Rahm Emanuel's Think Tankers Enforce 'Message Discipline' Among 'Liberals'

The White House is ‘helping’ liberal groups to get their political messages in sync with the official line.

Over the past several weeks, independent journalists and anti-war
activists have tried to shine a spotlight on how groups like the Center for American Progress and MoveOn,
which portrayed themselves as anti-war during the Bush-era, are now
supporting the escalation and continuation of wars because their guy is
now commander-in-chief. CAP has been actively pounding the pavement in support of the escalation in Afghanistan, the rebranding of the Iraq occupation and, more recently, Obama's bloated military budget, which the group said was "on target." MoveOn has been silent on the escalation in Afghanistan and has devoted substantial resources to promoting a federal budget that includes a $21 billion increase in military spending from the Bush-era.

What is clear here is that CAP and MoveOn are now basically psuedo-official PR flaks targeting
"liberals" to support the White House agenda. This, though, should not
come as a shock to those who have closely monitored these groups. They
were the primary force behind Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (AAEI), "a coalition that spent tens of millions of dollars using Iraq as a political bludgeon against Republican politicians, while refusing to pressure the Democratic Congress to actually cut off funding for the war." Now, according to John Stauber, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, the Center for American Progress is now running
"Progressive Media which was begun by Tom Matzzie and David Brock in
2008 and now 'represents a serious ratcheting up of efforts to present
a united liberal front in the coming policy wars....' [These groups] are
working hard to push Obama's policies, including rationalizlng or
defending his escalation of the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan as
"sustainable security."

On Wednesday, Ben Smith at Politico reported
on the latest development in this White House-coordinated campaign to
use these think-tankers to whip up support for its agenda. It is a
newly formed coalition, the Common Purpose Project, which blogger Jane Hamsher describes
as "one of the many groups Rahm Emanuel has set up to coordinate
messaging among liberal interest groups." This one includes the direct
participation of White House officials, according to Smith:

The Common Purpose meeting every Tuesday afternoon at the
Capitol Hilton brings together the top officials from a range of
left-leaning organizations, from labor groups like Change to Win to
activists like MoveOn.org, all in support of the White House's agenda.
The group has an overlapping membership with a daily 8:45 a.m. call run
by the Center for American Progress' and Media Matters' political arms;
with the new field-oriented coalition Unity '09; and with the groups
that allied to back the budget as the Campaign to Rebuild and Renew
America Now.

Unlike those other groups, however, the Common
Purpose meeting has involved a White House official, communications
director Ellen Moran, two sources familiar with the meeting said. It's
aimed, said one, at "providing a way for the White House to manage its
relationships with some of these independent groups."

Common Purpose
was founded by Erik Smith, a former aide to Dick Gephardt. The group's
political director is former Obama aide, Miti Sathe. "Common Purpose is
formed as a 501(c)(4), which leaves it focused on policy, rather than
electoral, work," notes Smith. "Part of the group's role is to enforce
a kind of message discipline." He tells the story of how last month
"some of the more liberal members of the coalition" were launching a
campaign against conservative Democrats under the banner "Dog the Blue
Dogs." The White House, Smith alleged, "was in the midst of discussions
with members of the congressional Blue Dog caucus, and objected to the
slogan, which was promptly changed, and the page describing the drive
is gone from CAF [Campaign for America's Future, a participant in the
Common Purposes calls]'s website."

Hamsher, who wrote an interesting response to the Politico report with a different spin on the above story, concluded:

There's a big problem right now with the traditional
liberal interest groups sitting on the sidelines around major issues
because they don't want to buck the White House for fear of getting cut
out of the dialogue, or having their funding slashed. Someone picks up
a phone, calls a big donor, and the next thing you know...the money is
gone. It's already happened. Because that's the way Rahm plays.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

© 2023 The Intercept