Tag Archives: John Kerry
The thematic structure of the right-wing smear campaign against Barack Obama
from Media Matters
As the means of communication have evolved, presidential campaigns have grown increasingly multifaceted, with each election featuring layers of complexity that were not present four years before. The most striking feature of the 2008 election may be the sheer volume and variation of the attacks being directed at Sen. Barack Obama. Though they come from many sources, arrive through a variety of media, and cover a wide range of subjects, a close examination reveals a unified thematic structure to these attacks.
Text only version.
Click on each bubble for more information.
As has been extensively documented, many of the criticisms Obama has faced are based on outright falsehoods. The truth is that he is a Christian, not a Muslim; he was born in the United States; he doesn’t refuse to recite the Pledge of Allegiance; he wasn’t endorsed by Fidel Castro; and so on. Other attacks are outrageous distortions with a kernel of truth at their core.
The diagram below shows how the seemingly disconnected attacks on Obama all drive in a similar direction. Each begins with some aspect of Obama’s history, family, personal characteristics, or beliefs. The attack then moves to one of three broad themes: that Obama is a Muslim or somehow foreign; that he represents a black radicalism more at home in the 1960s than today; or that he is a liberal elitist with a radical, even socialist agenda.
Some of the attacks touch on two or even all three of these themes, which is why they are represented in a Venn diagram. But all the attacks ultimately point to the conclusion that Obama is “not one of us,” as the expression goes — not Christian, not white, not mainstream, not even American.
Just as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth unleashed on the public a dossier of lies about John Kerry in 2004, this new campaign is on a mission to spread misinformation about a presidential candidate. We call it “Swiftboating 2.0” not only because it is the latest model of a political smear campaign, but also because it shares features of “Web 2.0” sites like Facebook and MySpace: significant portions of the content are generated by ordinary people and are spread from peer to peer. Swiftboating 2.0 combines these new information pathways with traditional media — books from conservative publishers, right-wing radio, and conservative pundits and strategists on television — to spread the smears as widely as possible and force them into the mainstream media.
To understand the attacks on Obama, one must acknowledge that they operate together, as one coherent, thematically unified campaign: Swiftboating 2.0.
from the AP Press at Google News
DENVER (AP) — Barack Obama is striking back fiercely and swiftly to stamp out an ad that links him to a 1960s radical, eager to demonstrate a far more aggressive response to attacks than John Kerry did when faced with the 2004 “Swift Boat” campaign.
Obama not only aired a response ad to the spot linking him to William Ayers, but he sought to block stations the commercial by warning station managers and asking the Justice Department to intervene. The campaign also planned to compel advertisers to pressure stations that continue to air the anti-Obama commercial.
It’s the type of going-for-the-jugular approach to politics many Democrats complain that Kerry lacked and that Republicans exploit.
Obama’s target is an ad by the conservative American Issues Project, a nonprofit group that questions Obama’s ties to Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground organization that took credit for a series of bombings, including nonfatal explosions at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol four decades ago.
The lone financier of the anti-Obama ad, Texas billionaire Harold Simmons, was also one of the main funders of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who targeted Kerry. Simmons, a McCain fundraiser, contributed nearly $2.9 million to the American Issues Project, according to documents filed by the group with the Federal Election Commission.
Fox News and CNN have declined to air the anti-Obama ad. But by Monday afternoon, the ad had run about 150 times in local markets in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Michigan, according to Evan Tracey, head of TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, an ad tracking firm.
Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama supporters have inundated stations that are airing the ad, many of them owned by Sinclair Communications, with 93,000 e-mails. He called the ad false, despicable and outrageous.
“Other stations that follow Sinclair’s lead should expect a similar response from people who don’t want the political discourse cheapened with these false, negative attacks,” Vietor said.
Sinclair offices were closed late Monday and officials there could not be immediately contacted.
“It seems they protest a bit too much,” American Issues Project spokesman Christian Pinkston said. “They’re going all of these routes — through threats, intimation — to try to thwart the First Amendment here because they don’t have an argument on merit.”
Ayers is now a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He and Obama live in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood and served together on the board of the Woods Fund, a Chicago-based charity that develops community groups to help the poor. Obama left the board in December 2002.
