NDN Blog

Presidential Ad Wars: McCain Camp Calls Obama "Disrespectful," Obama Campaign Fires Back, Says McCain Is "Out of Touch"

- U.S. Sen. John McCain's camp released another negative TV spot today, this time alleging that U.S. Sen. Barack Obama has been "disrespectful" to Gov. Sarah Palin:

- The New York Times today reports that Obama's campaign will take a more aggressive tone in response to McCain's factually-dubious attacks. Following Simon's post a few days ago, a slew of editorials and op-eds have been penned this week about McCain's questionable attacks, many calling them flat-out lies. Opinion pieces in The Washington Post and The Huffington Post call for Obama to push back harder. The Obama campaign has not yet issued a direct and forceful rebuttal, but it did release a new TV ad today, entitled Still, which may give some indication of a shift in strategy: 

Gonzales accused of lying

Attorney General Gonzales clashed with senators in a Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday, drawing the evident displeasure of members of both parties. Gonzales was soundly rebuked on several fronts, including for his reluctance to challenge the White House's wide claims of executive privilege, and his reversals on testimony regarding the White House's secret warrant-less wiretapping program. The senators had strong words for Gonzales, accusing him of lying to protect himself and the Administration:

"How can we trust your leadership when ... you just constantly change the story, seemingly to fit your needs to wiggle out of being caught, frankly, telling mistruths?" Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) blasted Gonzales for saddling the Department of Justice (DoJ) with "a lack of credibility - candidly, your personal credibility."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) lamented that Gonzales' performance has so compromised his agency that "it's almost as if the walls were actually crumbling on this huge department."

"There's a discrepancy here in sworn testimony," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who earned a clamor of applause from protesters after telling Gonzales to "be fair to the truth."

It seems Gonzales has so thoroughly tarnished the reputation and credibility of the Justice Department that even some of his own party have had enough.

Obama builds a brand

The New York Times reports that Barack Obama has at least 258,000 campaign donors and that "of the $33 million Mr. Obama raised in the second quarter, about a third consisted of donations of less than $200 — more than the $10 million raised in $2,300 checks from big donors."

Part of that cash (several hundred thousand dollars of it) comes from selling Obama merchandise. Traditionally, political campaigns outsource their merchandise and do not make a profit on sales. The Obama campaign, however, chose not to do so, believing that the demand for Obama products would be strong enough to ensure profits. According to Ben Smith of The Politico, their "sales are a mark, it seems, that Obama is a great brand, and that his logo is felt to be a good thing to be seen wearing. It's associated with youth and energy, with the future, with racial tolerance, and with lots of other good things..."

New job opening at NDN

NDN is currently accepting applications for the position of Deputy Development Director. The Deputy Development Director will assist the Development Director in raising NDN's $4 million annual budget.  Specific responsibilities may include oversight of individual donor membership program and scheduled institutional member renewals, as well as supporting the efforts of the Development Director, President and other principals.  Applicants should have some relevant development experience (experience in direct solicitation of prospective contributors and/or in member-based programs highly valued), as well as competency in data management systems (NGP) and internet research, strong organizational skills, and ability to work independently on assigned projects.  1-2 years of development/fundraising experience, preferred.  The position reports to the Development Director.  Salary and benefits package commensurate with experience.  Please address resume and references, as well as any questions, to: jobs@ndn.org.

Younger Americans abandon traditional phone lines

An article in the Baltimore Sun today discusses the fact that more and more Americans are relying on their mobile number as their sole phone line. Some of the findings reported in the article include:

  • Between 25 and 30% of 18-27 year old Americans are cell-only users (up from only 6% in 2003!).
  • 54% of people living with unrelated roomates rely solely on cell phones.
  • Blacks, hispanics, and singles are more likely than the general public to be cell-only users.

As we at NDN and the New Politics Institute have been saying for some time, the disappearance of land-line phones will have a profound impact on political practices. Mobile phone users are, among other things, much more difficult and more expensive to reach for polling or fundraising purposes. Learning to reach mobile users is quickly becoming critical in 21st-century politics.

Democratic Congressman: pulling out may not be enough of a plan for Iraq

In The Politico today, Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA), a former 3-star Admiral who served in the Navy for 31 years, explains why he feels the Democrats' current plan for Iraq is insufficient. Although Sestak voted yesterday to withdraw troops by April of 2008, he expressed serious misgivings about the current incarnation of the bill. From his thoughtful statement:

"We need a strategic approach to ending this war because the consequences of failure are immense. Congress is close, as it should be, to ending this tragic misadventure but we need to set a date certain for a safe redeployment. Ending this war is necessary, but insufficient.  How we end it, and by what means, are more important for our troops' safety and our own security.

