The writers strike is taking an interesting turn of events. Via Calitics, I see Clinton surrogate Chris Lehane and Mark Fabiani are going to work for the Hollywood producers against the WGA.
Seeking to shore up its flagging public image, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has turned to veteran political advisors from both sides of the aisle to guide its public relations battle with Hollywood's striking writers.
The alliance announced today that it had retained Mark Fabiani and Chris Lehane, who have served as senior aides and advisors to President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore and other Democrats across the country.
Lehane is a longtime Clinton surrogate. The Clinton campaign uses him periodically to put out negative information on Obama, as he did in June when commenting on Tony Rezko, a controversial and corrupt donor to Obama.
Campaign consultant Chris Lehane, who worked in the Clinton White House and for Al Gore in 2000, said it shows voters that Obama "puts his pants on the same way as any other politician" - something that "undermines the core Obama brand, that he is a different kind of leader."
Lehane's a Clinton machine guy. He worked with former Glover Park partner and current Clinton communications director Howard Wolfsen to promote Michael Moore's films, through the Weinstein company that is controlled by major Clinton backer Harvey Weinstein.
Lehane has long been an unofficial surrogate for the campaign when it needs something out into the press. His quotes leave no doubt of that. Here he is on possible electability problems in 2005:
"Hillary Clinton has a good sense of self," said Chris Lehane, a longtime Democratic strategist who worked in the White House for President Clinton. "I don't think she makes this race unless she thinks she has a pretty good chance of winning the whole thing."
Three years ahead of the election she dominates the field and "is in the strongest position any non-incumbent presidential candidate has ever been in the modern history of the Democratic party" according to party strategist Chris Lehane.
Here he is spinning away Obama's $25M quarter.
"Anyone who can put together $25 million in a quarter comes off as a very serious and credible candidate," said Chris Lehane, who was the spokesman for Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000. "Enough people have been around the block in the Clinton world that they understand this is a marathon, not a sprint."
Here he is making the 'Hillary is inevitable' argument, just a few months earlier, based on Clinton's fundraising prowess. Note that this is precisely the opposite chain of logic that he used when spinning away Obama's number.
In March, Democratic operative Chris Lehane, who has been a staffer on multiple presidential campaigns, likened this exclusionist fund-raising strategy to that undertaken by George W. Bush during the presidential campaign of 2000.
"He put together a financial infrastructure that laid the foundation for a presidential run and locked down the Who's Who of the Republican fund-raising community," Lehane said. "Hillary Clinton's ability to lock up fund-raisers is not only a positive for her, but also takes away those potential assets for others."
Here he is knocking John Edwards and Barack Obama on fashion.
For Mr. Obama and other candidates like John Edwards who have gone tieless in public appearances, the look could help convey youthfulness and openness to change, says political consultant Chris Lehane, who advised Bill Clinton. But "the downside is, does it reinforce any issues regarding whether he has enough experience or gravitas to be president?" he adds.
And here's Lehane hinting about his payback.
[Lehane] said remembering who your true-blue friends are is a must for a political winner.
"I think history is pretty clear that those folks who are loyal to the Clintons find the loyalty is really reciprocated -- and that is one of the reasons why so many people have stuck with them for so long,'' he said. "They really do respect and appreciate it when someone is loyal, and that manifests itself in many ways ... that is what good politicians do.''
Lehane is a Clinton surrogate. He works to get her elected, the campaign feeds him talking points, and he uses them. His track record on crisis management and in political campaigns is mixed. While the recent California ballot initiative was defeated partially by his team, and he did good opposition research on Bush in 2000, his 2004 track record was a disaster. He resigned from the Kerry campaign after Kerry took a dive in late 2003, moved to run the Clark campaign just in time for it to crash, all after working to unsuccessfully beat back the California recall of Gray Davis. And California institutional Democratic politics, which is his home state, is quite weak, due somewhat to the antics of the consultants in the state.
Nevertheless, Lehane and Fabiani have great relationships with the California press, they are organized, and they can work a media strategy. The strike is now heading into its 6th week, and I would be watching for changes in the studio PR work. As for Clinton, this is just another version of the Mark Penn problem, her campaign consultant who works for union busters, Columbia death squads, etc.
Hillary Clinton herself is mostly supportive of the writers, though comparing the statements shows that Clinton actually says less than either Edwards or Obama. The pushback I'm going to get on this post from the Clinton campaign is going to be along the lines of 'Clinton supports the WGA', though I find the people she associates herself with incredibly distasteful.
Strike breaking is not ok. Clinton knows this. And that's why she should sever all ties with Lehane and Fabiani and put out a statement announcing this.