By Al Giordano
Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review wrote a public memo to the McCain campaign this week instructing them to mimic Senator Clinton's late primaries tactics against Obama:
He should take a page from Hillary Clinton. She did not, of course, defeat Obama, but she road-tested a strategy that cost him support among crucial constituencies - and that strategy is even better suited to McCain's general-election run than it was to her primary campaign....
For a contemporary Democrat, Hillary ran a center-Right campaign; she talked of blowing Iran to smithereens, downed shots of Crown Royal, and appealed frankly to blue-collar whites. Many of these tactics had little substance, but they conveyed a sense of toughness that endeared Hillary to her voters and highlighted a vulnerability of the polished but aloof and fragile-seeming Obama.
One of those populist tactics was to run against the media; a Fourth Estate that is, after all, legitimately resented by rank-and-file citizens. When, earlier this year, a Saturday Night Live skit lampooned supposed media love for Obama, Senator Clinton (for those of you who just joined our programming, there once was a Senator Clinton who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 2008 but was bested by a young upstart named Barack Obama) went so far as to cite the comedy sketch in a debate (asking aloud and snarkily if she should get Obama a pillow to make him more comfortable). And you can see archival footage of Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe in the McCain campaign video, above, from when he and others were out pushing it so hard. The tactic worked for a few weeks, gut-checking the press (which, after all, has to live up to its self-made impossible myth of "objective journalism") into then engaging in a spasm of Obama-bashing. The key word is "temporarily." Because there are already antibodies in the national political bloodstream to deal with this particular attempt at spreading a media contagion, and McCain basically gets only one shot to do that in this campaign. He would have been smarter to save that play for October.
Like Senator Clinton (and the overall "Clinton brand"), McCain himself has been a media darling at various points in his political career, particularly when he ran against George W. Bush in 2000, and he played the fawning attention to the limits of what it was worth. (And positive commercial media coverage is very much limited in how far one can ride it.) In that historical context, there's something as glaringly pathetic about McCain's complaining stance of today as there was of Clinton's last spring, and that's why it's not likely to work for him any better than it did for the New York senator.
Not only did we see Obama pivot off the media attacks regarding a Chicago pastor and some remarks about bitterness in the population - hammered hard by Clinton and her surrogates and media allies at the time - in ways that strengthened the Obama brand: We also saw Obama's grassroots supporters and bloggers develop inoculating vaccines in short time. The Clinton gambit, accusing the media of excessive Obama-love, turned out to be a mere passing fad, and when Obama hit back he began to pull away from Clinton according to all polling metrics.
Interestingly, much of the anger against Senator Clinton at the time was based on the prescient sense that McCain, later on, would take the memes she forwarded to damage Obama and make them his. That's exactly what's being attempted now. As the National Review columnists note, "she road-tested a strategy that cost him support among crucial constituencies." I would venture that the McCain campaign is aiming this cannon at the exact same base constituency: Aging, Appalachian white voters, particularly in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
And this is going to bring a test of just how sincere and committed Senator Clinton's proclamations - still suspect in some corners - in support of Obama really are: These are the attacks that she and her handlers authored, armed and activated. I have no doubt that Obama, with fresh experience having bested those arguments once, will dispense with them once again.
The greater risk here is for Senator Clinton, who, for the sake of her own political future, had better bring out her wire cutters and make a big show of disarming the bomb that sports her logo on its design. As McCain attempts to brand himself as Clinton II, he simultaneously imposes the McCain brand on that of Clinton, who has the keys to her own cell, er, toolbox on this one.
By Al Giordano
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a German magazine he supported prospective U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months.
In an interview with Der Spiegel released on Saturday, Maliki said he wanted U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible.
"U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."
Watch the video for the three-point shot.
I'm off back into the final night of Netroots Nation. More to report soon!
Update: It's not on Obama's official campaign schedule, and the campaign hasn't yet announced it to the press, but the Unity Journalists of Color, Inc. organization that holds its national conference next week in Chicago says that Obama's first stop upon returning home will be there:
Sen. Obama, the apparent Democratic presidential nominee, will appear on stage Sunday morning, July 27th. This will likely be his first national appearance after returning from his international trip to Europe and the Middle East. Sen. Obama has accepted the invitation that UNITY also extended to Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.
"We are pleased that our UNITY colleagues will have the chance to hear from Sen. Obama and be among the first to question him upon his return from his overseas trip," said Karen Lincoln Michel, UNITY president. "We hope that in this historic campaign, Sen. McCain, whose presence is equally important, will also address our audience - the kind of audience that reflects the growing diversity in America."
Update II: More from Chuck Todd on NBC's Meet The Press today (courtesy of Jed):
Update III: Jed predicts that to stem the bleeding from what begins as a strong week for Obama, Republican nominee McCain will announce his vice presidential pick this week and that it will be Mitt Romney:
John McCain will select his VP choice this week, perhaps on Wednesday. His intention? Distract attention from the utter collapse of his agenda on Iraq, his total flip-flop on Afghanistan, and, last but not least, Barack Obama's successful trip overseas.
