In 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned from the nation’s highest office in disgrace. His administration was the first to institutionalize a “permanent political operation” inside the White House. These operations were clandestine, unethical, and criminal. They were eventually exposed by the Watergate scandal.
Nixon’s breach of public trust, by obstructing justice, didn’t just destroy Nixon – it damaged the integrity of the presidency.
Nonpartisan distrust was a barrier for both parties.
Nixon’s successors welcomed public skepticism and proclaimed it was a necessary requirement for good government. But secretly they felt the need to combat the climate of permanent distrust. So, White house insiders revamped Nixon’s operations into what is called “The Permanent Campaign.”
The phrase was coined by an assistant to President Jimmy Carter, mastered by the architects of President Bill Clinton’s “war room,” and perfected by a special assistant to President George W. Bush from the Office of Strategic Initiatives. (An office that didn’t exist in previous administrations.)
According to Scott McClellan, President Bush’s longest-serving press secretary, “The Permanent Campaign” is conducted 365 days a year, year in and year out, to shape and manipulate sources of public approval. In that sense, continual campaigning is the means by which an administration exerts a lasting impact on the nation. “The Permanent Campaign” uses tools as the news media, political blogs, popular web sites, paid advertising, talk radio, local organizations, and propaganda disseminated by interest groups to shape narratives to one’s advantage.