Bill Clinton’s first campaign for the presidency fine-tuned the art of rapid response.
His team formed the War Room, comprising staff members adept at answering critics immediately.
When his enemies struck, Team Clinton was ready to strike back. Hard.
How is this relevant to the current political race that now seems just about set? It’s that the former president’s wife, Hillary Clinton, is about to become the Democratic Party’s next presidential nominee and — sure as the dickens — she’s going to face a torrent of attacks from Republicans led by their nominee, Donald J. Trump.
The only advice I’m going to offer Hillary Clinton is this: Do not let Trump’s team set the tone for this campaign. Re-create the War Room and be sure you’ve get every face in order before you launch your counterattack.
Bill Clinton’s quick-strike strategy in 1992 was born out of what occurred four years earlier. The 1988 campaign between Vice President George H.W. Bush and Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis featured a tremendously negative stream of attacks from Bush against Dukakis.
How did Dukakis respond? He didn’t.
The ’88 Democratic nominee thought he should stay “above the fray.” So, he let the Bush team define him, paint him as squishy; that he was on crime; that he was unprepared to be commander in chief.
Sure, Dukakis suffered a couple of critical self-inflicted wounds: He allowed himself to be video recorded riding around in that tank, which made him look ridiculous as he wore that helmet; he also fluffed CNN newsman Bernard Shaw’s question about his views on capital punishment during that televised debate, sounding cold and clinical when asked whether he’d support the death penalty if his wife, Kitty, were raped and murdered.
Dukakis’ big lead after that summer’s conventions evaporated and he ended up losing the election to Bush in an Electoral College landslide.
Trump now says Hillary Clinton hasn’t been properly “vetted.” Oh, please. She is arguably the most vetted presidential candidate of the past 100 years. Clinton was subjected to intense scrutiny during her years as Arkansas’ first lady, as the nation’s first lady, as a U.S. senator and as secretary of state.
It seems apparent that we’re heading toward one of the nastiest presidential campaigns on record. Trump already has dispatched a vast Republican field in large measure through is own use of insult and innuendo against many of his former opponents.
Don’t think for a second he won’t try the same thing against Hillary Clinton.
She’d better be ready.