• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Attackwatch: It’s Just Politics, Folks

The Obama 2012 re-election campaign is returning to an idea that they launched during the 2008 campaign with a program and website called “Attackwatch” that is apparently designed to respond to rumors and other such stories about the President and the Administration:

It’s not easy being an Obama for America volunteer, especially when you feel ill-equipped to respond to the waves of attacks from his critics, says Jennifer Kickliter, a Tennessee college student who’s signed up for the 2012 campaign.

“What do I tell people who point out that the Affordable Care Act isn’t helping people, and that the  ”don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal was accompanied by a court order Obama plans to fight?” she said in July during an online chat with several Obama campaign aides at Chicago headquarters.

“It’s great to say ‘talk about his accomplishments,’ but we need to be able to address people’s legitimate concerns, too,” she said.

Now, Kickliter, and other Obama supporters like her, could get some help in the new campaign-sponsored website AttackWatch.com.

Obama for America national field director Jeremy Bird said the site offers “new resources to fight back,” including policy issue pages that fact check statements by Obama’s Republican opponents with links to “evidence” to back them up.   Its slogan is “Get the facts. Fight the smears.”

According to the site, Obama volunteers can also help campaign headquarters keep track of attacks on the president by submitting “reports” via mailform and tweeting about them using the Twitter hashtag #attackwatch.

This effort is similar to what was done during the 2008 campaign under the name “Fight The Smears.” That website came into existence, of course, mostly to combat the rumors that had sprung up about then-candidate Obama ranging from the allegation that he was not born in the United States to the suggestion that he was a “Secret Muslim.” Though I wasn’t an Obama supporter, it struck me at the time as a smart use of new media by the campaign and quite likely absolutely necessary given the extent to which rumor and innuendo can easily spread on the Internet. In fact, I figured it was something we’d see other campaigns adopt in the future, although that hasn’t been the case so far.

That seems to be exactly what Attackwatch is all about. The name is different, but the idea strikes me as being exactly the same, utilizing the Internet and Social Media to respond quickly and effectively to charges made by the Republican candidates for President during the course of their campaign for the GOP nomination. The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis makes a similar observation:

In my estimation, the Obama team is probably wise to take the attacks made by GOP primary debaters seriously. As I noted months ago, George W. Bush’s precipitous drop in popularity coincided almost precisely with the beginning of the Democratic primary debate season in 2003.

That hasn’t stopped many on the right from viewing the website as something sinister, if not entirely improper. Michelle Malkin and Jim Hoft are in full freak-out mode, and Seth Mandel at Commentary argues that there’s a difference between a response site run by a candidate for President and one run by a President running for re-election:

That was a senator running for office. As odd as it was then, he’s now the president. Who in the administration thinks this is the appropriate way for a president to act? We’ve heard countless references-from conservatives and liberals-to the administration of Richard Nixon. But in truth, Nixon had a better grasp on politics than Obama. Most of the hubristic overreaches that got Nixon in trouble were things he tried to hide. Obama is openly promoting a program to “report” on private citizens.

The difference, of course, is that the Nixon Enemies List was being run out of the White House, while this website is being run by the Obama re-election campaign in Chicago. Now, it’s always true that the line between governing and politics gets pretty fuzzy when a sitting President is running for re-election, but those lines are far more firmly established today than they were in 1971-72 when the Committee To Re-Elect The President was essentially being run right out of the White House. Additionally, Nixon actually did use the FBI and intelligence services to spy on political rivals. There’s absolutely no indication that Attackwatch is anything like that. Instead, what we’ve got here is a campaign effort to respond to allegations made by the opposition and to utilize crowd-sourcing to do it. I really don’t see what’s wrong with that.

Ed Morrissey thinks the entire effort is silly and that the Obama camp is wasting time giving attention to the rumor mill:

The categories for passing along an “attack” include significant events like a TV interview or broadcast ad, but also include such trivial categories as “forwarded e-mail” and “rumor.”  Presumably, the campaign would then debunk the “rumor,” which would then give it a lot more attention and oxygen than it otherwise might receive.  In fact, it’s not inconceivable that people who really wanted to spread “rumors” would do so by reporting them through AttackWatch and waiting for the campaign to publicize rumors through their response.

This President and his team still haven’t learned the problems that come with punching below one’s weight.  Besides, their big problems don’t come from rumors; they come from the record of abject failure that Barack Obama carries into this campaign.

These points are well-taken, and it would be a waste of campaign resources to respond to every stupid rumor out there about the President. However, the continued prevalence of things like the Birther myth and the the “Secret Muslim” nonsense, along with the ease with which rumors of any kind can be spread on the Internet, lead me to think that investing a few campaign resources (in reality, probably not very much is needed to run a site like this) to bat those rumors down is a good idea. Moreover, based on the announcement about the site (set forth in an email relayed in this post by Tommy Christopher), it seems that it will also be used to counter Republican claims about policy matters as well, so it won’t be limited to just dealing with the crazy stuff.

