Wednesday, June 15, 2011

PR Strategery? State Dept Deputy A/S Philippe Reines, Profiled as Main Course, Served with Sauce Hot Enough to Strip Paint

Political reporter Jason Horowitz, once with The New York Observer and now Washington Post writer on political features and profiles has this long piece about Clinton-insider and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of the Bureau of Public Affairs Philippe Reines.  (See Longtime keeper of Hillary Clinton’s image has forged a loyal badge of his own). 

WaPo's Reliable Source writes, "Why read this long story?"

"Because Philippe Reines is Washington: a “dysfunctional family of politicos, operatives, staffers, reporters, TV bookers, media types, government officials and frosted society scenester. And he bears some of their less appealing traits: an addiction to background dish, media recognition and proximity to power.”

Better than reality teevee?  Some excerpts from the sizzling profile:

Hillaryland's Ultimate Survivor
"The self-promoting 41-year-old bachelor and the press-scarred senior stateswoman share a bond forged by political civil wars, distrust of the media and an absolute reliance on allegiance. Reines (pronounced RYE-ness), a master practitioner of self-preservation and the beneficiary of Clinton’s almost maternal protection, is Hillaryland’s ultimate survivor."
The author writes, "He is, he says, part of the “family" ....
"He is, he says, part of the “family” of Clinton lifers. But the famously boyish native New Yorker also belongs to a more extended and, if possible, more dysfunctional family of politicos, operatives, staffers, reporters, TV bookers, media types, government officials and frosted society scenesters. And he bears some of their less appealing traits: an addiction to background dish, media recognition and proximity to power. "
The Peter Pan of Hillaryland?
"Now, as Reines issues public — and often disregarded — denials that Clinton will either leave office to lead the World Bank or take another shot at the White House in 2016, the operatives who make Washington work have a more pressing question: Will the Peter Pan of Hillaryland move on?"
On making money -- oh, me too, Phillipe, me, too.
“I need to start thinking about it,” Reines said, sitting in a courtyard at the State Department. His self-deprecating wit and youthful charm remain intact, but he no longer looks younger than his years. Reines filled out his pinstriped suit. The darkness under his eyes suggested years of internecine turf battles and hundreds of thousands of Clinton air miles.  “I’d like to finally make some money,” he said. “Which I have not done working for the federal government for nine years.”

He "encourage" the hiring of Ambassador Nuland as spokeswoman? Wow!
"He’s a master of courting power but is not respected by Senate policy experts and State Department career folks; he’s good with a zinger but a loose cannon. Reines insists that he encouraged the recent hiring of Victoria Nuland as the department’s new top spokeswoman. His passion, he said, is guarding Clinton’s political image. "
Channeling LeBron James:
“I was promoted in other ways,” he said, adding of his critics among Clinton’s former colleagues: “It’s interesting to me that they don’t exist anymore. They don’t have any job.”

Townterviews? Who in heavens name dream up of that dreadful moniker? He did.
"He dreamed up what he called “townterviews” — a hybrid of town hall and talk show — that cast Clinton as the star in front of tough foreign audiences."

A bad rap, except from the one person that matters
"At the home office, Reines slowly earned the trust of his subordinates. But he also earned a bad rap among colleagues for condescending to career staff and undercutting his superior and rival, P.J. Crowley, in the State Department’s Bureau of Public Affairs."

If you remember, Mr. Reines is also credited for the “Reset”/“Peregruzka” snafu, an error that appalled State Department hands because the button – inscribed in Latin script, not Cyrillic was put together by Clinton’s small political team without help from State’s Russian speakers and professional translators.

On contributing to your own profile:
"Reines knows full well that, in the image-building business, a wealth of humanizing details can make a character more sympathetic. Even as he shipped out with Clinton to an Arctic summit in Greenland, he e-mailed his profiler: “Would it be helpful if I sent you random factoids, pieces of color? For instance, I don’t ever drink D.C. tap water.”

Um, what's wrong with D.C. tap water?

The Press Secretary's Commandment, Out.The.Window:
"Clearly, Reines flouts the press secretary commandment: Thou shalt not distract from the boss. For his 35th birthday bash in November 2004, Reines decorated the walls of the Dupont Circle house of David Lane, currently a top aide to Obama’s chief of staff, William M. Daley, with photocopied clips of his own quotes. In July 2007, an e-mail in which Reines campaigned to win Fishbowl’s “Hottest Media Types” contest was leaked online."
I have to admit, the preceding part left me stunned for a moment, self-quotations as decorative items? How come I never thought of that for my bathroom? I mean, my quotes, of course ....

And how was it that I failed to cover that "hottest" contest? Oh, that was before he became a DAS, was it? But I've been able to dig up that campaign, because what's online lives on forever ...

Via FishbowlDC
Oh, dear! I hope he won that contest. 

This profile actually shows just how Washington, D.C. is kind of an alternate universe of sorts, some abnormal place where we talk of merit but don't practice it ... where even the congressional sports club cannot be shown/revealed in the 6 o'clock news for "national security" reasons -- "pumping irony" says one of the media guys ... and I agree but  I digress. Just saying -- DC is a a place where the rules are different ... I think that's how best I can put it.

One day you're soliciting votes to be the "Hottest" guacamole and less than five years later, you are a Deputy Secretary of State. There are several deputies out there at Foggy Bottom, but still that is pretty high up the chain and nothing to sneeze at.  The best part -- you did not have to slog through the lengthy, anxiety-laced Foreign Service application process. And no doubt you did not have to wrestle with the idiocy of the application process. All you had to do was bet on the right horse, and carry his/her bag, if needed.

Now I know what was wrong with my  career plan.

Hamilton Nolan of Gawker offers his ruthless suggestions on What Not to Do When Being Profiled by the Media. I read it and went oh-uh! But you gotta read the whole thing, in case somebody wants to profile you, too. Excerpts below,
[A]fter all these years, Reines still has no idea how to not come off like an asshole.

1. Don't be profiled by people who have already developed a deep dislike of you.
If you are asked to be the subject of a profile, and you know that the person or institution that wants to profile you already hates you, you must either 1) decline to participate, and write it off as creative differences, or 2) try to charm the writer so much that he changes his opinion of you somewhat. Philippe Reines was clearly very much disliked by the WaPo's Jason Horowitz (and many others!) before this profile ever came about.

2. Don't try to write the profile yourself.

3. Don't be an egg-sucking self promoter.

He did not actually call the DAS an asshole, did he?

Perhaps somebody should diplomatically suggest to Bob Sutton that it's now time to update his book and write an inside the beltway version --  "The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized WashDC and Surviving WashDC That Ain't"

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