As predictions go, that's a bold but plausible one. The Field has also opined that Romney would be his most likely pick.
Update IV: Robert Novak is now echoing Jed, citing unnamed source that says McCain will pick his veep this week.
By Al Giordano
Steve Hildebrand (in the photo above), deputy campaign manager for the Obama campaign, just announced at the Netroots Nation convention a "three-day massive voter registration drive for Labor Day weekend, after the Democratic National Convention."
"Thousands upon thousands of volunteers will go register millions of people that weekend alone," said Hildebrand, a key architect of the 2007 "Walk for Change" strategy that spurred the Obama organization in states throughout the country before the campaign had even a single staff member in most of them.
Hildebrand, speaking at the Organizing for Change: An Inside Look at Obama for America's Grassroots Strategy panel this morning at the Austin Convention Center, called 2008 "an historic opportunity to build a truly dominant Democratic Party and forget, once and for all, about this concept of red states and blue states."
Hildebrand said that the goal is to target "people who have been disenchanted" with electoral politics, and "people who thought their votes didn't make a difference."
The suggestion is that the "bully pulpit" of the widely televised Democratic National Convention August 25-28 will be used to prod viewers and supporters into participating in the registration drive the following weekend.
Update (from the panel, still going on): In response to a question by The Field, Ohio General Election Director for the Obama campaign, Jeremy Bird, noted that as the Obama Fellows program winds down next week, the campaign will be hiring many of those newly trained and field-tested community organizers as field staff, and that the campaign will hold "huge statewide and regional trainings" as the next step.
Volunteers will be trained to register voters and "to take ownership over your turf," said Bird, "giving people the skills to register, persuade and turn out voters, so when we go to doors and when we talk to people on the phone, it won't just be reading from script, but forming relationships."
Hildebrand added that he considers the grassroots field organization and bloggers to be vital in beating back rumors and smears: "Every single day there is an attack. In a 24-hour news cycle, we need immediate response, we need help, and we can't do it on our own. Make sure that people who are reading your sites know the truth."
By Al Giordano
Photo 2008 by Zachary Roberts.
Whew! The Netroots Nation convention never sleeps. It begins each morning by 9 a.m. and the sessions, workshops, trainings and caucuses go non-stop all morning and afternoon and into the evening. From there begin the parties, sponsored by a plethora of progressive blogs, organizations and candidates for office, replete with all the folks you've read for years but never knew the face behind the userid. I confess it's hard to get any writing done in between.
(The Democratic National Convention in Denver next month, by contrast, won't begin its sessions each day until 4 p.m., leaving more breathing room for us reporters to report back to you.)
But I am taking copious notes, and will tell you more as soon as I get the chance.
A couple of my favorite quotes so far from the event:
"The have-nots and the have-a-little-bits, to put it in Saul Alinsky terms, are very progressive on economic policy. The center for the have-nots and the have-a-little-bits is far more progressive than the center overall."
- David Sirota (at this morning's panel, "Middle Class Isn't Middle of the Road: Take Politicians' Populist Shpeil and Make It Real")
"This immigration debate is not an immigration debate, it's a racist one. It's a debate about who is American or not."
- Joe Garcia, congressional candidate, Florida's 25th Congressional District (at the Latino Bloggers' caucus yesterday).
Oh, and in that photo above: That's Markos Moulitsas (Kos) in the middle, Nate Silver (Poblano) of 538 on your right, with a random Field Hand and his brand new laptop bag after last night's plenary dinner, on the way out to the evening's memorable bar crawl.
Update: C-Span will rebroadcast last night's session with DNC chair Howard Dean tonight at 8 p.m. ET.
And: You can watch, right now, a livestream online broadcast from Netroots Nation, where Kos is debating former US Rep. Harold Ford (D-Kentucky Tennessee), chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council.
By Al Giordano
As I was heading home from tonight's Field Hands extravaganza in beautiful downtown Austin, where about one-out-of-every six Netroots Nations attendees (the ones that got here today) attended, ate, drank, and conspired together (I'm sure that some of the lucky Field Hands who were at the party tonight will weigh in and tell you how totally awesome the event was, and how proud we are to have co-hosted it), I was hauling a box of books past the Hilton Hotel, which is ground zero for the convention, and, lo' and behold, lookie what what is parked outside: The C-Span "Road to the White House" bus.
You heard it here first: Netroots Nation, which officially opens on Thursday, will hit the national cable airwaves, too.
