An open letter to David Axelrod, the Whitehouse.

August 17, 2009

David Axelrod

The White House

August 11, 2009

Dear David,

First and foremost, I want to congratulate President Obama, you and the entire team you have assembled for your tireless efforts on the exhausting tasks you have chosen to address on our behalf.  Your understanding of this new phenomenon called social networking has created an insightful and effective strategy to mobilize the American people into serious thought and debate.

However, I am reminded of something I once read, “that the greatest impediment to knowledge is a belief system”.

Experience within my own family confirms the wisdom of this observation.  Take my father, for example, a 30+ year Airforce veteran, attorney, and former B17 navigator who flew more than 20 missions including the bombing of Berlin at the end of the war, and reflects compassionately for “the poor German people we bombed”.

As a somewhat informed college student and later as a marginalized anti-establishment cynic, I watched in horror as my father witlessly donated funds to the Marianist missionaries, the nuns and priests promoting human rights in Latin America, while supporting the Reagan administration, its successors and the various criminals, people like Ollie North, who through the school of the Americas and the CIA backed and trained the death squads in Latin America that killed the Marianist missionaries, nuns and priests my father supports, as well as union leaders, publishers, schoolteachers and agents for righteous social change in the most horrific ways. To this day, no amount of education can dissuade him from his beliefs and he continues to support both causes, however illogical.

Sadly, the American people have accepted these thugs and embraced them as heroes, with the same Ollie North, senator and TV personality on Fox TV, and Watergate criminal G. Gordon Liddy, now a right wing mouthpiece, both liabilities to democracy, given daily voice to subvert the truth and radicalize the populace with their deceptions and hatred.

Now add to the mix the simpleton voice of a Sarah Palin and the twisted intelligence of a Rush Limbaugh and you have a vile cocktail that can be swallowed by the many hard- working and tired Americans who don’t understand that their paycheck doesn’t go far enough because 25% goes to healthcare and that while it is paid for by their employer, it is earned by them through their hard work.  Meanwhile, the employer, seeking remuneration through tax benefits and trade laws, using clever accountancy allowed by law, brings it’s overseas profits back into the US tax free while shifting labor and production abroad, thereby reducing both jobs and the tax base and their liability to support the very system that allows them  to live like pharaohs of old, building edifices to their own glory.

The problem with the lessons of history is that somebody has to read them and that is certainly not enough of the American public. Furthermore, the scant evidence of alternative historical scenarios is diluted by the disinformation of those wishing to obfuscate any reasonable theory leading to discussion and possible resolution.

For example, the deplorable actions of the CIA in assassinating democratically elected leaders of foreign nations has been historically verified.  Why then, with more at stake, would those same actions not be sanctioned in our own country within the secret halls of power.  Two and two still equals four.  “If it walks like a duck…”

In the late sixties, Frank Zappa’s group, “The Mothers of Invention” recorded a song called “It Can’t Happen Here” obviously reflecting the ideology of the book of the same name by Sinclair Lewis.  The song is a satiric testament to the strength of a belief system.

So why is it that after more than forty years, the vast majority of the American public believe that President and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated by the CIA and key political figures within the American government all working in conjunction with  a criminal fringe as cutouts and fall guys?

So without accurate data, the lessons of history become more important in analyzing the present and consequent future. Because patterns emerge that are undeniable and too frequent to be coincidental and while theorists were ridiculed, inevitably, an age of cynicism was born and hopeless would-be voters were disenfranchised between choices that were on the surface different, but in substance identical. Until now.

Recently a CNN poll was taken grading the president, Congress and the news media.  While unscientific, the results were nonetheless heartening.  The president received a C, which under any circumstances should be expected, a C being the average of all those in favor, opposed and in the middle of an issue, a pretty even distribution of political thought.  But what was really interesting was that Congress scored lower with a D and news media even lower with an F.  It’s not hard to understand these numbers, because to receive an F is as hard as receiving an A.  It means simply that in this regard the American people, however divided, are thinking in unison, a rare event indeed.

