Transcript: Thom Hartmann & Cliff Schecter: The GOP's evolution from Reagan to Bush to Perry. 18 August '11

Thom Hartmann: So what’s the deal with Rick Perry bashing, other than the obvious. Actually at a press conference today, or a press, you know one of these meet and greet things, it wasn’t even a town hall, it was in a restaurant or something like that. He was eating food. And this woman said “Well you said that social security is unconstitutional." He says, “I said social security is always going to be there for you." And she says, “But you said it was unconstitutional." And he stuffs this wad of food into his mouth and says, “My mouth is full." And then he starts walking away and he stumbles on her and knocks her over and says, “Excuse me sweetheart," and keeps on walking with his mouth full of food. I mean, you’d think it was a cartoon character. But you know, we’ve thought republicans were cartoon characters before. I remember Ronnie Ray-gun, no way he’s ever going to be president. And I remember George W. Bush, are you kidding? A reformed drunk, a coke user, a guy who went AWOL for a year, there’s no way this guy can win the white house.

Cliff Schecter is with us. He is a, excuse me, he is a national progressive PR strategist, author of the book, “The Real McCain." His website is And Cliff, welcome to the program.

Cliff Schecter: Thanks so much, Thom. How are you?

Thom Hartmann: I’m fine. Welcome back, in fact.

Cliff Schecter: Thank you.

Thom Hartmann: You are writing the evolution of the GOP from Reagan to Bush to Perry plus how Perry will play in the Midwest. And you suggest that those of us who view Rick Perry as a cartoon character, or for that matter the democratic strategists who seek to portray him as a cartoon character, do so at considerable risk.

Cliff Schecter: Yeah they do. Look, he is a cartoon character, I guess that’s what cowboys do these days, they knock women over and they, when they’re walking by them stuffing food in their mouths. I mean all this stuff may seem funny to us, and it does, and we can make our jokes. But in terms of real, really taking him on. I use the example, you brought up Bush and what you said was perfect, Thom. Because look at everything they had on Bush. I was just waiting back in 2000 for them to use the picture of him as a cheerleader. You know, with the big bull horn, as he’s trying to be a tough cowboy.

Thom Hartmann: Right.

Cliff Schecter: I was waiting for you know to hear about the drug abuse and waiting to hear about him going AWOL during a time of war and the rest of it. And really with the exception of the drunk driving we never heard any of it. Because what democrats most often do is they go after and say republicans have terrible policies. But they’re good guys. You know, John McCain is a war hero with some bad ideas. And that kind of stuff. What the republicans do is they realize, much like you know law, with legal proceedings, if you impeach the witness, whatever they say doesn’t matter anymore. So they go after our character. So what I would remind democrats is you need to show that this guy isn’t a real cowboy, he’s in fact a fraud. I would call him the French cuff cowboy, is what I would call him.

Thom Hartmann: Now why is that?

Cliff Schecter: Well he wears these very expensive French cuffs and Armani suits, I don’t know how many cowboys do that but I don’t seem to remember seeing that in my Clint Eastwood movies.

Thom Hartmann: His mansion is costing the citizens of Texas 600 thousand dollars a year.

Cliff Schecter: That’s right. He created this big innovation fund for new businesses, out of tax payer money, and ended up handing it out to all his good friends. I don’t know many cowboys that like hanging out with the corporate crowd and enriching them while taking the regular people’s money. He invited this Chinese company in, the Washington Post reported on it, after George W. Bush’s own people, national security advisors, warned him that these guys could be responsible, it was a telecommunications company from China, they could be responsible for all sorts of cyber snooping, and real security risks to our military and companies. He still invited them in and just sort of said aw shucks what the heck.

Thom Hartmann: They were the low bidder, right? He could save that money and keep the taxes low. Well actually there’s no income tax in Texas, right?

Cliff Schecter: Right, well yeah. And the point is that he’s not this sort of tough cowboy who is there to protect you. The whole image he is trying to portray is this honest tough just regular simple cowboy. He’s a guy that hangs out with lobbyists. He’s a guy that wears Armani suits and French cuffs. He’s a guy that invites companies in that are national security risks. He’s a guy that says he creates jobs but creates jobs you know scraping toilets and salting fries with no benefits so a quarter of the people in Texas have no healthcare. He’s a fraud. He portrays himself as one thing and he’s something else.

Thom Hartmann: But all those things were true of George W. Bush.

Cliff Schecter: That’s right. But for the most part nobody ever told people that. People, they would just say he’s an extremist, he’s a cowboy.

