Today, I went on the record in a Washington Post piece about the Obama campaign, mostly because a lot of other people can't and because the Obama campaign seems completely and utterly uninterested in feedback (it changed briefly for a few weeks, but they seem to be back in their bunker). The commercials are boring and stale, the messaging towards McCain's attacks just isn't sharp, labor blew a bunch of money in the primary, and they've defunded the additional groups that could really go after McCain for his own corruption. The Republicans might actually be able to outspend Obama, with outside groups and the RNC added in to the total. Moreover, and this I did not expect, mainstream journalists are getting angry with the Obama campaign, because they are getting complaints from the leadership of the campaign even as they aggressively fact-checked McCain's latest salvo of ads. Now I want the traditional media destroyed, but they actually have done a good job proving McCain's ads false this past week (which is what Obama's people wanted). Of course, having the media participate in a liberal-wide hissy-fit was exactly what the McCain campaign sought, so I don't know exactly what the game plan is here.
Regardless, here's what I said in the paper.
"It literally is the same old Democratic, consultant-driven politics," said Matt Stoller, a Democratic political consultant and blogger. "It's the same attempt not to tell a story about the country and the other guy, but to prove you're right, like an academic debating seminar."
The Obama campaign is heavily resistant to feedback, and more than that, it is angrily dismissive of the concerns of the people who voted for Obama over Clinton in the primary. Here's Plouffe.
"We have a game plan and a strategy, and we're going to continue to execute it. We're not going to be terribly worried about people playing armchair quarterback," Plouffe said. "By November 4, there are character dimensions to John McCain that are going to be clear."
Now, I made sure to tell the journalist that I think that Obama is going to win, and when he asked me what I would do differently, I said that I didn't know. I've never run a Presidential campaign and I'm not going to pretend like I have access to all the data and strategic insights that they have had years to build. But I wasn't speaking up because I think the Obama campaign should change their strategy, but because I'm ashamed of the person who I voted for to be the leader of my party.
When John Kerry goes on a Sunday show and says that he's 'in awe' of John McCain's service, but feels free to undermine Wes Clark's, and the Obama campaign thinks of Kerry as their top surrogate, it's shameful. When John McCain's economic advisor calls America a nation of whiners, and we don't hear anything more about that in ads or anywhere else, it's shameful. When the Iraqi PM endorses Obama's call for withdrawal, and McCain still leads on the issue of Iraq by double-digits, it's shameful.
We all know that winning this election is not enough. It's just not. It's not even close. This is the most unpopular President we've ever had and our opponent is a crazy cancer-ridden dishonest madman. Our nominee should crush this guy. And if he doesn't, then next year, the Generals are going to come out and undermine Obama unless he pursues neoconservative policies, and he's not going to have set himself up for establishing civilian control of the military because he's continued the ridiculous tradition of criticism of our militaristic political system being off-limits (check out this list from Steve Clemons and you'll see that the conservative tilt of the Obama administration is becoming clear).
If Obama wins, and I think he will, he will win like Jimmy Carter won. He'll win as an operational conservative, because that's what his campaign believes. Plouffe basically said 'Shut the fuck up, you little people, you have no idea what it takes to win.' That may or may not be true, but Obama and his inner circle are completely unconcerned with their responsibility to the people who voted him the nomination, so much so that they think nothing of openly lying on core Constitutional issues.
There's an issue of public trust. Now in terms of electoral strategy, I can think of a lot of stuff he could do differently, but honestly, ideas are not hard, what's hard is bringing in new people and empowering them to be creative. What's hard is standing up to powerful interests, starting with the Democratic consultant class which is begging everyone to worship McCain's military service and integrity. That is something the Obama campaign just isn't doing. It's never done it, that was always obvious. I hope they start, but I don't think they will. Some of my savvier friends are more optimistic than I am, so I hope to be proven wrong. But I expect this article, if it's read at all, will be read inside the campaign with the same mixture of loathing and bitterness that characterizes all thin-skinned insiders who consider themselves liberal while acting like conservatives and resenting all feedback that does not comport with their message that they are running the most grassroots and inclusive campaign in history.