GET POLITICAL with VIC LIVINGSTON (Opinion) - The Presidential 'Psy Ops' Wars: Who's Got the Voodoo?
• Is the power of persuasion inside "the bubble"?
• Keeping your friends (and advisers) close...
While the media focus on the ad wars, Get Political calls attention to a much more covert form of political combat: the psy ops wars.
Here's the theory: Perhaps both presidential candidates are being subject to an unremitting campaign of attempted psychological manipulation; or, to use a more benign term, conditioning.
Both men have been placed in a tight bubble. This, of course, is for their personal protection, and that of their families. But the isolation also prevents each of them from receiving the full range of input; from the outside world, from the media entourage, and, arguably, from their own staffs.
Likewise, each man no doubt has been told of the dangers and threats that accompany a run for national office. So they come to rely psychologically upon those closest to them, whether it is a spouse, or a late-night poker game with a members of a security detail. It is conceivable that those in constant physical proximity to the candidates, if they so desired, could have a profound influence on their daily decision making, perhaps even on their very thought processes.
Maybe someone close to Obama is in some subtle way suggesting the notion that he stands a better chance of winning if he's wishy-washy on the issues and laid back in his responses to direct frontal assaults like John McCain's over-inflated gas gauge gambit.
And yes, I know what you're thinking: that doesn't sound like Michelle.
On the McCain side, the most significant "takeaway" from the current countretemps focusing on McCain's Britney-Paris advert and its follow-ups could be this: The McCain ads reflect the strategic take-no-prisoners hardball of the Bush team that conceptualized them. This is the stuff of the anti-McCain campaign that the Bush forces mounted against McCain in the 2000 primaries, most notably, the South Carolina contest -- the one in which McCain had to battle uphill against false rumors that he had fathered a black child by a prostitute.
McCain's defense of the Paris-Britney celebutante ad seemed half-hearted, insincere, and more than a tad defensive. Go to the videotape: even McCain's body language betrays what could be his true feelings.
And now we hear that Bushie operatives are pushing hard for Rob Portman as McCain's veepee pick. Rob Portman, former Bush budget director at a time when the economy is collapsing under the current administration. Rob Portman, the longtime Bush loyalist who's got entree into the inner family circle. Rob Portman, a handsome, articulate spokesperson for the established order, an image in stark contrast to the one-time (and who knows? perhaps the future) "maverick" who used to be John McCain.
There's got to be some heavy psy ops directed McCain's way in favor of Portman, who sounded almost as much like a presumptive "President Obama" when he appeared this past Sunday on the chat shows.
McCain endured five long years of physical and psychological torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese. But now, in his senior years and with his increasingly frequent "senior moments," could McCain resist the brand of hi-tech, 21st century psy ops that the spy novels say is practiced in some quarters of the "protectorati"?
Real life is not a spy novel (or so one might tend to assume). This observer is putting odds that it will be McCain, former POW, who proves himself the more resistant to psychologically-based entreaties. If McCain's vice presidential pick reflects the independence and daring of his maverick days, the wisdom of this bet, it might be argued, would tend to be confirmed.
As for Barack Obama, the "change" candidate seems to be the presidential hopeful most changed, even moreso than McCain. Obama looks to be the one whose recent words and manner exude the unnatural aura of a voodoo spell.
A full three days after McCain's tire gauge assault, Obama snapped out of his "Great Compromiser" trance and showed the fight that's been absent of late from his public performances. If the "change" candidate re-emerges, perhaps it will show that he's also "psy ops -resistant."
But Barack's veepee pick also may reveal whether there are external psychological forces impacting his decision-making. Will he continue to beat a path to the center-right, further disappointing his core supporters in what seems to be a misplaced effort to win over those who would never vote for this "different kind of Democrat" in the first place?
Viewed through the prism of psy ops, it's Barack Obama whose Rorschach test seems the most difficult to decipher.
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