I have made it a point to tune in to as many of President Obama’s telecasts as is possible and I am always amazed at how the news media, in immediate afterward commentary, is able to distort into half truths the actual statements of our president to the contrary. Soon this is picked up by other media and further distorted and suddenly the debate is on second hand commentary rather than the actual pronouncements.  Several iterations later Rush adds his personal twist and talks directly to my father during his lunch hour on the radio, an antique device at best, and who along with Sarah Palin, who my father thinks is cute, (what happens to old people that their brains die first and yet are still allowed to vote?) concoct a fantasy scenario of their own making and thrust it back on President Obama as if it were spoken as the truth.  Now those righteous lemmings are radio-hypnotized and cutie-pie idealized to act against their own self interest and follow the piper to shout out and drown intelligent discussion.  Where were those same righteous Americans that followed Palin’s  lead on “death panels” to town hall meetings, when worldwide, real death squads trained by us were killing innocent peoples of color, for simply seeking human rights and justice.

Take for example the issue of Guantanamo.  I enjoyed the President’s speech and found it enlightening and logical in the only way possible consistent with our laws and values.  It was a detailed plan that had four steps that were solidly detailed and a fifth that required collaboration with the other two branches of our government to be resolved.  No plan could do more, yet the President was criticized for not having a plan. Did anybody listen to the speech.  Not enough and certainly not the media, who were so smug as to promote their own “intelligence” and “brilliance” by trying to deconstruct his plan calling it no plan.

Unfortunately, Radio IS CHEAP.  While the internet requires a computer and computer skills and ongoing access charges, the radio is free.  Thus, in radio you have a perfect media for the hearts of the many who were raised on Jack Benny and have yet to let go.   The many retirees who have nothing better to do all day, sit in their air-conditioned condos entertaining themselves at lunchtime with Rush’s flirtatious rantings, being congratulated and cajoled, complimented for their conservative values, their traditions and their wisdom while being sold a bill of goods that is nothing short of a pack of lies.

While traditional media, television and press, have largely abrogated their responsibility by a reliance on press statements, diminished reportage and increased commentary and opinion, with witty banter, provided by cute model types (why are so many red-heads?), the real battleground for hearts and minds is the internet versus radio.

The problem with your strategy at the moment is that the internet targets a younger set of people, who are already aligned with the need for change, while the radio targets the traditional folks who don’t want any change ever, no matter what—C’mon they still listen to the radio!!  Duh!

It’s easier to be told what to think, especially if it seems to be aligned with your predispositions, than to actually think–sell to perception not reality.

The word “change” does not fit well with the many senior citizens I have seen on the news lately, loudly disrupting town hall meetings.

Positioning is the art of selling to a group’s beliefs rather than to an informed reality.  It is one of the basic tenants of marketing.  Books have been written on the subject.  Your marketing of the president’s plans have been open and honest but introduce reality into the marketing mix and your reality is clothed in change. The same ideas can be realized and accepted if cloaked not as change but as an improvement providing secure maintenance of their current position.

My beloved mother had been battling heart disease for many years, the last four were most painful for her, but the last year has consisted of prolonged torture for her to sustain life for the benefit of everyone but herself.  She told me many times that she was personally, not only ready to go, but desired to do so.

Reality is that, yes, the last 3 months of prolonged medical care to extend life for terminal patients is disproportionately depleting our system, but the social, religious and moral issues cannot be resolved in any reasonable amount of time.

Once when I was facing impossible odds my lawyer advised me that to “eat an elephant” you cannot do it whole, but it’s possible one bite at a time, in retrospect an oddly appropriate analogy for our situation today.

What you should do is get a damned-good health care bill passed and then one bite at a time address the peripheral issues through subsequent bills amending with policies that require understanding and/or trust.  To put it another way, avoid the side streets and stay on the highway, and pick your fights but don’t challenge a whole bar full of bikers. Take them outside one at a time.  The Romans, understood the practical advantages of “divide and conquer”. Unification followed with peace and prosperity.

I wish you much success and my hope for the health of the American people remains strong.


Michael Caporale


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