There is a great storyline in Season 4 of The West Wing during the President’s run for his second term.
For a period during the primaries, Bartlett has been running for re-election as a kind of everyman figure. Some of his staff are worried it will come off as fake against the real thing … and so it proves as he quickly, very quickly, falls behind in the polls.
It is Toby Zeigler, his communications director, who steers him onto the correct path.
“You’re not just folks, you’re not just plain spoken. Do not, do not, do not act like it. Make this election about smart and not. Engaged and not. Make it about a heavyweight. You’re a heavyweight.”
At a meeting on the night of the debate, where Bartlett has ruthlessly annihilated Rob Ritchie, the Republican, another of the staffers is being congratulated on the win.
“Yeah we did some polling that said he would come across as condescending and arrogant whatever we did,” he says “… so you might as well knock some buildings down with it.”
What they did was lean into the perception.
Ritchie and the Republicans wanted to paint the President as an elitist snob with too many brains and their polling showed that this had worked. So the only thing left to do if you can’t change the perception is to make it into a weapon.
The Democrats make the election about intelligence and vision (not all elections are, as you probably know) and that’s how they win.
One of the things Bartlett does during the latter part of the campaign happens when he gives a series of media interviews.
At one of them, when the camera is supposed to be off, he lets slip that he thinks Ritchie isn’t all that clever. His choice of metaphor is odd because it’s about guns. “I think he has a 22. Calibre mind in a .357 Magnum world” is how he puts it.
The furore lasts for days.
And at every press conference Ritchie’s people and his allies in the media ask the same question; “Is the President saying Governor Ritchie is stupid?”
Bartlett’s people are astonished that they are doing so when all it does is keep a national debate going about who the smarter of the two candidates is. They milk it for all its worth.
It’s CJ Cregg, the Press Secretary, who realises first what it is, and the realisation comes to her at the end of a week in which she tries everything she can not to just come right out and say it, until finally, she’s got nowhere left to go.
“Yeah, the President’s saying Governor Ritchie is stupid,” she says, flinging her hands up in the air.
As she comes off the podium, with the press room in uproar, she goes to the Oval Office to find Bartlett in a fine frame of mind. And she realises that the President hadn’t missed the green light on the camera at all.
He had wanted the controversy, and the question being in the public eye.
The strategy is devastatingly effective.
Which brings me to what Ange Postecoglou did in his presser before this game.
A little bit of Jed Bartlett old-school dirty politics.
For weeks now, The Mooch has been banging on about us having more money. The press is pounding this into the heads of their fans and everyone else; we’ve bought our trophies under this man.
Almost everyone believes it anyway.
So the other day he leant into it, and he knew full well what he was doing.
The Mooch is catching Hell from the board for making demands and their fans are in uproar with everyone at the club and when, the other day, the Ibrox boss suggested that he wouldn’t have anything close to what Ange would have to spend in the summer that set off the rage on the forums which threatens to become an inferno.
He tried to backtrack before yesterday’s game, but the banner in the stands shows quite clearly what the fans think of that whole “limited funds” thing.
It’s the last thing they want to hear and the last thing Ibrox wants dominating the discussion for the next week.
So of course, Ange picked his moment. He played his cards magnificently.
He talked up how the club intends to strengthen and said that the plans are already laid and are already in motion. No hesitancy, no concerns, no wait-and-see … just forward thinking with the full support of a club which can give him the resources he needs.
The Ibrox forums are aflame … so Ange added a little petrol.
That’s shattering psychological warfare strategy.
For the next week the debate will once again be on Celtic’s greater financial power … and this time we want the debate. This time we want the discussion because since the Peepul believe it anyway you might as well knock Ibrox down with it.
For weeks The Mooch has been throwing all manner of nonsense every which way and in every direction. But in psyops you don’t get the rewards for being scattershot. You pick your moment, you time it to perfection and then unleash Hell.
This was an Ange Postecoglou precision strike.
How could The Mooch ever have thought he could best this guy at this?
Ange is old school.
Yeah, he’s calling them stupid, and skint.
And he’s making sure that the comparison with us is absolutely devastating.