RNC Q&A: Leslie Dach, DNC response team

Like many PR professionals, Edelman vice chairman and public affairs head Leslie Dach has decided to take his vacation this week.

Like many PR professionals, Edelman vice chairman and public affairs head Leslie Dach has decided to take his vacation this week.

Unlike many PR professionals, he decided to holiday in an office on the corner of 27th and 7th as the leader of the Democratic National Committee's response team for the Republican National Convention. He was asked, as a private citizen, to handle these duties by the DNC. Dach has consulted for President Bill Clinton's administration and served for 15 months as the communications director for Michael Dukakis' presidential run, among other Democrat positions. The team is holding press conferences for the national media at 10am, regional media at 11am, and Hispanic media at 1:30pm everyday where he responds to the messages of the convention's speakers. Q. What was the general response to yesterday's speakers? A. Our basic message has been that George W. Bush has not accomplished his mission for America. The missions that have been accomplished have been few, but it's mission "not" accomplished for a vast majority of Americans. A lot of Republicans talked about leadership last night, but Americans are unhappy about the nature of Bush's leadership and the decisions he's made. Americans are looking for the leadership that will make their lives better. Q. Do you see your role becoming more important as the networks begin showing the convention speeches? A. It was important to create a context for when people see the convention on TV or read [about] it in the paper. We've argued that this convention is a masquerade ball where folks that are on the stage don't present Bush's real agenda for America. If you want to understand George Bush's agenda for the next four years, you should turn down the volume [on your television] and read the [administration's] platform. The media has recognized that this is not George Bush's agenda for America. Q. Some people have cited his choice of speakers as a sign of inclusion. Do you see that being the case? A. It's sort of a fa?ade. It's Broadway theatre. The policies of the administration are clear, and many of the speakers don't agree with them. Q. Did you expect as many attacks on Kerry as there were? A. I don't think anyone was surprised because, during this campaign, George Bush has run from his record because it's not a record [the Republicans] can be proud of. Q. When gearing up for Bush's speech on Thursday, will there be any proactive messaging occurring before the speech? A. We've been holding a series of press conferences every day. In addition, the DNC has launched advertising - there's a billboard on 42nd Street. One of the interesting things about this is that it's earned media and PR at its best. This is using the internet and media relations to create a message. Q. With so many news outlets and reporters covering a controlled message, how does one best get the counter message out there? A. This is the Republican convention, and that message will clearly be the dominant one. But the media has reporters dedicated to covering our response. And e-mail has transformed the way people communicate to reporters. Those reporters who are writing these stories expect to hear from us and they will, through the miracle of the handheld device. Q. Have you sized up how you're competing against the Republican first-response team that was present at the DNC? A. I haven't really thought that through. We're trying to set the context of [this] convention - as it being a masquerade ball - and we've been successful in doing that. Q. At the end of the week, what will you have hoped the team will have accomplished? A. We want to have set the record straight about George Bush's failure to accomplish his mission for America and we want Americans to realize that these moderate speakers that the convention has [showcased] don't represent the direction that George Bush wants to take the country.

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