...I voted for this bill, but I did so reluctantly for it does little to define the how and why within a strategic approach to redeploy from Iraq with a date certain and leave behind the possibility of an un-failed Iraqi state. We owe such a comprehensive explanation to the country and the world for it is our responsibility to do so when the consequences are so great for our nation and Congress is the one to soon enforce an end to it by its own force of law."

Clearly, "Staying the Course" has not been an effective strategy in Iraq, and the American people are increasingly unhappy with the Bush Administration's gross mishandling of this war. But Sestak warns fellow Democrats against taking a similarly simplistic approach to withdrawl.

New book explores the role of emotions in effective campaigning

Today's New York Times features an article on Dr. Drew Westen and his new book, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Decididing the Fate of the Nation. Dr. Westen, who spoke on a panel with Simon and others about the importance of media at last month's Take Back America conference, emphasizes emotionally effective messaging over dispassionate, reasoned argument.

"Dr. Westen insists that triggering the right emotional network — that unconscious bundle of ideas, images, words, memories, feelings — is much more important and effective than appealing to reason. "

This assertion is backed up by modern cognitive science. For instance, in his great book Descartes' Error, neurologist Antonio Damasio argues that higher reasoning in humans is inextricably linked to feelings and emotions - the idea of a pure, logical "core" may be a chimera. Completely logical reasoning would take far too long to be evolutionarily feasible, so Damasio believes that our reasoning is guided and expedited by 'somatic markers', learned emotional signals which heavily influence our conscious decision making. Damasio calls the fundamental argument in The Political Brain "very sound."

The implications of this research for politics are important, because it shows that being on the right side of an argument may not be enough to win an election. Instead of relying on an outdated folk-psychology model, candidates who want to be successful should strive to understand how human decision-making really works in order to message more effectively. Dr. Westen is helping them to do just that.

CNN YouTube debate still open for submissions

Just a reminder that YouTube and CNN will be accepting video submissions of questions for the upcoming Democratic debate until July 22nd. The debate airs on the 23rd, so the sooner you get your questions in, the better! We hope you'll take advantage of this unique and novel opportunity to have your voice heard. To submit a question, go here.

Gonzales was informed of FBI surveillance violations

The Washington Post today reports that Attorney General Gonzales likely knew of the FBI's wide-ranging abuses of Patriot Act powers before he told the Senate intelligence committee that "there [had] not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse." In fact, Gonzales had received at least six reports of violations from the FBI up to three months prior to his statement.

The acts recounted in the FBI reports included unauthorized surveillance, an illegal property search and a case in which an Internet firm improperly turned over a compact disc with data that the FBI was not entitled to collect, the documents show. Gonzales was copied on each report that said administrative rules or laws protecting civil liberties and privacy had been violated.

The reports also alerted Gonzales in 2005 to problems with the FBI's use of an anti-terrorism tool known as a national security letter (NSL), well before the Justice Department's inspector general brought widespread abuse of the letters in 2004 and 2005 to light in a stinging report this past March.

...Each of the violations cited in the reports copied to Gonzales was serious enough to require notification of the President's Intelligence Oversight Board, which helps police the government's surveillance activities. The format of each memo was similar, and none minced words. 

This latest revelation shows yet again that Americans have absolutely no reason to trust Mr. Gonzales. And his lack of trustworthiness is of the utmost concern, because he is the man ultimately in charge of enforcing the law and protecting the rights and civil liberties of the American people. In this time of greatly expanded executive power and ever-diminishing privacy, we need an Attorney General who will uphold the law and protect the interests of all Americans, instead of only the Executive; we need a man who will champion our rights and civil liberties, not lie to the Senate to conceal their erosion. By any measure, Mr. Gonzales has clearly failed to serve the American public.

Bush invokes executive privilege, defies Congress

President Bush today defied subpoenas for testimony from two former top aides involved in the politically-motivated firings of federal prosecutors. Senator Leahy issued a response to the President's refusal:

“This is more stonewalling from a White House that believes it can unilaterally control the other co-equal branches of government. What is the White House trying to hide by refusing to turn over evidence it was willing to provide months ago, as long as that information was shared in secret with no opportunity for Congress to pursue the matter further?”

Given that Bush refused even to give an explanation for invoking executive privilege, what are we to make of this move? The attempts to block a Congressional investigation, like the commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence, are not acts of a man with nothing to hide. As Frank Rich of the New York Times says, "they reveal the continued ferocity of a White House cover-up and expose the true character of a commander in chief whose tough-guy shtick can no longer camouflage his fundamental cowardice."

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