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Donkey Watch
Is Bush compassionate? Does Coke add life?

TUESDAY, AUGUST 30, 2004, NEW YORK -- Please bear with me through a brief analogy, an episode that helped me realize how corporate leaders think. A very large national chain of retail office-supply stores found in the late 1990s that customers no longer just wanted large inventory and low prices; now that office supplies included antivirus software and digital scanners, people felt like they needed good customer service as well. Improving the company's reputation for bad customer service would have meant staffing more employees, training them extensively, and paying them more to lower turnover. Or, alternatively, it meant running a huge national ad campaign depicting the stellar customer service people receive at their stores. Well, that's an easy choice. They ran the ads, changed their reputation rather than their level of service, and improved their bottom line.

It is often noted that today's Republican Party is run by and for corporate interests; well, that's exactly the approach they take to marketing their product/candidate. To the GOP, this is natural and obvious -- this is Coke vs. Pepsi, Tide vs. Wisk, McDonald's vs. Burger King. "Coke Adds Life" didn't come from any belief in the soda's properties, it came from a desire to convince people that their life will be better if they drink Coke -- and the knowledge that if you feed people that message the right way, it gets across.

Much of this country believes that John Kerry is a flip-flopper, that he did not earn his Purple Hearts, that he declared himself anti-war during the primaries, that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks, that eliminating the estate tax will lower unemployment, and that Afghanistan is now a functioning democracy.

The Democrats believe that the response to this, as demonstrated by James Carville et al in 1992, is rapid response to attacks. And, as the staff here at the DNC war room says, "pre-buttal." At this morning's daily press briefing (overloaded with nine participants, down from yesterday's 13), the Dems complained about the tasteless Purple Heart Band-Aids making the rounds (tasteless, yes, but not more so than some of the Bush taunts I've seen around town) and pre-butted today's RNC theme of Compassion. "How can George Bush say he is compassionate? He can't, not with a straight face," said Ciro Rodriguez, US Representative from Texas.

But yes, he sure can, with no more difficulty than the commercial actor who smiles while biting into a cold Whopper for the 18th take.

The Democratic speakers went on and on speaking truth about people's health care, jobs, etc. etc. etc. They debuted a video doing much the same thing. They seem to think they deserve a reputation as the more compassionate party simply because they have done things to help people and the Republicans have not. I kept imagining Pepsi executives holding a press conference, quoting research refuting the claimed life-affirming properties of Coca-Cola, describing a woman in Georgia who drank Coca-Cola with improvement to neither the duration or quality of her existence. That all may be true. But Coke Adds Life.

Issue Date: August 31, 2004
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