Campaign 2012

Paul Ryan's new vegan LA speechwriter, plus demon sheep

matthew-scully.jpgTwo stories in the news today about Republican campaign specialists with national reputations and roots in liberal Los Angeles. First is Matthew Scully, the former White House speechwriter for George W. Bush who is helping Rep. Paul Ryan with communications before the Republican convention in Tampa. A quick primer posted Monday at the Daily Caller details things you didn't know about Scully, if you had even heard of him. He helped craft Sarah Palin’s address to the 2008 convention that was wildly popular among Republicans, before a lot of the country got to know her. "When the tall, unassuming figure of Palin’s speechwriter, Matthew Scully, shuffled into the bar, he was treated to the first standing ovation of his life,” a journalist later reported.

Until the Palin speech, the Daily Caller says Scully was "perhaps best known outside of Washington for his 2006 cover story for The Atlantic eviscerating his old boss, chief Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson." And there's also the fact that Scully is a vegan.

Scully wrote a book arguing for the better treatment of animals called “Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and The Call to Mercy.” Raised Catholic like Ryan, Scully believes that The Bible’s injunction for man to “have dominion” over other species requires us treat all living things with respect, and extends that philosophy to the point of personally abstaining from eating meat, dairy and other animal products.

“I used to walk with him through Lafayette Square, and I remember him feeding the squirrels,” [David] Frum, who shared an office with Scully at The White House, told The DC. “He was very wry about it. You know, there’s this famous joke about vegans, ‘How do you know the vegan at the dinner party?’ And the answer is ‘don’t worry, they’ll tell you.’ But he was just wry and gentle and never made an issue of it.”

But Scully’s veganism, according to Frum, is shaped by a deep religious sensibility that precludes self-righteous proselytizing and the use of terms like “animal rights.”

“He’s very funny about it,” Frum said. “There’s just a deep lack of guile to him. He’s just the most grateful person, with tremendous humor.”

Scully is also a real student of Los Angeles. The first time we met he surprised me with a bunch of interested observations about both the Valley and the city.

Also: In today's LA Times, Mark Z. Barabak profiles Hollywood Hills campaign adviser Fred Davis, who until recently was probably best known for his viral hit-piece videos and, in California, for the so-called demon sheep ad he did for Senate candidate Carly Fiorina to neutralize fellow Republican Tom Campbell in 2010. Now he's connected with a proposal to unleash nergative ads against President Obama that many Republicans considered borderline racist. From Barabak:

In February, Davis was pilloried for a Michigan TV ad featuring a Chinese American actress speaking broken English as she celebrated U.S. jobs going to China. Critics accused him of racism and xenophobia.

Three months later, the New York Times published details of a proposed advertising campaign against President Obama, centered on his past ties to the fulminating Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

Davis' pitch, intended for private consumption, was typically irreverent. It derided John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, as "a crusty old politician who often seemed confused." It demeaned the president as "a metrosexual, black Abraham Lincoln" and suggested — cynically, some would say — that Obama would respond by playing "the race card," ensuring huge attention.

The backlash was swift. The man Davis hoped would finance the ads, billionaire Joe Ricketts, denounced the proposal, as did Mitt Romney, this year's unofficial GOP nominee. Davis faced death threats, suffered sleepless nights and, by his account, lost nearly 10 pounds. It was, he says, one of the most difficult times of his life....

"I am maybe the only person in America who didn't see that as racist," Davis said of juxtaposing Obama with the fiery rants of his longtime spiritual advisor. "I saw it as an interesting fact in a guy's upbringing and the way he's formed his opinions."

More by Kevin Roderick:
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Read the memo: LA Times hires again
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