Thom Hartmann: So you’re suggestion, as a political strategist, your suggestion to the democrats is stop talking about his policies so much anyway, you know the fact that he wants to, that he says that Medicare and Medicaid and social security are unconstitutional, which I think is actually going to cause a lot people to go huh, you know? But to stop doing that and start talking about the fact that he wears Armani suits?

Cliff Schecter: Well it’s a little different. It’s how you frame it. In other words, yes talk about social security but frame that into the persona of he’s a fraud. He’s a fraud for being a cowboy wearing Armani suits. He’s also a fraud for telling people that social security is still going to be there after he just said it’s unconstitutional. It’s how you frame it. And everything, instead of just being framed in oh good guy, like Obama the other day said oh I cut him some slack, good guy, probably made some mistakes. No! You need to go after this guy’s character and show where he’s a fraud from down to what he wears to what he says to the policies he supports and how he hates the stimulus but he’s taking all the stimulus money and bringing it into his state. You know, there’s a way you can attack his policies within the frame of showing what a fake he is. And that’s what they need to do. They’ve laid off the character of republicans in the past, where republicans have gone after and made up lies and turned Kerry into a flip flop or Gore into a liar, a guy that everybody thought was a boy scout. And yet the democrats haven’t responded in kind, they need to.

Thom Hartmann: Right. Not just, they didn’t just turn Kerry into a flip flopper, they turned him into a war trader. I mean you know a guy who, you know, implicitly fragged his own guys. And I remember the George Herbert Walker Bush campaign when he famously couldn’t figure out what a scanner was in the supermarket and, because he had never been actually retail shopping and he didn’t have any money in his pocket. He had to have, you know he has this guy who carries his money for him. And it was the perfect opportunity to frame him as a plutocrat, which he is. I mean he was born a multimillionaire, as was his son. And the democrats never took that opportunity. And at the same time the republicans, you know, took the Willie Horton ad and the picture of Michael Dukakis in the helmet in the tank and turned Dukakis into a fool who, and when the question about Kitty, they just milked that for all it was worth, you know. Would you put to death the guy who murdered and raped your wife, you know it was all playing on the Willie Horton thing. And you know turned him into somebody who was willing to cut African American murderers and rapists slack when in fact it was actually the previous republican governor who had let out Willie Horton.

Cliff Schecter: That’s exactly right.

Thom Hartmann: none of that ever came out. I mean it’s like the democrats, why don’t the democrats, you know, take names and kick ass. I don’t get it.

Cliff Schecter: I don’t get it either, Thom. It’s always been about they think if you make the more logical argument that you’ll win. And that’s not what politics has decided. I mean politics is decided often, it’s a psychological and emotional thing. You know, Drew West and others have written a lot about this.

Thom Hartmann: Hey I wrote a book on it called “Cracking the Code."

Cliff Schecter: That’s what I’m saying, you know this exactly from your background. And so you know that’s the problem. It’s not like you should choose I’m going to attack their policies, I’m going to attack the way they dress or the way they talk. Tie it all up into the frame of who they are and most of the time they’re rich guys pretending to be regular people. They’re frauds. And Perry is in so many ways as I just sort of threw them all out before, this great job creator who creates minimum wages jobs. This guy who wears Armani suits and French cuffs, a guy who acts like a tough guy in China in his book and attacks China and says we’re too weak with them and he wants to invite a company in that is a security threat. There’s many ways to go and to repeat he’s a fraud, he’s a fake, he’s not what he’s portraying himself as.

Thom Hartmann: Right. You know who said it yesterday, you know the perennial truth teller. You know I disagree with his policies, I don’t think that we should do away with Medicare and Medicaid and public education and things like that. But Ron Paul came out yesterday and said Rick Perry makes me look like a moderate.

Cliff Schecter: Yes, that’s exactly right. And it’s, and I don’t agree with a lot of Ron Paul’s ideas either, but Ron Paul is real at least.

Thom Hartmann: Where are the democrats saying this?

Cliff Schecter: You know I do believe he actually says what he believes and he’s actually a real person. You know, he’s a real person I happen to disagree with on most things but he’s somebody at least who has thought about positions. This guy is playing a character. And again you can’t get into the he’s too stupid for you, he’s just a dumb cowboy. Because again, we, Reagan had got the ranch in Santa Barbara for the backdrop, Bush got the warning croppers, this is what they do. Prove that they’re frauds and you’ll win. That’s what I would say.

Thom Hartmann: There you go. Cliff Schecter. Thanks Cliff.

Cliff Schecter: Thanks a lot Thom, I appreciate it.

Thom Hartmann: Always appreciate your insights. Excellent. And would it be that the democratic party would listen!

Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.

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