[Marxism] Anybody For a Diet Coke?

Tony Abdo gojack10 at hotmail.com
Fri Jul 30 03:04:59 MDT 2004


The Man Behind the Acceptance Speech
By Jon Keller, Boston Magazine
July 30, 2004

"For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the 
cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die." – 1980 
Democratic National Convention concession speech written for Senator Edward 
Kennedy by Bob Shrum.

Political guru Bob Shrum has more influence than anyone on what comes out of 
John Kerry's mouth. Even now, he's crafting the most important document of 
the convention: Kerry's acceptance speech. Considering Shrum's track record, 
the Republicans couldn't be happier.

At some point tonight, a limousine escorted by police will glide past the 
hapless working-class Bostonians who couldn't take the week off from work to 
avoid the nightmarish traffic caused by the closing of I-93. It will pull up 
to a heavily guarded VIP entrance at the FleetCenter and disgorge the 
putative modern-day torch bearer of "the cause... the hope... and the 
dream."

All eyes will be on the wealthiest member of the United States Senate, John 
Forbes Kerry, as he prepares to deliver a nationally televised speech that 
could be his best chance yet to exchange his albatross image as a 
Massachusetts liberal for that of a populist alternative to George W. Bush. 
In the stadium's luxury boxes, party bigwigs and donors who have bet huge 
amounts of dough on Kerry will be buzzing with anxious speculation. Can 
Kerry excite the party faithful, as Ted Kennedy did in the 1980 concession 
speech that stole the show from nominee Jimmy Carter, with a similarly 
rousing homage to old-time party gospel? Or will he confirm himself as an 
out-of-touch, pandering Beltway phony?

Among those insiders, equal attention will be paid to another very wealthy 
man likely to emerge from the car with Kerry, if not from his own stretch 
limo. That would be Robert M. Shrum, the balding political guru responsible 
for the crucial message Kerry will deliver tonight, the master speechwriter 
counted on by Kerry to transform his banal rhetoric into something soaring, 
inspirational, and marketable. Shrum is expected to have banged out a speech 
that unites the anti-Bush base and lures those up-for-grabs swing voters. If 
no single moment short of the climactic October debates is more important 
than Kerry's nomination-night manifesto, then no single person in the 
campaign's cast of thousands is more important than Bob Shrum.

The 60-year-old Shrum is paradoxically both the premier success story of 
modern-day political consulting and its most spectacular failure. And now he 
faces perhaps his most formidable challenge since he consulted on the 
marketing of New Coke: convincing southern NASCAR dads and Wal-Mart moms of 
the populist empathy of a windsurfing New England multimillionaire from 
Louisburg Square.

If you've ever been stirred by the raw populism of a Democratic senator's 
C-SPAN speech vowing to fight for the working man and woman against the 
powerful forces of corporate greed, chances are you've been moved by Shrum's 
work. For three decades, as the Democrats have groped for identity, Shrum 
has been the party's most admired speechwriter, forcefully and consistently 
spinning a populist tale of the battle between the haves and the have-nots – 
most memorably in that legendary 1980 speech for Kennedy. Despite his 
exorbitant price tag, competition for Shrum's services in the presidential 
nominating process is so intense it's sometimes referred to in political 
circles as "the Shrum primary."

But when the "John and Bob Show" plays the FleetCenter tonight , those 
familiar with the Shrum story will be wondering: What has Kerry really 
bought? A brilliant wordsmith who can give him the soul he seems to lack? Or 
an out-of-touch faux-populist whose involvement in the campaign will merely 
reinforce the candidate's rap as a gold-plated phony and leave the party 
beaten as he limos off in search of the next opportunity to fail?

Bob Shrum's fingerprints have been found at the scene of an uninterrupted 
string of Democratic presidential catastrophes over the past 30 years. Ed 
Muskie and George McGovern in 1972. Kennedy in 1980. Richard Gephardt and 
Michael Dukakis in 1988. Bob Kerrey in 1992. The only successful Democratic 
candidacies of the era – Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992 – were 
Shrum-free affairs. (Shrum worked for 10 days for Carter, but quit in a 
huff.)

Even after Shrum added to that litany with his disastrous 2002 attempt to 
transform silver-spoon Beltway insider Al Gore into the candidate of the 
common man, he remained the most sought-after catch of the primary season. 
And Shrum is tighter than tight with Ted Kennedy, Kerry's campaign savior. 
All good reasons, it seems, for Kerry to ignore the thread that runs through 
Shrum's failed presidential campaigns: blind devotion to an ideology that 
went out of style 30 years ago.

Shrum is, however eloquently, a one-trick pony, selling a 1960s populism 
bristling with the imagery of class warfare. When Kerry declares himself – 
in the same language used by dozens of Shrum candidates over the years – "a 
fighter" against "the powerful forces" of corporate greed and wealthy 
special interests, he is preaching the Shrum gospel.

Shrum didn't respond to interview requests. But then, he doesn't need to do 
much self-promotion anymore. A survivor of bitter breakups with old business 
partners and countless campaign power struggles, Shrum's clout goes largely 
unchallenged now. He replaced popular ad man Jim Margolis at the top of the 
Kerry campaign after a dispute over money and is now "the person who has the 
most influence on what comes out of John Kerry's mouth on any given day," as 
a Kerry adviser told the Washington Post.