Obama also was the first chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a school reform group of which Ayers was a founder. Ayers also held a meet-the-candidate event at his home for Obama when Obama first ran for office in the mid-1990s.
Obama has denounced Ayers’ past activities.
“Barack Obama is friends with Ayers, defending him as, quote, ‘Respectable’ and ‘Mainstream,'” the group’s ad states. “Obama’s political career was launched in Ayers’ home. And the two served together on a left-wing board. Why would Barack Obama be friends with someone who bombed the Capitol and is proud of it? Do you know enough to elect Barack Obama?”
In a letter to station managers, Obama campaign lawyer Robert Bauer wrote: “Your station is committed to operating in the public interest, an objective that cannot be satisfied by accepting for compensation material of such malicious falsity.”
Bauer also wrote to Deputy Assistant Attorney General John C. Keeney, noting that the ad is a “knowing and willful attempt to evade the strictures of federal election law.”
The campaign’s aggressive tactics could draw more attention to a subject the campaign wants to go away. On Tuesday, the University of Illinois at Chicago will make available records of Obama’s service on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. The group was set up to improve the city’s schools. The documents could shed further light on whether Obama and Ayers had a relationship.
The American Issues Project is a 501(c)4 nonprofit corporation. It is permitted by law to air a political ad provided that the majority of its spending is nonpolitical. It cannot accept money from corporations and it must identify the donors that finance its ads in reports to the Federal Election Commission. Pinkston said the group has set aside money to carry out non-election related work to meet the legal requirements. It filed a report identifying Simmons as its sole donor for the ad last week.
In the Obama campaign’s own response ad, an announcer states: “With all our problems, why is John McCain talking about the 60s, trying to link Barack Obama to radical Bill Ayers. McCain knows Obama denounced Ayers’ crimes, committed when Obama was just 8 years old.”
The McCain campaign cannot coordinate efforts with outside groups. But the campaign took advantage of being the target of the response ad.
“The fact that Barack Obama chose to launch his political career at the home of an unrepentant terrorist raises more questions about Senator Obama’s judgment than any TV ad ever could,” said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers.
from the Christian Science Monitor
By Jimmy Orr | 08.19.08
All the talk this morning is about the upcoming VP selection. Around the Internet, hysterics ensued yesterday when a New York Times article proclaimed that Barack Obama had determined his running mate. Determined, perhaps. Announced, not yet.
There was some hysteria over on the GOP side as well when Mike Allen’s headline over at Politico screamed that August 29 would be the day John McCain announces his forthcoming saddle pal.
Since we’ve got over a week to go through the endless reasons why a Tim Pawlenty selection would signal to some pundits that McCain is obviously not concerned with conservative cross-dressing anarchists in southern North Dakota, we’ll keep focused on the Obama and his upcoming pick.
The Obama road show
The soon-to-be Democratic nominee is in Florida and North Carolina today. Virginia tomorrow. Then the week opens up for an all out love fest for the happy ticket in determined battleground states.
So who is going to be traveling with Obama? The names on the short lists have remained pretty constant.
It’s Delaware Senator Joe Biden, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. Although Kansas Governor Kathy Sebelius is still a mention and former rival Senator Hillary Clinton is considered a longshot but a favorite of many. Incredibly, FOX News includes Massachusetts Senator John Kerry as a possible selection.
Then you hear from those “close” to the Senator and those “close” to the campaign and those “close” to advisers who know people in the campaign and those “close” to the guy who works at Dunkin’ Donuts who lives a block down the street from a guy whose sister used to date a lounge singer who watches Hardball a lot. And they’ll all tell you why they know who the selection will be.
Who got it first four years ago? An airline mechanic.
Bryan Smith, a US Airways mechanic, arrived at work on June 5, 2004, the day before Kerry gathered reporters at his wife’s estate near Pittsburgh and formally announced that Edwards was his No. 2. As Smith told NPR, he was passing through a hangar at the Pittsburgh airport to get to his work area “when I was informed by, I am assuming, Mr. Kerry’s people that I should not peek in that hangar and that it was, in fact, closed for the day.”
