Obama Campaign Abuses E-Mail List

by Sean Hackbarth

I love campaigns making efforts to have their online supporters take offline action. People still need to physically go to a polling place or cast an absentee ballot. Volunteers need to make phone calls to undecided voters. People need to knock on doors to make sure people get out and vote. The online world is merely an extension to the physical world and campaigns can’t forget that. Oodles of Facebook friends don’t mean anything if the campaign can’t transform that support into votes or volunteer efforts.

Now, one aspect of offline action is countering negative messages. A common feature on campaign websites is a tool to help supporters write letters to the editor or find local talk radio shows. Sen. John McCain’s campaign has taken it to an unwise level by encouraging supporters to bomb weblogs with favorable comments.

Such comment spam is annoying, but Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign stepped it up a notch by sending an e-mail to supporters asking them to call a Chicago radio station and confront National Review writer Stanley Kurtz who is in Chicago trying to piece together Obama’s relationship with former Weather Underground member William Ayers. Here’s a portion of the e-mail:

In the next few hours, we have a crucial opportunity to fight one of
the most cynical and offensive smears ever launched against Barack.

Tonight, WGN radio is giving right-wing hatchet man Stanley Kurtz a
forum to air his baseless, fear-mongering terrorist smears. He’s
currently scheduled to spend a solid two-hour block from 9:00 to 11:00
p.m. pushing lies, distortions, and manipulations about Barack and
University of Illinois professor William Ayers.

Tell WGN that by providing Kurtz with airtime, they are legitimizing
baseless attacks from a smear-merchant and lowering the standards of
political discourse.

Call into the “Extension 720″ show with Milt Rosenberg at (312) 591-7200

(Show airs from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. tonight)

Then report back on your call at http://my.barackobama.com/WGNstandards

Kurtz has been using his absurd TV appearances in an awkward and
dishonest attempt to play the terrorism card. His current ploy is to
embellish the relationship between Barack and Ayers.

It’s no surprise that as a result of sending out thousands of e-mails people called into the show. The results aren’t highlights of the Obama campaign:

The pro-Obama callers on the Milt Rosenberg show are a riot.

In the last few minutes, two called to scald Milt for having Stanley on without having an Obama rep on to give the counterpoint. Milt explains, repeatedly, that he contacted the Obama campaign (he gave the name of the campaign official his producer spoke with) and the campaign — the HQ of which is about a quarter mile from the studio where the show airs — declined to come on. They were offered the opportunity to have someone there with Stanley for the entire two hours, and they said no.

Another pro-Obama woman called and, after accusing Stanley of slander but of course not citing anything he said that was slanderous, stated, “We want it to stop.” Milt asked what she wanted stopped, and she replied, “It’s just not what we believe as Americans.” Milt tried again, asking what she didn’t believe. She responded that it was someone saying bad things about Barack Obama and, again, we just want it to stop.

And here’s more:

The WGN broadcast is absolutely fascinating and live on line at WGN.com

The host Milt Rosenberg, who is unquestionably an institution in Chicago talk radio, and has never ever been overtly partisan, is clearly stunned by the Obama-campaign-initiated email and phone attack on the Kurtz broadcast. He’s brought his producer into the interview room TWICE to affirm that a) their phone lines and emails have been swamped with abuse, and b) that the Obama campaign was invited to participate. The producer is quoting talking points shared by the campaign.

This behavior is on par with Rep. Ron Paul’s campaign not telling their most passionate supporters to “cool it” when they engaged in comment spamming across untold numbers of websites. I’m pretty sure the uncivil behavior didn’t sway voters to choose Obama (not that it would matter since Illinois will go blue).

It’s fine to aggressively countering political attacks. Getting out your side of the story in a forceful way is effective. How’s that done is another story. The Obama campaign (and other who are studying their tactics) must be cognizant that a campaign’s most passionate supporters sometimes can be too passionate. Over zealous behavior can turn off the very undecided voters you’re trying to sway.

Also in the case of the attack on WGN it can easily be spun as an attack on free speech. The Obama campaign has put itself in the awkward position of answering why Stanley Kurtz and questions about the Obama-Ayers relationship are so dangerous. That’s not something they’ll want to do leading into Obama’s most important speech ever.

The lesson to be learned is to be responsible for when and how to ask your supporters to act on your behalf. If you have a big enough list you’ll actually have people do what you ask and then some. To paraphrase Spider-Man: With a great list comes great responsibility.

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4 Responses to “Obama Campaign Abuses E-Mail List”


You don’t think they knew what the result would be? They were hoping to teach radio stations a lesson, the more uncivil the discussion the better.


This thug mobbing is classic. It has been done in Venezuela, Nicaraugua, Zimbabwe, etc.

Public discourse is over.


[...] From Ben Smith at The Politico via Sean Hackbarth at The American Mind comes the e-mail and talking points from the Obama campaign to its zombies containing vicious personal attacks and smears on Kurtz as well as a directive to call the radio station and the program in an attempt to first get Kurtz pulled from the program and, should that fail, shut the program down with the radio caller version of SPAM. A telehone Denial of Service attack if you will. [...]


[...] Milt Rosenberg, the most thoughtful radio host you’ll ever listen too, is again being targeted by Sen. Obama’s supporters. The situation is the same as a few weeks ago: a National Review writer, this time David Freddoso, talks about Obama and the Democratic Presidential nominee e-mails supporters to jam the phone lines. [...]

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