The Decline of Good Staffers by Caleb Pritt

By at June 19, 2011 | 5:28 pm | Print

The Decline of Good Staffers by Caleb Pritt

It occurs to me the older I get, after having been a campaign staffer for almost two decades now, that this younger generation has forgotten the art of what it takes to be a good staffer. Too many young people raised on episodes of WEST WING show up to campaigns where I am a senior staffer or campaign manager saying they want to be speechwriters or issue analysts. These are young people with or without a Bachelors Degree and armed with little experience but a lot of ideas. Its ludicrous when we forget where campaigns are won….in the trenches, door knocking and on the phones. Too many young people want salaries that I waited years to be able to get. And we as Democrats and as progressives will not win till we go back to our roots.

Press conference are part of campaigns and being in elective office and you have to know the rules. Even though Anthony Weiner is an elected official, his recent press conference was a lesson for the staff of every Democratic candidate running for office. I watched U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner’s press conference with shock and horror. Not because of what the Congressman said because honestly, I am part of a declining group of Americans who believes your private life is your private life. But what shocked and horrified me is the lack of good staffing by Congressman Anthony Weiner’s staff.

First of all, the perverted slimebag Andrew Breitbart, who utilizes his website BigGovernment.com to hack the Congressman’s private E-Mail & Twitter to obtain the “evidence” of the Congressman’s sexual trysts, got up on the podium and utilized the Congressman’s own press conference and the Congressman’s podium, before the Congressman spoke to attack the Congressman even more.

Where was the Congressman’s staff???

Second of all, as the Congressman spoke, the media surrounded him literally first as he entered the room and then on the podium pinning him in. As the Congressman went through this painful saga and spoke from the podium, the Congressman had no out and literally was trapped on the podium. This is not an effective control of the situation.

Where was the Congressman’s staff???

Third of all…..Andrew Breitbart who also utilizes the website to promote Sarah Palin, stood in the room and leered at the Congressman as he spoke with a disgusting smirk. Look this whole situation is tough enough but that room was reserved and paid for by the Congressman. He shouldn’t have to look at his accuser who ILLEGALLY hacked his personal emails and twitter account and started this drama while he comes clean and made his statement. So it simply occurs to me again:

WHERE WAS THE CONGRESSMAN’S STAFF???

I am proud of the fact that I am a political operative. I am good at what I do and I have worked with some of the best in the business.

Right after the Nevada Presidential Debate in early 2008, I was working for the Nevada Democratic Party. I immiediately negotiated former Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater and other V.I.P.’s effectively from the hall where the debate happened to a separate area where the reporters were at for after debate spin and comments. Each major campaign had handlers for their people….I happened to be the one for the Clinton surrogates. I got these individuals safely, quickly, and without notice to the room. I walked the path two or three times the day before. I looked for potential obstacles. I made myself known to the Secret Service who had arrived so they knew who I was. I made sure that this worked fast and effectively. When it came time, right after the debate ended, I was sitting next to Secretary Slater. I gathered him, Congresswoman Dina Titus, and the other two Clinton surrogates up (as I knew where all four were sitting in the debate hall.) As others….including st! affers for the other campaign fought through the crowds streaming out with their surrogates for the Obama, Edwards, and other campaigns….I led my four charges past the stage, through a back door route, up some stairs, and through a side door into the area where the Press Row was set up. So right after the debate, the key score of who spoke first to the media, was the Clinton team.

While in Nevada I came to know the Dodd Squatters….staffers from Iowa. Let me tell you….the campaigns in 2008 were a wealth of talent but the Dodd Team were the Seal Team of campaign staffers. They were everywhere the Nevada Democratic Party needed them. They were on the phones, at the sites, and they holed up in two cramped hotel rooms. They were armed with fast food, cigarettes, and the occasional shot of liquid courage. These were REAL staffers, of the type I encountered as a staffer in New Hampshire, and they were great to be around. They saw politics as an artform in being good staffers and they didn’t complain. They were damned good staffers.

I have experience working on all levels. From starting out as a volunteer to Campaign Manager of statewide campaigns. I have worked on 50 campaigns in many states. While working on campaigns, I trace and retrace the route my candidate will take. I find other potential routes for when there may be changes. I consider every possible event with a candidate and analyze things from every possible angle. No matter if its a political fundraising event, a media event, travelling, etc….I strive to get better and better. And I even learned new angles and new methods in planning….like on Diane Benson’s campaign for Lt. Governor in Alaska. I strive to be the best that there can be as political operatives.

I have worked with the best of the best out there on Presidential, Senate, Gubernatorial, Mayoral, and other campaigns. I try to be the best that there can be. But honestly….I am disappointed in Congressman Anthony Weiner’s staff. Of the few that were there….they wandered around like sheep caught in the headlights of a car, talking on their damned cell phones….and they failed their boss in my opinion.

