"His faith was mocked on television by a Liberal clown waving a Barney the dinosaur toy around."
The clown being described by Sun Media columnist, Michael Coren, writing in his most recent column, is none other than Warren Kinsella.
In The War Room, Kinsella not only discusses the Barney episode that he used with a ruthless efficiency to undermine the credibility of Stockwell Day — who was seeking the Prime Minister's office back in 2000 while rejecting evolution — he brags about it.
There are a few things that are well known about Warren Kinsella even before opening his book. He is a political consultant, he is into punk and rock music, and even though he is Catholic, he is devoutly Liberal.
That comes through loud and clear in The War Room which is presented by the author as ten lessons on how to win campaigns, electoral or otherwise. The war room is little more than a group of committed individuals who conduct research on both the candiates they work for and the ones they oppose. They feed that information to the media to respond to charges as soon as they are leveled. They undermine and disarm critics with the data they have mined. And they are very secretive - because the campaign is not about them.
Despite the title, the war room is just part of a campaign strategy and Kinsella guides the reader through the different aspects of developing a strategy to win. While he says the strategy can be applied to any type of campaign, Kinsella, except for a brief discussion about his involvement with anti-tobacco campaigners, sticks mostly to political efforts.
The first couple of chapters of The War Room, including the introduction, were difficult slogging for this reader, but the perseverance was worth it.
In Lesson Two: Get Spinning!, Kinsella tells his readers that, "if there is any truth left in politics — if there is anything at all that any smart politician or war room soldier knows to be beyond dispute, beyond debate, that can never, ever be refuted, even by God — it is that ... Facts tell, stories sell.
With that Kinsella begins to tell stories as he guides his audience through the remaining lessons. Some of the stories are captivating. Some, like Barney the dinosaur, are knee slappers. Others will confirm a reader's most cynical beliefs about politics.
While Kinsella tells stories about the very public spat between the Chretien loyalists and the Martin loyalists that split the Liberal party and paved the way for a Conservative minority government, he divulges no secrets. Nor does he uncover any skeletons in any closets. It is very apparent, however, that some bitterness persists.
In Lesson Six: Get Tough!, Kinsella berates Paul Martin and his Liberal team for squandering opportunities and for running away from a winning record. "Bye-bye, Paul," Kinsella writes before moving on. "You're not missed."
Even though Kinsella does provide some wonderful and practical insights for would-be politicians, campaign managers, or war room activists, his book is not a how-to manual. It will not provide a step-by-step recipe for organizing and managing a campaign.
The book will provide some broad insights and some very, very valuable advice. Such as leave no charge unanswered.
A good example of responding to a charge with factual information is Kinsella's recent blog entry where he responds to Coren's lasting hurt resulting from the waving of a child's toy on a national news program. Kinsella dug up a flattering 1994 book review published in the Toronto Star where Coren gushes over an earlier Kinsella book. Ouch.
This book isn't for everyone. It will appeal to political junkies, journalists, insiders, academics, political science students, and anyone looking for insight on running a successful campaign complete with a war room.
Kinsella's story telling, his self-deprecating humour, his love of the political street-fight, and his commitment to the history and workings of his craft (even if mostly alchemy), combine to produce one very enjoyable book that kept this political junkie turning pages in anticipation of more.