This is politics. In fact, it’s smart politics. It isn’t the Gestapo and it’s not Big Brother. People ought to calm down, take a deep breath, and return to the task of that they are primarily concerned with, winning the election in 2012, rather than going into panic mode over something that is, in the end, much ado about nothing. It worked very well for Obama during the campaign, so it’s not at all surprising they would do it again.

It was smart politics then, and it’s smart politics now. Rather than complaining about it, Republicans ought to think about copying it, and welcoming themselves to the new world of Online Campaigning.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Dodd says:

    If the hashtag on Twitter is any indication (and it is), Attack Watch is the howler of the day, not the outrage.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  2. Ken says:

    I agree it’s politics. I’m not sure it’s smart politics, particularly as pursued. Its tone is somewhat whiny and defensive, and it’s presented in a way to make it more susceptible to the “OMG report thoughtcrime” spin.

    Right now, #attackwatch is dominated by mockery, not by people watching for and responding to bogus attacks. I think that was entirely predictable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  3. Polaris says:

    I looked at it. I agree with Doug. “Nothing to see here. Move along….Move along….”

    -Polaris

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  4. @Ken:

    The mockery is coming from people who aren’t going to be voting for Obama anyway, and it stopped amusing me some time last night when the jokes became repetitive and kind of dumb.

    I don’t know whether this will do what the campaign wants it to, but I also don’t find anything sinister about it. It’s an worthwhile adaption of new media tactics to political campaigning.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  5. Hey Norm says:

    “…Michelle Malkin and Jim Hoft are in full freak-out mode…”

    Well that seals it…this is definitely an outrage!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  6. Vast Variety says:

    Michelle Malkin and Jim Hoft are in full freak-out mode

    I thought that was just their normal state of mind.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  7. ponce says:

    As I noted months ago, George W. Bush’s precipitous drop in popularity coincided almost precisely with the beginning of the Democratic primary debate season in 2003.

    Wrong.

    Bush’s approval rating spiked on 9/11 and then immediately began a steady decline that continued until just before he left office, when he had a slight uptick.

    http://www.pollingreport.com/BushJob1.htm

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  8. Polaris says:

    @ponce:

    Fair enough. But for the thesis to carry any real weight, won’t you have to show that every instance of government assistance to a business has resulted in failure. Can you do that?

    What you say is accurate but that doesn’t make the comment in question wrong. It depends on how you define precipitous. You seem to define it as any drop in approval while the poster you respond to apparently does not.

    I point out that after 9/11 the JA of (Your Diety of Choice) would have dropped simply because there was no way that any leader dealing with any kind of politics could have kept the absolute unity we shared after 9/11 for any meaningful time. Our basic system and even society just isn’t geared that way so of course GWB’s approval started dropping after 9/11.

    It had to.

    -Polaris

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Jay Tea says:

    What I find outrageous is that I can’t report myself without signing up for Obama’s spam list. IMPEACH HIM NOW!!!!!111!!!!

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  10. Michelle Malkin and Jim Hoft are in full freak-out mode

    When are Malkin and Hoft NOT in full freak-out mode?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  11. Timothy,

    Fair point

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  12. ponce says:

    What you say is accurate but that doesn’t make the comment in question wrong.

    Yes it does.

    I think the fringe right have been lying about poll numbers for so long they have forgotten basic math skills.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  13. Terrye says:

    The difference, of course, is that the Nixon Enemies List was being run out of the White House, while this website is being run by the Obama re-election campaign in Chicago.

    A distinction without a difference. I think the whole thing is kind of ridiculous myself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. David M says:

    @Polaris: Wait, you mean when something is at a high point it’s actually normal for it come down? Shocking stuff! Next thing you know, someone will point out this applies to other things other than job approval…hmmm, what could that be…maybe job creation. And yes, I’m being snarky and less than civil at your lack of consistency.

    And you are absolutely correct that a significant drop in Bush’s job approval was to be expected after the post 9/11 high.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. WR says:

    @Terrye: Of course it’s not a distinction without a difference. It’s a distinction with a huge legal difference. You may decide that it’s all too impure to contemplate a Democrat running for office, but the law mandates a physical separation between the seat of government and a campaign HQ.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. Moderate Mom says:

    Didn’t the White House try doing something like this during the Health Care debate? I seem to remember it, and seem to remember that it came down pretty quickly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. Eric Florack says:

    Just Politics?
    Sure. So was the Stazi.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 6

  18. Eric,

    Congratulations on being the first person in the comment thread the to violate Godwin’s Law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  19. Hey Norm says:

    You mean Stasi?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. mantis says:

    WND is still pimping birther garbage every day, along with a lot of other wingnuts. And people wonder why the campaign does this?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  21. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    Congratulations on being the first person in the comment thread the to violate Godwin’s Law.

    Right country, wrong time, wrong political system 😉

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. An Interested Party says:

    Sure. So was the Stazi.