Now its easy to criticize without giving feedback. Thats why I will structure this as a critique and I hope someone from the Congressman’s staff reads it, they will take this to heart to become better at your job.

# 1 – Take control of the room. Decide who will and will not be in the room. There was no reason Andrew Breitbart should have been in the room. He had no right to be there. This is not a court room and this is not a Freedom of Speech deal….this is a protect your boss moment and Breitbart should have been barred. Would it maybe have created a story. No….because what the Congressman said would have overshadowed that story.

# 2 – Make sure the Congressman is ready for this moment. Some say this was a masterful performance. Yes it was honest but it could have been better. The Congressman should have had clearer points and once he answers a question then they are answered and the Congressman never should have had to say the same answer over and over again.

# 3 – There should have been a Press Secretary controlling the questioning. I mean really….how legitimate of a question is there that says, “Is there a picture of your erection?” I believe someone should have been there to step in and reverse the questions and attack the bloggers and say, “Why are you defending the actions of someone who illegally hacked someone’s private email and twitter account? The private email and twitter account are just that….private!”

# 4 – There should have been control of the podium. I have no problem seeing a few bouncer types in suits ready to throw bloggers, reporters, or anyone who tried to get on the podium. There should have been control of the podium and there should have been a path at all times for the Congressman to walk in and walk out, that wasn’t blocked by the media. Staffers should take charge and remember they control the press conference area….not the press.

# 5 – This press conference should have come within 72 hours of the event, not two weeks later. And once the Congressman admits and makes his statement, the attacks should be against Breitbart and his smear site that attacks an American’s right to privacy, that hinders the work of the Federal government by diverting attention from pressing national issues to whether a solitary Congressman was trying to get his groove on, and point to the hypocrisy of how Governor Sarah Palin (whom Breitbart promotes) sought a PRISON SENTENCE for a COLLEGE STUDENT for hacking her personal emails but there is silence when the same action happens to a liberal Democrat. This should now become a discussion on the vindictiveness and the at all costs behavior of some conservatives who have not been tempered by the continued destruction of our democracy by these American Jihadists.

Lets be clear here….politics is swimming with the sharks and aligators. You always have to be on guard, always expect an attack, and always be ready for the unexpected. But the ones who are more aggressive, have a consistent defense, and who are willing to be just as tough as those attacking them or more….survive.

Progressives and liberals need to wake up and toughen up. Stop whining, stop talking about the way it should be, and stop justifying what should be and cope with what is the reality.

Finally to this new breed of staffers coming up in politics.

# 1 – Its not about you, it’s about your boss. I know this is a hard lesson to learn. I have taken it on the chin a few times to protect my boss. Thats your job as a staffer to protect your boss first and foremost. Sometimes I have forgotten this rule myself and taken steps to adjust it. Just remember there’s a new day tomorrow. Just get better.

# 2 – Take control of the situation, don’t let the situation control you. Stop getting on your cell phones and talking about what maybe should be done and just do it!

# 3 – Being a staffer means long days, long nights, minimal pay, maximum work, and in the end you might, you might get to see the fruits of your labors. But lets be honest, this is a profession, not a job. If you are in it to further your own interests, learn this bitter fact…..for every Maria Cantwell or Rahm Emmanuel (staffers who went onto elective office themselves), there is a Nikki Tinker or Chad Causey (staffer who sought office and didn’t make it….yet.) So focus on your job now and wait for your turn if and when it comes.

# 4 – PROTECT YOUR BOSS. Anytime I work for a candidate, I try to protect my boss and the loved ones of my boss at ALL times. Protect them from not just the “crazies” but often you need to protect them from their supporters, friends, and family sometimes. And even though I have friends in the media….protect them from the media. Thats part of how it is and should be, is to protect the candidate.

Republican Conservatives have gotten the jump on Democrat Liberals in the fact they are a highly disciplined, determined core. But they can be beat….but not unless we take the fight to them and stop letting them bully us all the time!

A.Caleb Pritt has been a paid political operative since the 1994 Election Cycle and has worked for over 50 campaigns as a staffer on national to local level as well as being a GLBT Activist. Pritt is the owner of Pritt Consulting Services and is in discussions with another former top level staffer he met on another campaign to form an all inclusive political consulting firm that will debut in the coming months.

Pritt Consulting Services     a.caleb.pritt@gmail.com

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  • TruthHurts

    I worked with him as well. He is often too trusting, but he is an excellent organizer. He has a way of seeing two or three steps ahead of the game. The ones who lose to him usually use the internet as a way to settle a score they couldn’t legitimately settle. The other commenter here forgot the first part of their name…DIS.