MULLINGS/Rich Galen – Think globally, act locally


On Friday at noon I was the guest speaker at the regular monthly meeting of the Republican Communications Association – the organization of press secretaries who work for GOP Members of the US House of Representatives.

Box lunches made up of Chik-fil-A sandwiches were served. I began my lecture by saying I wasn’t used to eating Chik-fil-A sandwiches on Fridays; I normally at them on Sundays. The press secretaries who represented Members of Congress from Southern districts, laughed.

My first job on Capitol Hill, in 1977, was for a wonderful Congressman from DuPage County, Illinois named John Erlenborn. I asked, after a thoughtful pause, “How many of you were not yet born in 1977?”

A shocking number of press secretaries raised their hands.

I had been standing. I sat down.

After an extremely lengthy (and, I suspect, extremely boring) recitation of my background as a press/communications/media person we got into the meat of the thing and I pointed out that, unless they happened to be the communications director for the Republican Conference, they had one job and one job only: To put their boss in the best possible light for the voters in his or her home District.

I reminded them that in every town and in every neighborhood of every city at 10 AM every weekday morning the judge, the real estate broker, the banker, the owner of the department store and the guy who owns the factory on the outskirts of town get together to discuss and/or solve the issues of the day.
“Let Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Mullfave Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (R-FL) and the rest of the leadership worry about the grand theories of this election,” I said. “Your responsibility is to be in touch with your District office and know what those guys at the 10 O’clock coffee klatch are whining about.”

The saying, “all politics is local” is attributed to former Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-MA). Even if someone else said it first, it is still an enormously powerful driver . Or should be.
The three-straight losses by House Republicans in open seats which had previously been held by the GOP proves the point.

In two of the three – Louisiana and Mississippi – Republicans ran ads against Barack Obama.

The national press corps misunderstood the meaning of the fact that the GOP candidates lost after these ads, thinking that means anti-Obama ads won’t work in the fall in the race against John McCain.
It meant nothing of the sort. What it DID mean was this: You only nationalize Congressional elections when the environment is in your favor. Else, you make the race my guy (the 8-year incumbent who has done so much for this District) against your guy (about whom you know nothing).

If something happens in Washington which is good for your District then, by all means, shout from the rooftops what a huge leadership role your boss took in helping get the amendment adopted or the bill passed.

If something dreadful happens, shout from those same rooftops that your boss, having fought like Jean Valjean in the barricade scene in Les Misrables, is now limping through Statuary Hall, bloodied but unbowed, vowing to fight on every day against whatever it was that was in the bill which was going to cause your District to fall into the sea.

When I went to work in the US House back in ’77, Democrats came into the post-Watergate 95th Congress with a veto-proof margin of 292-143. The Democrats had a majority (149 seats) larger than the entire GOP membership.

So, I know what it is like to be way, WAY in the minority as a GOP press secretary.

I might have just been a rube from Marietta, Ohio 45750 but I knew this: If I had anything to do with it, Rep. John Erlenborn was not going to lose his next election.

I did, and he didn’t.