There's a problem with that setup. Once upon a time, "arousing the working 
masses to claim more money from the evil rich was a way to win elections," 
says Michael Barone, coauthor of The Almanac of American Politics. But now, 
Barone notes, "it's not a winning message. Clinton understood that the 
country and the economy had changed. Bob doesn't get that." And while the 
Kerry campaign claims to be tricking out old-time populism with such New 
Democrat accessories as tax incentives for corporate investment, it's 
questionable whether class-warfare rhetoric of any kind can be sold by the 
blue-blooded likes of a nominee who told a Georgia audience his views on 
drug abuse among the young were "not palaver."

"Kerry's not the standard populist candidate," says Dan Payne, a longtime 
adviser to Kerry. "He's had the opportunity to play the populist in 
Massachusetts politics and he's just never done it because he doesn't feel 
comfortable with it. It's not gonna work for him."

No wonder top Republicans have hailed Shrum's presence astride the Kerry 
campaign as perhaps the best medicine for what ails the Bush re-election 
effort. There are already troubling signs that decades of defeat can't stop 
Shrum from recycling the same old spin. The 1980 Kennedy speech featured 
outrage that, while the working class struggles to afford healthcare, 
"members of Congress have a medical plan that meets their needs in full." 
Kerry's stump speech promises to "make the same healthcare plan that 
senators and congressmen get available and accessible to anybody in 
America." The details – how to pay for and administer universal healthcare – 
remain, then as now, unresolved. Shrum's candidates, says Payne, "get 
squeezed into the same mold whether they belong there or not."

© 2004 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

See more about Bob's Coke career below, as he tell's how to best market diet 
coke.  You can't really make these things up, y'all know?   Tony

Doing Coke at the Office
By Robert Shrum
Thursday, Feb. 6, 1997

Movie Icon
Sound02 - coke.avi or Sound03 - coke.mov; download time, 4.25 minutes at 56K
Audio Image
Sound01 - VR-cokeoffice.asf;  for sound only

Office, produced by the Leo Burnett Co. Inc. of Chicago for the Coca-Cola 
Co.

Office opens in a very proper, high-ceilinged office space. Its rows of 
well-ordered desks--far from the power and privilege of a private 
office--evoke the worst fears about the dehumanizing places where corporate 
careers begin.

Continue Article
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Then we hear the whoosh of a cap turning on a bottle of Diet Coke. The guy 
opening the soda (dressed in a white shirt and tie--at least you can take 
your jacket off at your desk) has broken not only the silence but also the 
rules.

Heads turn at other desks as big-band music strikes up and the Diet Coke 
drinker spins away in his desk chair. Suddenly decked out in a snazzy blue 
suit, he starts dancing acrobatically, Astaire-style, and singing the soda's 
theme, Sinatra-style ("just for the feel of it" updates the long-running 
"just for the taste of it" theme of previous Diet Coke campaigns). The 
lighting changes, too, making the office space look like the inside of a 
nightclub.

Diet Coke takes you off the beaten career track, the spot suggests. It 
liberates the young rebel who's doing what he has to do to get ahead, but 
who still doesn't take it all too seriously.

We've seen these visuals before. It's Steve Martin in Pennies From Heaven. 
Our guy is being transported to a different astral plane. And the vehicle is 
Diet Coke. He dances off the walls and over to the desks of two women, who 
smile up at him--they've caught the mood. This is the kind of guy who gets 
the girls. We know that for sure as he turns toward one of them, strokes her 
chin, and hands her the bottle. The narrator tells us that "everyone is 
singing to the sound of Diet Coke," and invites us to win CDs and trips to 
the Grammies by checking the bottom of the bottle cap. (The fine print about 
a "one-in-nine" chance acknowledges regulations about truth in advertising: 
Even a rebel has to conform to some rules.)

After the bottle cap flips off, revealing "YOU WIN," we cut to the latest in 
audio gear--and to one of the office women dressed up for a night on the 
town. She dances and dips with our guy as he sings, "My place or yours." On 
his knees, he offers a rose to yet another woman--and the spot cuts back to 
normal. The lighting is fluorescent-bright as the bald boss looks out of his 
private-office door. (This is who our guy wants to become but is desperately 
afraid of becoming.) The boss has heard something, but the office looks as 
bland as usual. Was it just the whoosh of the cap turning that disturbed the 
silence of this cathedral of commerce? Or was it all a dream?

As the boss closes his door, the on-screen chyron reads: "Diet Coke. 
Uncapped. Just for the sound of it." "Uncapped" is a direct reference to 
MTV's popular "Unplugged" series, in which electrified rockers strip down to 
acoustic to reach the essence of their music. Getting uncapped with Diet 
Coke presumably allows office workers a similar shot at authenticity. And 
the chance of winning a trip to the Grammies is more than a prize. It 
signifies that Diet Coke is a with-it product that evokes the inner music of 
youth, of being yourself wherever you are. Lest anyone miss this point, when 
the bald boss shuts his door, our guy (off-screen) sings: "One more time!"

Diet Coke may be a low-calorie drink, but its makers have never marketed it 
as a beverage for the overweight. You're supposed to drink Diet Coke because 
you like it, not because you have to drink it. You're a rebel who refuses to 
leave your youth behind. You drank Diet Coke before you got to the office, 
and while the bald guy can order you around, he can't take your soda away 
from you.

--Robert Shrum

Robert Shrum is a leading Democratic political consultant.

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