Now I lay me down to sleep - on the road since three a.m. yesterday morning - and we'll see you in the a.m., bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Thursday Morning Updates:
- Among the guests at the shindig that The Field co-hosted with Burnt Orange Report last night: Bloggers and communicators from Booman Tribune, Anand of the Bhatany Report, The Huffington Post, PoliticsTV.com, Justin Krebs of Drinking Liberally, The Political Carnival, Fire Dog Lake, National Public Radio, Alliance for Justice, Calitics.com, Adam Green of Moveon.org, Auditaz.org, Advocacy Digest, SquareState.net, Senator John Kerry's Internet outreach coordinator Terri Buchman, the Hon. Judge Susan Criss of Galveston, Texas, Democratic National Committewoman Debbie Marquez of Colorado, Ken Riley of Democrats Abroad, various DNC staffers, and a raft full 'o Daily Kos bloggers including such dignitaries as clammyc, teacherken, Odysseus, beachmom, Delaware Liberal, and ducktap... some very welcome Field Hands including Judy and Sheldon Zola, the legendary Ben Masel and Franco Bertacci, Narco News ace investigative reporter Bill Conroy, and many, many more that didn't make it to the sign-in table or slipped in the side door. I didn't get the chance to chat with every single one, and haven't been able to list every single blogger in attendance here, of course, but more to come in the days ahead...
- Special thanks to Texas Field Hands Matt and Joe, who staffed the sign in table so capably.
- This movie, Crawford, is going to be showing here on Friday at 3 p.m. The trailer works pretty good as a teaser (makes me want to see it) because it doesn't drop any spoilers as to the documentary's conclusions regarding the anti-war movement tactics and their impact on George W. Bush's purported hometown:
Thursday mid-day update: Lots of workshops and caucuses going on this morning at the Austin Convention Center (with the best stuff happening, as always, out on the smokers' decks). One of the troublemakers I keep bumping into there is Booman, who told an interesting story of the morning festivities.
Booman perused the conference schedule and saw that a "Lurkers' Caucus" would be taking place. "Lurkers," in blogspeak, are the readers that never comment online. That be most of you. (The whole concept of a lurkers' caucus invokes images of some kind of silent movie where everybody sits around and says nothing, but apparently in reality they're quite talkative outside of the screen.) So Booman sits down in the back of the caucus hall and starts typing into his laptop when one of the lurkers recognizes him as an outspoken blogger. And then it was "Hey, you're not a lurker! Get outta here!" So, lurking is fine - we love our lurkers, too - but no lurking at the lurkers' caucus!
Also, Joan McCarter (Daily Kos front-pager mcjoan) flagged me down in the hallway and introduced me to Larry LaRocco, Democratic candidate for US Senate in Idaho, running against Republican Jim Risch in a state considered safe GOP territory until Sen. Larry Craig got arrested in an airport men's room last year. Here's Larry's website (LaRocco's, that is, not Craig's). And he blogs, too, over at DKos. Very progressive man. Nice guy, too.
Thursday Afternoon Update: Hey, Field Hands. Remember that new Macbook so many of you chipped in to help us purchase? Well it's now in my hands, all fired up and ready to go.
Thursday Early Evening Update: The Latino blogger caucus this afternoon kicked ass. It was the first time many of us that were present had met and exchanged emails. More to come on that, but for now, just to say, let the anti-immigrant crazies try to trounce us in 2009 like they did in 2007, we'll be ready for them this time.
That was followed by a reception by the Center for Constitutional Rights, which respected our basic human right to cold beer and great food. Micah Sifrey was there from Tech President, as was Chris Bower of OpenLeft, Atrios, and lots of other smart people.
Now I'm in a big hall where Howard Dean is about to speak. C-Span and other networks are here. Baratude Thurston of Jack and Jill Politics blog is warming up the crowd splendidly, telling us what his names mean: "...Thurston is an old British name which means property of Massah Thurston."
I met up here with Nate Silver of 538, but we never got the chance to crunch numbers as then appeared Markos Moulitsas out of the crowd, who invited us to one of the front tables and here we are with SusanG and McJoan and those other DKos bloggers and, well, General Wesley Clark has just appeared on stage, on with the show and more to come soon...
By Al Giordano
The thought occurred to me today that lately I haven't posted much music here (an important staple of our primary coverage last spring). So here you go.
I'm heading off at dawn for the Netroots Nation convention in Austin, a city that invokes, for me, the soul of that great 75-years-young American philosopher Willie Nelson, and I thought that maybe I could find a decent online video of On the Road Again, or, even better, his Magnum Opus, Me and Paul, but, alas, none were up to our standards.
But since I'll be moderating the star-studded panel, on Saturday afternoon, on The New Orleans Resurgence: Netroots Innovation in the Citizen-Driven Recovery of New Orleans, (and you can watch it live at 3 p.m. Central Time, Saturday, via ustream.tv) I'll give you this glimpse of Willie, with an assist from some obscure studio musicians named Waylon, Kris and Johnny, and open this thread up for Wednesday absentee-Al-blogging.
Do try to entertain each other as I cross the border, hopefully without incident. I have a very hectic schedule in Austin for the next five days, but I'll be leaking all the secrets here, too, so stay tuned.
And if you're already there, don't miss the Field Hands party on Wednesday night - which is suddenly the event of the night - and make sure to find me and say hello in person.
Field Hands, Assemble!