    It’s hardly surprising that someone who would make such a ridiculous comparison would also have an issue with spelling words correctly…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. aLittleTooQuiet says:

    I think it’s fair to refer to claims that Obama is a secret Muslim Klingon or otherwise dangerously un-American as “attacks”.

    I didn’t spend a lot of time on the site, but from what I saw it looked like the site was mostly trying to repudiate claims from GOP candidates and pundits disagreeing with the president’s policies and their effects.

    While I agree that some of those claims are ridiculous, policy disagreements, even when side is largely incorrect, are not “attacks”, and framing them that way gives the site an air of conflict and animosity that strikes me as inappropriate for a representative of “we the people”, and projects an air of “thoughtcrime”.

    I realize the site is a campaign trick, and largely irrelevant in a historical context, but the concept could have been carried out in a way that is much more tasteful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. Polaris says:

    @An Interested Party:

    It’s hardly surprising that someone who would make such a ridiculous comparison would also have an issue with spelling words correctly…

    Actually when you translate from the original german, the “s” and “z” have the same sounding and often are used interchangeably in casual parlance of arcronyms. After all another famous arcromyn (NSDAP) had no “z” either….

    -Polaris

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  25. An Interested Party says:

    @Polaris: I’m sure Eric won’t really care about the correct spelling of any word when the President’s secret police come for him in the night and take him to the reeducation camp…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. anjin-san says:

    I’m sure Eric won’t really care about the correct spelling of any word when the President’s secret police come for him in the night and take him to the reeducation camp…

    ACORN has been tracking him for some time. Still he speaks truth to power. What a guy…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. Eric Florack says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Godwin be damned, Doug, the comparison is an accurate one. Perhaps, you consider a comparison to the “Cheka” less of a problem? If so, I don’t see why. You cant fit water in the difference between the three of them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  28. WR says:

    @Polaris: Actually, no one was “translating from the original German.” They were using a German word. Some were spelling it correctly. Some were making fools of themselves. Pick a side.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. Polaris says:

    @WR: False. Stasi is not a word. It’s an acronym.

    In the original german, the full name is this: Ministerium für Staatssicherheit

    English trans: Ministry for State Security

    Before calling someone a fool, please do the basic research.

    -Polaris

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. JKB says:

    @Jay Tea:

    This is very upsetting. I was going to report every time I had an impure thought about Obama. But it sounds as if the penance is to horrible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. Polaris says:

    @Polaris: Correction my above post. It’s technically an abbreviation, but my point still stands. In the original german ‘z’ and ‘s’ often have the same pronounciation and thus are often used interchangeably.

    -Polaris

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. jan says:

    Here are some of the results from the ‘Attack Watch’ program set up by Obama.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    @Polaris:

    Correction my above post. It’s technically an abbreviation, but my point still stands. In the original german ‘z’ and ‘s’ often have the same pronounciation and thus are often used interchangeably.

    That is simply incorrect. Even if we assume that there are some cases where that holds true (I can’t remember any off the top of my head) it is incorrect in this case. The “s” in Stasi is a very soft s sound. Z is a completely different sound that has no real analogue in English. The closest is a hard “ts” like in “cats” just more pronounced.

    The best case you could make for using “z” would be to defend it as a transcription into the English sound system. In fact the best English equivalent to the German soft “s” is the English “z” (like in “zoo”). But that doesn’t hold either since words from the same alphabet are rarely transcribed (example: Schadenfreude remained schadenfreude despite the fact that Americans pronounce it differently from Germans).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. An Interested Party says:

    You cant fit water in the difference between the three of them.

    This is the bottom line with Eric’s foolish thinking…didn’t James have a post long ago about the utter ridiculousness of comparing the President to Nazis and/or Communists…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  35. WR says:

    @Polaris: Thank you for making my point. NO ONE was “translating from the original German.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. WR says:

    @Polaris: By the way, can you point out a couple of German words in which the Z-sound is pronounced as a soft-S? The German Z is pronounced like our TS. Herz. Schmerz. Nazi. Flugzeug.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. Eric Florack says:

    @An Interested Party: If you will but recall, I disagreed at the time. Still do. The comparison is valid. And in this case particularly so…. what are the purpose of all three of them but to maintain adherence to someone’s desired political orthodoxy?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  38. An Interested Party says:

    @Eric Florack: The saddest thing about you is that you don’t even realize how delusional you really are…no one, except maybe some members of the severe right-wing fringe, believes in this comparison, much less takes it seriously…

    …what are the purpose of all three of them but to maintain adherence to someone’s desired political orthodoxy?

    Umm, so sorry to burst your bubble, but that applies to virtually every political movement in the world, past, present, and future…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. Eric Florack says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Umm, so sorry to burst your bubble, but that applies to virtually every political movement in the world, past, present, and future…

    Actually, no. Not even close to every one. Just the thuggish ones. Wherein lies the point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0