September 13, 2000
TO: The Austin Powers and the GOPundit Squad
FROM: George W. Bush
RE: Talking Points on RATS
In the past few days, pretty much every one of us here has had to deal with this subliminable message debacable. To tell you the truth, I'm tired of those DemocRATS scurrying around nipping at us over one gol-darn frame in our new ad.
At first, when this just came out, nobody knew what to say to the reporters, and so a lot of us ended up sounding like major league assholes. But by now, we've managed to work out some strategies and talking points that might work if we get ratted out again. Here's some examples:
Quote Shakespeare. When it comes to this issue of subliminafying, you could sound really smart by saying the whole thing is "much ado about nothing." (I've never read that play, but I skimmed the Cliff Notes.) And it works in this stipulation. My spokesman Ari Fleischer said the line twice when he went on Fox: "much ado about nothing," "much ado about absolutely nothing." And our consultant Dan Schnur said the same line when he was on CNN.
But don't mix up your Shakespeare. Columnist George Will has made us up a list of Shakespeare quotes to avoid when you're on the air: "How now! a rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!" (Hamlet) and "A rotten carcass of a boat, not rigg'd,/ Nor tackle, sail, nor mast; the very rats/ Instinctively had quit it" (The Tempest).
And here's another strategy:
Don't Forget the Cheese. When you go on talk shows or make other media apparitions, bring cheese. Lots of it. My advisor Karen Hughes barn-stormed that one as soon as the story broke: She went to the back of the campaign plane and offered cheese to the reporters. Then, because reporters aren't that quick, she explained to them what it meant: "It's a metaphor for the bizarre nature of the story today."
A tip: You might want to try Swiss cheese in particular. Then you can hold it up and say, "this is a meteor for how many holes there are in the Gore campaign, that they have to resort to talking about rats. Which like to eat cheese."
But whatever you do, don't give reporters any mousetraps. Unless you can find one big enough for Adam Clymer to fit in.
And another strategy:
Paul is Dead. When reporters ask you what's up with the subliminactiferous advertising, do like the original ad man Alex Castellanos did, and try to make it a big joke about spooky messages when you play records backwards and stuff.
This really works. Both Ari and Alex used the line, "If you play the ad backwards, it says Paul is dead." They both got the last word in stories by the New York Daily News and The New York Times.
Also, our congressman from Georgia Jack Kingston was really good at making these kind of jokes when he went on the Fox network. He said: "You know the Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon album, when played over The Wizard of Oz,..." He didn't even get to finish what he was saying, that's how perfect it was.
Here's another tactic you can take:
Holier than Joe. Joe Lieberman seems to have been getting all this attention for his religious demotion. But don't forget, we're the party of homily values. You can play that up when you talk about the ad. When The New York Times asked Alex for a comment, he huffed, "We don't play ball that way."
(By the way, that's donkey doo. Alex plays ball exactly that way. That's why I hired him. Who else has the extinction of being fired by the Jesse Helms campaign for going too negative? And who but Alex is ballsy enough to have created Helms' race-baiting "Hands" ad in 1990? In the ad, a white persons' hands crumple up a job injection letter, while a voice proclaims that "you" didn't get that job because of affirmative action.)
Also, if you do happen to go on the air, you might want to try this approach:
Who Could Be That Stupid? This tactic was a real winner. Basically, when the topic of the RATS sublimating message comes up, say, "Gosh, do they really think the Republicans are that stupid, that they would actually stick the word 'RATS' in an advertisement?" This really works, because reporters usually can't imagine that anyone could actually be that stupid. A lot of them haven't met Alex.
A good example of using this reproach came from Vin Weber, one of our former congressmen, on CNN. He said: "Anybody that thinks that anybody serious in the Bush campaign -- or the Republican National Committee, which actually put the ads on -- has the intention of running a subliminal ad using the word RATS to destroy the Gore campaign, just has a wild sense of imagination."
In fact, the "Who Could Be That Stupid" tack can be used on some of our other issues, too. When asked about the debates, you can say, Of course George Bush isn't dodging the debates. Who would be that stupid? Or, of course Dick Cheney didn't vote against a "free Mandela" resolution. Who would be that stupid?
But finally, when all else fails, try this tactic:
Attack The New York Times. The good old boys at the National Review rocked at this. They devoted a bunch of web columns to attacking the paper. This helped a lot in our strategy of trying to make the Times into an issue in this champagne, especially with lines like this by Editor Rich Lowry, who called Richard Berke's reporting on the RATS thing "late, tendentious, and altogether crappy." Lowry also called the Times editorial writers "either too stupid or too dishonest" to notice that Alex Castellanos hadn't changed his story during the day the story broke. (He did, tooth be told, but don't tell anyone.)
If we just attack the "paper of record" enough, then maybe nobody will notice what we're on the record for doing and saying. (And add Richard Berke to the Bush family Enemas List, would you?)
But above all, whatever you do when you're discussing our ads, make sure that you don't draw attention to any of our other ads. Otherwise people might notice that one frame with the doctored photo of Al Gore smooching Monica in front of the Buddhist Temple.
Republican party on!