Certain cable news viewers know Lanny Davis and Michael Steele as selfless heroes out to bridge Washington’s miserable partisan chasm. Davis is a former Clinton White House official; Steele is the former head of the Republican National Committee. They don’t agree with each other on the issues, but they respect each other and want to make Washington work.
That’s why they founded Purple Nation Solutions, an outfit that got some choice placement on the cable box last week. On last Wednesday night’s “O’Reilly Factor,” Davis got this introduction:
With us now, Fox News analyst Lanny Davis, who is calling for more civility in the political debate.
First of all you’ve got to know you’re fighting a losing battle. It’s not going to happen. There’s too much money involved in incivility and we’ll get to that in a moment.
After discussing how MSNBC had edited the video of Mitt Romney talking about Wawa, Davis and O’Reilly found themselves in this exchange:
DAVIS: That’s why I’m here, Michael Steele and I came together in a column we wrote in today’s “Politico”. We also talked about the Bain Capital ad being distorted because the guy, Mitt Romney who they are criticizing wasn’t even at Bain Capital when the Obama campaign.
O’REILLY: And you’re making my point for me.
DAVIS: So both sides are doing this stuff.
O’REILLY: Yes and they’re not going to stop.
DAVIS: I will shamelessly plug our company Purple Nation Solutions.
So that segment worked out well for Davis and Steele. Not that the next day’s appearance on “Morning Joe” didn’t.
Here’s the blurb from the MSNBC website promoting the chat with Davis and Steele:
MSNBC’s Michael Steele and former White House special counsel to President Clinton, Lanny Davis, are teaming up in a bipartisan effort to end baseless attacks in campaigns, and they both join Morning Joe to discuss their reasoning for the effort and who’s interested in hearing what they have to say.
On air, Mika Brzezinski essentially repeated that spiel and then proclaimed, “Great, great, great idea.” She also read from the opinion piece that Davis and Steele had published in Politico under the headline, “Memo to President Obama, Mitt Romney: Nix the negativity.” A featured line:
The partisan game of “gotcha” and outright misrepresentations has grown old and, frankly, we’re sick of it.
The show’s panel then proceeded to discuss how the idea originated, a topic that prompted some highly civil give-and-take among the panelists. They also discussed the history of partisan nastiness, with Steele marking the Bush v. Gore standoff as the kickoff for our red-blue split. That yielded cliche: “The American people are looking for something. They’re looking for leadership that’s willing to have the conversation,” said Steele.
As Steele spoke, a graphic appeared on the MSNBC screen: “Purple Nation Solution: Toning Down the Rhetoric.”
A full four minutes into the segment, John Heileman happened upon a point worth noting, at least in passing: That Davis and Steele are “consultants.” Among many other things, as it turns out. Check out this note from the website of the outfit:
“Purple Nation Solutions” is a D.C.-based strategic communications and public affairs firm founded by former White House special counsel and legal crisis management expert Lanny J. Davis and former RNC chairman/Lt. Gov. of Maryland Michael Steele. Situated in the heart of downtown Washington D.C., in proximity to Capitol Hill, the White House and federal regulatory agencies, we are a bipartisan, global, one-stop shop where law, media, and politics intersect. By leveraging all three, we look for solutions through non-traditional approaches involving legal means, political lobbying, and media management.
This blogger cannot attest to the lobbying or legal capabilities of the firm. Its “media management” bona fides, however, looks great, if getting two prominent cable news shows to gush over your venture while barely mentioning that you’re lobbying is any indication. When contacted about the matter, Davis noted that he and Steele were “100 percent transparent” that they were launching a new company with a new, purple-heavy business model. “You’re not going to get anywhere if you have uncivilized name-calling as part of your strategy,” said Davis.
Mr. and Mr. Civil caught Fox and MSNBC at a good moment. Just a couple of weeks ago, a study busted out the two channels as the most uncivil news sources around. Bringing on the nice guys from Purple Nation Solutions serves as a form of counterprogramming.