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OneBlueSky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-15-04 01:53 PM
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"Playing Dirty" . . .
interesting article about "opposition research" . . . or what used to be called dirty tricks . . .

by Joshua Green
The Atlantic
June, 2004


A decade ago opposition research was largely the domain of college kids. Today it is a profession run by seasoned investigators, most of whom learned their craft on one side or another of the Clinton scandals (Comstock, Griffin, and David Bossie for the Republicans; Lehane, his partner Mark Fabiani, and Kerry's research director Mike Gehrke for the Democrats). The elite purveyors of "personal destruction"whom Clinton both feared and employedhave become the leading lights in the low-lit world of opposition research. The prosecutorial tactics and general savagery honed during the Clinton years are the hallmarks of their work. Instead of at high-profile congressional hearings, these battles are conducted from the shadows and waged mostly through the media. As the 2000 election showed, Republicans are particularly adept combatants. Moreover, in John Kerry they have the advantage of an opponent who is largely undefined in the public's thinking. And as in 2000, the election will depend a great deal on how successful Republicans are at the dark art of opposition research.


The proliferation of cable television and talk radio, the advent of the twenty-four-hour-a-day news cycle, and the growth of the Internet have all increased the demand for political news and pushed the boundary of what is acceptable. Both parties now disseminate daily e-mails with headings such as "Sen. John Kerry's Hypocrisy, Vol. 1, Issue 10" and "Bush White House: Home of the Whopper," which contain quotations, links, audio, and even video of what is often accurately judged to be damaging or compromising information. Contrary to the popular impression that campaigns traffic mainly in sleaze and rumor (though this occurs too), these e-mails are almost always scrupulously sourced from the public record. The goal is not to spread untruths but to have journalists repeat a selectiveand often deeply misleadingversion of the truth. "We become a conduit," Comstock says. "We do the legwork for the reporter. Obviously, in doing it we tell a story from the Republican side."

- more . . .
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