I don't know who said it first, or best, but I know its true that if the public perceives there to be a problem, then there IS a problem.
I'd like to discuss the Obama Campaign's response to the recent blitzkrieg of immature, inflamatory and downright racist attacks that our candidate has been subjected to and the media coverage thereof. I'd like to do this without the now predictable response from DKosers that basically amounts to, "Stop worrying, be quiet, give money and everything will be fine in the end." I'll pre-empt that by saying that I am not hyperventilating, nor am I unaware of all the polls and how Obama is ahead by wide margins in most areas, nosing out McCain on most others, and that the national trend polls reporting a "tie" have been looking awfully suspicious lately.
But it cannot be missed that the Obama camp does not have control of the national media narratives, in fact is doing piss-poor at getting his messages out.
Call this a "generally frustrated" diary.
That, in essence, is my complaint with how things are being run. I may not be qualified to render judgment about various strategies, but I can see the results. Obama, while not loosing the media war, is losing some battles of perception and struggling mightily with attacks that are utterly meritless. Why is Obama on the defensive and why isn't he attacking more effectively?
I'm referring to what's being discussed by national media wags; TV News, talkshows, magazines and major newspapers. I don't like them any more than any other informed citizen, but they are too influential to ignore, and it seems like Obama is ignoring them. They announce the standards by which candidates will be judged, judge them and keep score as well. Left to their own devices they will ONLY spit out pro-Republican spin; we all know this. Their description about what's important, what matters, heck, even what HAPPENED becomes the reality for millions of Americans. This can be attacked at the grass-roots level, but that's damage control and is no way to win an election.
The national media have been running anti-Obama almost completely unchecked for months. It is clear that Obama's team has no effective strategy for dealing with them. How did nearly EVERY national media turn Obama's trip to the Mideast and Europe to a referendum on whether Obama was "Presumptuous" or not? Why didn't the Obama Camp have their OWN meme in the laps of the media when the promotion was over? Why weren't ALL the pundits HAMMERING McCain on his dishonest, scurrilous ad about the canceled troop visit? How could Obama's team allow that to happen without a pushback that is at least as loud and attention getting?
The media narrative should have been about Obama's success overseas and McCain's desperation in trying to deal with it. Team Obama's grade for completing the assignment: F+.
What we've learned from previous elections is that one has to get in the face of your rivals when they smear you, and counter attack their attacks at every turn. This is not happening. Even a peasant such as I can see that McCain has the media eating out of his hand.
McCain has been fumbling facts and distorting his record and Obama's. A lie exposed is a great weapon against the liar. People, especially undecideds, hate liars. Having a short memory or constantly mis-stating facts does not make one look much better; you're either senile or willing to say anything that suits the moment. Was there any attempt to push back on McCain's lies? McCain's comments on the Iraqi withdrawal timeline ("I never said timelines!"), Obama's canceled troop visit, and McCain's memory of his own history on civil rights legislation have provided us with juicy factual errors to attack with. Outside of the netroots, few people have done so.
McCain's flip-flops on immigration and on offshore oil-drilling have provided us with prime examples of crass pandering for millions of dollars in donations. Why isn't that story on the network news? McCain criticized Obama for his "Not like other faces on the dollar bill" remark as racist, yet did anyone (outside the internet) point out that it was the McCain camp that actually did put Obama's face on a mock piece of currency as part of their own smears?
All of these and more are clubs to attack McCain with, yet they were just left lying there. Is there some kind of fear of being offensive in the Obama campaign? Will you take this bit of reassurance?: In no way does attacking McCain with his own gaffes constitute a "low road" in politics. I get the impression that not only does Obama not want to acknowledge McCain's attacks, he also does not want to do any attacking himself. Note to Team Obama: Being "offensive" to McCain is NOT the same as simply being offensive. Voters will LIKE it if you fight for your beliefs and your reputation - even a fair fight, if you insist.
I see McCain's face every day in the news, talking directly with reporters and giving interviews to major networks. He's nuancing his spin, uttering lies that are accepted uncritically because no one is telling the news that they are lies. Why isn't Obama giving interviews? If he is, why aren't they on the air?
Or perhaps it's just that the Obama campaign is doing a shitty job of managing the national mass-market media. I'm talking about national network news, local market broadcast news, magazines and major newspapers. It is no excuse that "All the mainstream media is conspiring against us." The Media we gots is the Media we gots. It's the job of the campaign to deal with it.
They MUST get their message in there, out on the airwaves and in print. It's not enough that supporters know Obama's position, nor is it enough to make his responses available. It's not enough that we on the internet have a field day with McCain's foibles; that almost gives the Traditional Media an excuse to NOT go with it, in their minds. The Obama message must be crammed down the throat of the media so that they HAVE to go with it.
No, I am not advocating a particular message to push, nor even a particular strategy. I am complaining about the ABSENCE of a strategy. "Don't worry about it!" is NOT a strategy. This arena, national media, it seems to humble me, must not be neglected. At least half of network news time on the race should be taken up with Obama's messages, or there is a failure here.
It's not enough that the netroots has your back, Camp Obama. It's not enough to gather supporters, to register voters, or to give your message to the people in your events and speeches. The soundbites, the whole damn message, must make it into the national discourse.
I'm not saying that's the only place to attack; that would be a mistake of Clintonian proportions. But it must not be neglected completely. I wouldn't expect everything to go Obama's way in this arena. I just want to see Barack Obama put up a fight on national news stories! Make his case so clearly, loudly and frequently that our enemies have to at least acknowledge it before they attack it.
Just so I'm clear about this: I'm not saying that McCain's side is winning, I'm only stating the obvious; Obama's camp is not managing their mainstream media messaging very well at all. No one can say that Obama has responded perfectly, or even well to the media war. I don't think I'm alone in thinking that a strong offense from Obama in the national media is overdue.
Team Obama, please respond! Get out there and start fighting! Be offensive, inclusive, creative - any kind of response will do! Just please do something with the national media.
[I realize it takes a lot of chutzpah to critique a candidates' campaign strategy. After all, I am not educated or experienced in such things. I hestitated to post my concerns, knowing that there will be those who will attack me for trying to talk smack about stuff I have no business addressing. But I am experienced in what I see and hear on TV, and how the message is coming across. Upon this I base my critique.]
NOTE: In the hours since I stared writing this, Obama has come out with a new ad, more along the lines of what I was talking about. Here's Obama slamming McCain on Big Oil contributions:
Thats a GREAT attack! Will someone now PLEASE take it to the networks and make them talk about it?
EXTRA NOTE about the POLL below: I should have included the time frame, "Withing the past two weeks." Its not scientific to change a poll wording after its begun, but its a better poll with that time frame.