to the Kim Bauer-doppelganger’s left is a television studio for press conferences and interviews, a few feet behind a bustling war room where RNC rapid responders rat-tat-tat away at laptops in an effort to – in the words of RNC Online Communications Director Liz Mair — not only land jabs but “push back with actual facts” against the “unbelievable amount of misinformation” coming out of the Democratic convention. Upstairs rooms are set aside for high-profile surrogates — Mitt Romney, Carly Fiorina, Tim Pawlenty, and Rudy Giuliani among them — to cool their heels.

And throughout, everywhere, are signs bearing the Republicans Denver slogan, Not Ready 08: A Mile High, An Inch Deep — from the television podium to the men’s restroom door.

“In an election as close as even Obama’s people are starting realize this is going to be, every little bit counts,” Rogers mused, as television crews hustling gear in and out around waiting print reporters a few feet away obliviously proving his point. “So for us to be here and be part of the conversation is important. And Denver has proved more fertile ground for our message than Democrats would like to admit.”

Fertile enough, indeed, to warrant Democrats taking a moment away from basking in Obama-glory to respond to the RNC efforts in the strongest, most decisive way they know how — which is to say, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has sent a fundraising e-mail to supporters:

You just knew it was going to happen. And in a way I can’t blame them. If I were a Republican I’d be trying to crash our party as well. Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, John Boehner — a motley crew of Bush-Cheney Republicans who have shown up here in Denver. And I don’t think they came just for the Rocky Mountain air. Can you really blame them? While we’re all here to celebrate Barack Obama’s plans to write the next great chapter for America in the 21st Century, those guys will be stuck next week at their convention having to celebrate the Bush-Cheney record and John McCain’s plan to continue it for another eight years. Which party would you rather be at?

Then again, if America’s next chapter is so manifestly great, would Democrats really have to spend precious moments of Barack Obama’s glorious assumption flicking away Republican gnats? After all, it isn’t as if when Harry Potter has a new book coming out he feels the need to go on Lord Voldemort’s message board and insist how great it is going to be. Not to mention, bragging this vociferously about the rollicking party they’re having makes the Democrats sound a bit too much like the still-pining boyfriend leaving messages of transparent faux joy on an ex-girlfriend’s cell phone.

Different strokes . . .

“It’s the Democrats convention, we’re just guests,” McDonald demurred when asked how Democrats might make his job a bit harder. “We aren’t aspiring to getting John McCain a bump out of Barack Obama’s convention. We’re just not looking to help him to get one, either.”

Shawn Macomber is a contributing editor to The American Spectator.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”


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