Important column, from Dan Henninger of the Wall Street Journal, on the Axelrod/Obama political operation.

Barack Obama’s Persuasion Army

The president has finally made the permanent campaign a reality.

Two days after the election, a friend told me that because he has an Asian surname, he was inundated for months with emails from liberal Asian groups urging him to vote for Barack Obama. I asked what reason the emails gave for Asians to support Mr. Obama. Their main message: Barack Obama is “better for minorities.”

It is always useful for Republicans to revisit their “message model” to single white women and the various Americans designated as minorities. Should the GOP kowtow to the Buffett Tax and conform to Roe v. Wade? But before the party reinvents the wheel, it should have a clearer understanding of the implications of the methods Barack Obama used to deliver his own message.

The Obama “turnout machine” wasn’t faceless. It was real people living full-time, some much of the past four years, in battleground states such as Ohio, Iowa and Virginia. They attended full-time to targeted racial, ethnic and labor constituencies, as the campaign did in 2008. Obama adviser David Plouffe calls them “the persuasion army.” I would call it a skilled propaganda machine.

The job of the Obama persuasion army was to make sure that those targets never stopped having their heads filled via emails, phone calls, meetings and such with what Barack Obama was saying as president. USA Today reported, for example, that when Mr. Obama delivered his State of the Union speech last January—a half-year before Mitt Romney was the official GOP nominee—the campaign’s persuasion army held 2,700 house parties.

These field operations were the reason the nation’s 44th president had to do 153 fundraisers this year. This wasn’t just a presidency. It was a political corporation producing political product.

One view is that this merely adapts to politics the private sector’s advanced marketing techniques, and that the GOP should do the same. If the party can overcome its Keystone Kops primary system, sure, go for it. But if the Republican Party uses high-velocity information the way the Obama campaign did, American politics will be waged as a wall-to-wall propaganda war. Policy ideas will be devalued.

It was conventional wisdom in September and October that other than subsidies for student loans, infrastructure and alternative-energy jobs, Barack Obama was running a largely idea-free campaign, with the press and voters left to guess at a second-term agenda.

For the Obama campaign, the future was irrelevant. What mattered was the “product” of the president’s first term. It’s clear why Barack Obama was willing to turn former Wall Street Democrats and contributors like J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon into furious critics of the president with his seemingly compulsive scapegoating of bankers, millionaires and “the wealthiest.” Or why at the last minute of the 2011 deficit negotiations he demanded a tax increase that wrecked any possible deal and would have blown up the GOP. Once past ObamaCare, the president spent his first term creating these wedge issues and wedge people for his re-election.

Simultaneously, his field operations were driving these wedges into the heads of the Obama base of minorities, single women and campus voters. Using national politics in this way is known as agitprop.

By the time the election arrived, the Obama base had been prepped, instructed and delivered to vote against half the country. The Obama campaign didn’t have to turn them out. The relentless negative messaging never let them turn off. By the way, while Mr. Romney took the independent vote away from the president, some analysts now argue that the Obama victory coalition suggests the independents don’t matter.

Going forward, the personal takedown of one’s opponent is the new baseline for a national campaign. It is widely said that Mitt Romney failed to answer the Obama campaign’s $100 million barrage of reputation-destroying ads. Answer with what? When Mr. Obama’s “outsourcer-in-chief” ads were exposed in the media as false, the Obama campaign said, So what? The campaign’s no-apologies propaganda rolled over the media’s “fact checkers” and likely any other response. Only a fool will fail to dump at least $100 million of mud on his opponent.

Some Republicans are consumed with how to make more people like them. Interesting but complicated. The Obama Democrats used the most sophisticated information techniques to drive an uncomplicated strategy with two words: antipathy and fear. What minimal positive content existed in the Obama campaign was frosting on the stones.

Mitt Romney made his share of campaign blunders, but Barack Obama finally made the permanent campaign a reality across a whole presidential term. Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt told ABC in September: “One thing that’s different here is that this is the first president in history who kept his supporters and his grass-roots organization in place during the course of the presidency.” I’d like to understand the implications of that better before re-engineering the GOP (immigration policy excepted).

The question is whether any alternative candidate or Republican message could have overcome the Obama army of persuasion. The answer isn’t obvious.

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The cheap little games the president plays anger me. His job is to run the country in our best interest, not trick us. In his press conference yesterday, he continued the ruse that UN Ambassador Susan Rice wasn’t part of the Benghazi coverup when she pretended that the killings at the consulate were part of a street protest. Krauthammer responds.

… and then he gives the strangest defense by saying, ‘she didn’t have anything to do with the Benghazi affair.’ Well, then why the hell are you sending her out there?


General Petraeus is sent off with compliments in the president’s press conference Wednesday. Obama refers to the sex scandal as a personal matter.

My main hope right now is that he and his family are able to move on and that this ends up being a single side note on what has otherwise been an extraordinary career.
By his own assessment he did not meet the standards he felt were necessary as head of the CIA with respect to this personal matter.


Are supreme court justices capable of making legal judgements about issues that don’t affect them personally? Not according to Eric Michael Dyson, who says white women needed to rebel to get their rights from white male justices.

…Now this court, men and women, will make a decision about the future of voting rights for African American and other minorities… We need white women to step up to the plate…

Dyson is concerned that the supreme court is considering pulling back on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, passed by white men.

That act required much of the South — states, cities and counties — to get advanced approval, or “pre-clearance,” from Washington before it can make any changes in election laws and voting rules.

However, a lot has changed in Dixie since that time. Today, blacks and whites in the South register to vote at about the same percentage of their respective populations. Moreover, a higher percentage of blacks vote in some of the states still under federal scrutiny than in northern states, and they elect more African-Americans to local offices.


Colonel David Hunt gives some background on General John Allen and explains how the exchange of flirtatious emails will ruin his career.

General Allen’s a good man… he was being nominated to command Europe and be the NATO commander…


Cornel West blasts the president, and others, for not being black enough.

I’m glad there was not a right wing takeover, but we end up with a Rockefeller Republican in Blackface… Richard Nixon is to the left of him on healthcare… Richard Nixon is to the left of him on guaranteed income…

Of the black hosts on MSNBC (Melissa Harris Perry, Al Sharpton, Eric Michael Dyson), West says:

And we invite them back to the black prophetic tradition after Obama leaves. But at the moment, they want insider access, and they want to tell those kind of lies. They want to turn their back to poor and working people.


Paula Broadwell seems to know things about the Benghazi attack that aren’t publicly known. Which leads Bill Kristol to question what we’re being told about the Petraeus affair.

I hate to say this, I don’t really like to think the whole US government is misleading us, but I really think so in this case…

In a New York Magazine article on the Broadwell remarks, they discuss the chance that Broadwell may simply be misstating something she heard in a Fox News report.

In the beginning of her response (34 minutes into the video) Broadwell references an exclusive Fox News report that had just come out. As the Daily Beast points out, during that report correspondent Jennifer Griffen says, “Those at the CIA annex took into custody three Libyan attackers and were forced to hand them over to the Libyan February 17th forces that came to help at the annex.” Griffen was saying that Libyan attackers were taken into custody for a short time hours after the fighting started, not that their capture sparked the attack. On Sunday the CIA said that Broadwell’s suggestion that prisoners were held in the annex was untrue.