So he did what you would have done: Every time he passed through that hangar that day, he took a look.
“Around 6 that evening, I peeked in and saw they were putting John Edwards’ name on the airplane,” he said. “They concealed it rather quickly — they taped paper over the logos. I just happened to peek in at the right time.”
He said although he posted the information in an aviation chat room, the mainstream media didn’t pick it up. Perhaps the media will all be monitoring these forums intently over the next 36 – 48 hours.
Or you can look at more traditional clues. Who is getting mentioned by the candidate?
Delaware’s Joe Biden
Obama did mention Joe Biden this morning.
In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Orlando, Obama said he was “proud to join my friend, Senator Joe Biden, in calling for an additional one billion dollars in reconstruction assistance for the people of Georgia.”
Add this, according to one pundit at CNN, to the fact that “Biden has been uncharacteristcally quiet recently” and we’ve got what the pundit calls a “counter-clue” to the more noisy Evan Bayh.
Let’s see if we can’t get something a little more solid. MSNBC’s Howard Fineman this morning said he had conversations with those who were actually vetted by the search committee:
My bottom line is this: Barring a big surprise or last-minute change of heart, the choice is likely to be Sen. Joe Biden of Deleware, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He is a lively and feisty if unpredictable campaigner with working-class roots and a street-level feel for the hot spots of the globe — which he can use to go toe-to-toe with Sen. John McCain.
He goes on to say that one of the finalists for the VP slot would bet his life on the Biden pick.
Just in case Fineman is off target, we can look at last week’s Sunday shows for clues. These shows they say are auditions for the big job. And if that’s the case we’re looking at Evan Bayh, Tim Kaine and Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Assuming that Obama was unable to convince Saakashvili to join his ticket and subsequently bend the constitution to allow it, we’ll look at the first two selections.
Virginia’s Tim Kaine
Folks down in Richmond are ruling out their own Governor because of a rumor of a planned stop in Chester, Virginia. The event is closed to the public.
You wouldn’t think that a Presidential nominee would be holding closed events if he’s just announced his VP candidate, would you? You’d think the more cheering people, the more waving signs and banners, the better, as the candidates are running toward their convention in Denver next week? What good would a closed event be for publicity and momentum?
However, the TV blog that reported the Chester rumor will continue to monitor this in case it is all a smokescreen. Stay tuned.
Indiana’s Evan Bayh
As for the oft-discussed Senator from Indiana? Bloggers on the left continue not to like him. The so-called “100,000 Strong Against Evan Bayh for VP” group on Facebook (the group really only has 3,853 members – but who’s counting) received a lot of press last week.
As for news this morning, it looks like Bayh is being mentioned in an Internet hoax is making the rounds. Someone over at the conservative Free Republic posted an alleged screenshot of CNN that they claim accidentally made it up on the news network’s site announcing Senator Bayh’s selection.
Gotta love what the always-enjoyable Oliver Berkman at the Guardian’s U.S. campaign site said of the screenshot in question:
If it really is [authentic], I’ll eat my own face, but the tale it relates deserves points for being imaginative. Sadly it loses them for being full of spelling errors and ridiculously bad writing, and for using the wrong font.
Keep your blackberries handy. Obama’s text is coming soon.
WASHINGTON: Senator Barack Obama has all but settled on his choice for a running mate and set an elaborate rollout plan for his decision, beginning with an early morning alert to
supporters, perhaps as soon as Wednesday morning, aides said.
Obama’s deliberations remain remarkably closely held. Aides said perhaps a half-dozen advisers were involved in the final discussions in an effort to enforce a command that Obama issued to staff members: that his decision not leak out until supporters are notified.
Obama had not notified his choice — or any of those not selected — of his decision as of late Monday, advisers said. Going into the final days, Obama was said to be focused mainly on three candidates: Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia and Senator Joseph Biden Jr. of Delaware.
Some Democrats said they still hoped that he would choose Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, or Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, who has been under steady consideration by Obama’s campaign.
By all indications, Obama is likely to choose someone relatively safe and avoid taking a chance with a game-changing selection. A similar strategic choice now faces Obama’s Republican rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, who has been under pressure from some Republicans to make a more daring choice.
