Yesterday, Rudy Giuliani was just about everywhere. The fact that he was everywhere is a testimony to the lack of clout Joe Biden’s campaign has with the media.
Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign contacted top television anchors and networks on Sunday to “demand” that Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, be kept off the air because of what they called his misleading comments about the Biden family and Ukraine.
“We are writing today with grave concern that you continue to book Rudy Giuliani on your air to spread false, debunked conspiracy theories on behalf of Donald Trump,” a pair of top Biden campaign advisers, Anita Dunn and Kate Bedingfield, wrote in the letter.
“Giving Rudy Giuliani valuable time on your air to push these lies in the first place is a disservice to your audience and a disservice to journalism,” the advisers wrote.
The note, which was obtained by The New York Times, was sent to executives and top political anchors at ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News and NBC, including star interviewers like Jake Tapper, Chuck Todd and Chris Wallace.
This is what it looked like:
Now there are two reasons why Biden’s campaign wold do this. The first is that they are playing multidimensional chess and they want to draw as much attention to Giuliani as possible because they know Giuliani is hurting Trump. That view has a lot of agreement from some people on the right.
— Steve Berman (@stevengberman) September 30, 2019
Not to take a shot at Steve or anything but just to illustrate the point of view that Giuliani was harmful to Trump.
Personally, I think this is wrong. The Democrats in the House have essentially locked themselves into voting to impeach President Trump. Despite Jeff Flake publicly masturbating to the idea of 35 GOP senators voting to convict Trump, that isn’t going to happen. The more important fact is that the Democrats have two choices: fight the 2020 presidential campaign on the subject of impeachment or risk alienating their most loyal voters. There is zero evidence that impeaching Trump is a political winner and a lot to indicate it is a loser. More to the point, the alleged “scandal” that has generated the current hair-on-fire hysteria is difficult to understand. Where does it say that a President can’t tell a foreign country to investigate misconduct as a condition of getting foreign aid? Was a law passed since 2016 that says a political campaign can’t use foreign actors to gather oppo on their electoral opposition? Is there a law that says the son of a Democrat presidential candidate CAN’T be investigated for fairly blatant involvement in influence peddling in another country? When did we pass that law?
What is easy to understand is the underlying allegation. You have a monumentally undisciplined son of a prominent US politician–a guy who was tossed out of the Navy Reserve for cocaine use and whose ex-wife complained of his blowing the family budget on blow and hookers–landing a $50,000/month gig and, when the locals get onto him, his Daddy threatens to pull the plug on $1 billion in aid unless they fire the prosecutor and make it all go away. And it does.
I guarantee you that every single American who doesn’t work for The Bulwark and even many of those who work for National Review understands that narrative without any kind of a Vox.com explainer.
What Giuliani did was a masterclass in what Obama staffer David Plouffe called “stray voltage:”
This is the White House theory of “Stray Voltage.” It is the brainchild of former White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe, whose methods loom large long after his departure. The theory goes like this: Controversy sparks attention, attention provokes conversation, and conversation embeds previously unknown or marginalized ideas in the public consciousness. This happens, Plouffe theorizes, even when–and sometimes especially when–the White House appears defensive, besieged, or off-guard. I first discovered and wrote about this in July of 2012.
As a theory, “stray voltage” exists in a kind of strategic void. It can’t be dismissed or embraced as workable because creating controversy for the sake of controversy is, well, achievable. Like getting soup from the White House mess. It’s also self-reinforcing and internally didactic. Everyone looks around and says, “See. There’s controversy. It’s working.”
But it’s also revealing when the emphasis has shifted to a “pen and phone” strategy that elevates executive action over messy legislative haggling. The pen-and-phone approach has become a low-level White House fetish, with efforts to sidestep Congress and place Obama at the center of the action all-consuming.
Giuliani said a lot of things over the weekend. If you don’t like Trump you’re probably shaking your head in amazement. But if you aren’t suffering from Stage 5 TDS you heard a lot about Biden’s corruption. Some of it may even be true but what hasn’t happened is any of it being investigated by law enforcement. And because of that lack of investigation and because of the ease of understanding of the narrative, the Biden campaign realized that this was going to play into the hands of Republicans, but, more importantly his Democrat opponents are going to start pushing these stories as well. And absent and investigation, no one is going to pay any attention to the people running around screaming that this or that has been “debunked.”
What is more, is that nearly all of Giuliani’s claims are going to be discussed. Some of those claims will fall away. Some will stick like epoxy to the Biden campaign. And at the center of it all is Donald Trump who can tweet the claims to his heart’s content and, because he didn’t make them, never has to justify a single one of them.
Biden knows this. His campaign knows this. His donors know this. And that’s why they didn’t want Giuliani roaming the networks yesterday.