Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The 6 Secrets of Releasing Bad News Under the Radar

Step 1: No News

“If there is more information that is new, get it out the door before the hearings begin,” Dreyer wrote. “We do not want new revelations at the hearings. The hearings must rehash old news.”

Step 2: Keep ’Em Waiting

“We should make the hearings expensive and inconvenient for the networks to cover; boring and inconvenient for the press to follow. The hearings should start late, never on time. We should encourage votes on both the House and Senate floors. The Committees should adjourn to vote, never have a relay of committee members to keep the hearings going.”

Step 3: Put ’Em to Sleep

“We encourage detailed opening statements by every Democrat on both Banking panels. We want detailed statements by our opening witnesses. We advocate starting the hearings on Thursday, so that the weekend forces a premature media judgment on whether the hearings are worth watching. An early technical or procedural battle over, for example, scope would also suit our objectives.”

Step 4: Spin

“It is in our interest to dominate the news, and that will require a strong overall message and an even stronger tactical approach. Though their numbers may dwindle, reporters will be in those hearing rooms gavel-to-gavel. We need a two-cycle spin operation in the hearing rooms interpreting events for the reporters as they decide what is news.”

Step 5: Misdirection

“Anything we can do to move the focus from the issues inside the hearing room will be worthwhile. The president should be scheduled in ways that show him to be engaged in his serious work. He needs to be confident and self-assured in public appearances.

“Members of Congress should be programmed to do one-minute speeches and addresses in morning business talking about the political choice made by the two parties between health care and Whitewater. DNC and White House press operations should circulate overnight Arbitron ratings for the daily hearings.”

Step 6: Attack!

“Can we float some political analysis about the Republicans having as much to lose as the Democrats? We should be raising the heat on Senator] D’Amato, ’96 Republican presidential politics, and negative campaigning.”

—Adapted from a memo by White House communications adviser David Dreyer to Lloyd Cutler, special counsel to the president, in June 1994, in preparation for congressional hearings on Whitewater and the death of Vince Foster.