Thursday, June 12, 2008

Obama Campaign Launches Web Site to "Fight The Smears"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 221

They've passed into campaign lore by now: unsubstantiated and untrue rumors that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim, that he does not pledge allegiance to the American flag, and many more, circulated via email blasts and hammered endlessly on right-wing talk radio.

This week, the Obama campaign is launching a web site to specifically address these attacks. The site, titled "Fight the Smears," supplements the "Fact Check" page on the campaign's main website, and lists the rumors and the campaign's response in concise, even spare terms, bullet-point fashion.

I think this is something the Obama campaign simply has to do in the face of the rumor- and fear-mongering attacks launched against the candidate over the last year or so. But I am also convinced that these attacks would be much less potent, and more effectively countered, if Obama were to start an immediate, focused effort to introduce himself in detail to the electorate. As natural as it is to want to pull back a little from the relentless grind of the past 18 months of campaigning, Barack Obama and his campaign need to get out in front of the public with a specific campaign to tell voters, in depth, about the candidate's life story and values. Books, websites and the like will only go so far with this; the overall effort needs to be more focused and aggressive.

As of this moment, and in spite of months of rumor attacks, Barack Obama still retains the ability to define himself to the electorate at large. Every week that goes by without a concerted plan to replace rumors from anonymous emailers and right-wing shills with a factual, full-dimensional portrait of Obama as a flesh-and-blood human being, and not just a political and media icon, means ceding that advantage by continuing to leave the field open for these attacks to resonate. The rumor attacks launched against Obama will lose all effectiveness when suspicion bred of novelty gives way to familiarity with Obama as an individual.

The political environment abhors a vacuum. In order to effectively combat rumors and attacks about Barack Obama, he and his campaign need to dislodge lies with truth. That effort must begin now, in-depth, and, to the greatest extent possible, be conducted by Barack Obama himself, one interview, one living room TV, one voter at a time.

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