Obama’s advisers said he all but reached his decision while on vacation in Hawaii. They said it was the end of what proved to be an unexpectedly intense process, condensed because he did not want to start actively vetting potential running mates before Clinton quit the race in June.
By contrast, McCain, who had wrapped up the Republican nomination months earlier, began his process in late spring.
That gave Obama’s team of lawyers less time to review candidates, and several Democrats said it appeared that the list of candidates who were deeply vetted was limited to about a half-dozen people. (Campaigns typically check the background of candidates who are not necessarily in play, as a way of gaining favor with various constituencies or to keep the other party off balance.)
The team of advance workers and aides involved in planning the rollout — timed to galvanize Democratic voters as Obama heads to Denver next week for the party convention — have not been told who Obama will be selecting.
If all goes according to plan, the announcement will be made with text and e-mail messages to supporters early in the morning, in time to capture coverage on the morning news shows and take advantage of a full day’s news cycle.
Obama and his running mate will begin, perhaps that day, a visit to swing states. Plans call for them to be on the trail together for much of the time between the day of the announcement and the day Obama arrives in Denver, a week from Wednesday, but their most intense campaigning together will come after the convention.
Obama’s schedule calls for him to awaken on Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, and by the end of the day be in Raleigh, North Carolina. By Wednesday, he is scheduled to be in Virginia. The Obama campaign has cautioned against reading anything into his schedule, saying it could be changed in an instant to accommodate the plan to introduce the running mate.
Aides said the announcement would come at the earliest on Wednesday morning.
Obama’s advisers said they wanted to time the announcement to get maximum publicity going into the convention, after a stretch in which Obama was on vacation in Hawaii and McCain made good use of having the political stage largely to himself. Vice-presidential announcements are one of a handful of moments when the presidential candidates are given a clear grab at the public spotlight, and both Obama and McCain have put much thought into the timing of their announcements.
If Obama is looking to build excitement going into the convention, McCain’s aides have looked to announcing his choice right after the Democratic convention, which ends Aug. 28, a Thursday, as a way of stepping on whatever bounce Obama enjoys from his nomination.
The Republican convention begins the following Monday.
Democrats close to the process said the ability to turn up information on the Web had made it easier for Obama’s search team — Caroline Kennedy and Eric Holder, a former deputy attorney general — to plumb the backgrounds of prospective running mates with relatively little notice. In addition, because so many of the candidates were senators, they were required to file annual financial disclosure reports.
Holder and Kennedy have been working largely out of Holder’s law firm in Washington, using lawyers in his firm and others — many of whom are veterans of the process from having worked for Senator John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000 — to check the backgrounds of the potential candidates.
Obama was briefed frequently throughout the proceedings — receiving updates by telephone and e-mail — and came to Washington for a handful of meetings with a small group of senior advisers in the law offices of Covington & Burling, where Holder is a partner. With the vetting concluded, there was no activity on Monday in the firm’s suite of offices on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Unlike in previous selections, Obama has been largely spared the obligation of staging elaborate cloak-and-dagger processes to interview prospective running mates because he has been campaigning with them in close quarters, giving him a chance to get to know them.
The rampant speculation during the selection process encompassed many of the best-known names in the party, including Kerry and Gore, Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico and former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia.
The big choice for Obama, advisers said, was the extent to which he needed to choose someone who would fill perceived holes in his résumé — lack of experience, particularly in foreign policy — versus a candidate who would reinforce his promise of change or one who might help him win a contested state.
Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, clearly fell into the category of helping Obama on foreign policy, while Kaine is a relative newcomer to national politics and would reinforce the notion of change. Both Kaine and Bayh would help Obama in a state that Democrats are trying to put in play.
For all the attention to Obama’s deliberations, it is by no means assured that his choice will make a big difference in the outcome of the campaign.
“Vice-presidential candidates can make a marginal difference,” said Matt Bennett, the co-director of Third Way, a Democratic advocacy group, “but they rarely matter in terms of winning a state or region — as Mike Dukakis and John Kerry found out. And a weak candidate doesn’t really drag the ticket into the drink — as George H. W. Bush found out.”