When Sizzle Meets Fizzle

Barack Obama has built a campaign based on autobiography.

His campaign is selling a myth built based on that autobiography. The first step is to link Obama to the Lincoln myth.

The second step is to sell Obama as wholly different, the messiah of a “new politics”.

Obama’s autobiography of course is a series of “composite” recollections and achievements which have been repeatedly and substantively questioned.

Recently, Reverend Al Sharpton stuck a big pin in that campaign balloon when he stated about Obama “Are we now being told, ‘You all just shut up?'” Sharpton added “We keep hearing sizzle from the media, we’re not hearing substance.” Sharpton also said “I want to know from Senator Obama where the meat is.”

Sharpton also delighted in pointing out a certain hypocrisy and sales job coming from the Obama campaign and Obama himself “Senator Obama and I agree that the war is wrong, but then I want to know why he went to Connecticut and helped Lieberman, the biggest supporter of the war.”

Today we have some examples of Obama’s “new politics”. Obama’s new politics are the worse of the old politics.

One aspect of Obama’s sales job is the myth that his is a grassroots campaign, as opposed to all those other evil campaigns that seek control. To that end the Obama campaign has created a campaign web site that provides all sorts of bells and whistles to delude his young supporters that he is one of them.

Today, as Politico points out, “Barack Obama has apparently convinced MySpace (owned by News Corp.) to shut down his own unofficial Myspace page — without the consent of its creator — and re-direct its traffic to a new official page.”

TechPresident has more about Anthony, the creator of the MySpace page and his introduction to the “new politics”: Anthony had never been politically active before. “I was just blown away,” he told me. He put time into the site every day, answering emails from people wanting to “friend” the page, pointing them to voter registration information, and, once Obama threw his hat into the ring, telling them where to find out more detailed positions of the candidate.

We have written about this hypocrisy before, concerning several articles about Obama’s alliance with a slumlord: On April 25, 2007, Carol Marin, in a column for the Sun-Times summarized the articles and hit Obama hard “suddenly this gleaming presidential hopeful and paragon of new politics behaves just like any other dissembling, dismissive Chicago pol, ducking the discussion while pretending not to.”

We have additional evidence today of Obama’s “new politics”. Someone from the Obama campaign leaked a copy to the media of Obama’s smooth talk script when making phone calls.

Most of the smooth talk resembles the Obama campaign promise to its young supporters that they will have a voice in the campaign.

To Democratic Representative Jim Cooper the memo advises the charm of “giving Cooper a role in policy discussion.”

The charm for D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty is an advisor on education.

The charm for Federico Pena, a latino coveted in a campaign bereft of latinos, an offer on the campaign’s national leadership.

Here are some excerpts from Howard Fineman’s article:

“On the campaign trail, he is the picture of casual cool: the tie-less, open-necked embodiment of a new generation and style. However, behind the scenes, he is as old school methodical as they come, with an operation that is not as experienced as Clinton’s, but that has the focus and discipline to try to run with her. The results are serious, and thorough, though at times the scripted rigor borders on the comic.

A novice on the national scene, Obama needs research and detailed staff work to compensate for his lack of personal knowledge and contacts in the country.

The document shows him working the margins of the Clinton juggernaut, reaching out to leading African American politicians not yet sewn up by Clinton, John Edwards or other campaigns.

They show a careful attention to detail – down to the names of the politicians’ children – and the call sheets leave space for the candidate (or his personal aide) to note whether the phone connection had been made. Many refer to Obama in the second person as YOU or YOUR – the capital letters meant to focus the reader on precisely what he should say.

The talking points at times are frank – though never disrespectful – in their assessment of those from whom Obama is seeking support, an endorsement or a chat.

Two of the names were what the campaign calls “faith calls” – a subset of the political shop’s work – aimed at influential ministers in the black community. Rep. Cooper, who is white and represents the 5th District of Tennessee, is a moderate and the object of sustained effort. Known for his concern about federal spending, Obama’s folks advised him to talk substance.

Getting the endorsement “Cooper is with YOU,” the talking points said, “he is just hesitant to go public with his endorsement. The KEY to this endorsement is giving Cooper a role in policy discussion. Cooper is a huge finance wonk …. Assuring him access to the policy and legislative operation will give him enough incentive to overcome his hesitancy….”

Cooper needs some pressure, they advise. “YOU MUST make a HARD ASK for PUBLIC endorsement,” they said. “Cooper wants to get involved in your campaign, but needs YOUR push towards a public endorsement. All he wants is to work with policy, so if he feels he is being brought into that operation, he will endorse.”

Not everyone is a hard catch, according to the private advice Obama got. An eager fish is Rep. Russ Carnahan of the 3rd District of Missouri, one of the two other white politicians to whom Obama was reaching out late last week. Carnahan is portrayed as enthusiastic, but perhaps a bit too desirous of a leadership campaign role in his state.

“Carnahan will ask you for a specific leadership role for YOUR campaign in Missouri,” the memo warns. “Assure him he will be one of YOUR leaders in the state, but DO NOT lead him to believe that it will be an exclusive role…..DO NOT commit to anything specific.”

You have to wonder if Obama is a little too generous with his offers of top roles – for several of the call memos warn him about the same thing: don’t make commitments.”

Here is the charm script for African-American ministers, total unknowns, for Obama. The manipulation is overt:

“Two of the calls are to black ministers – an important political constituency for any Democrat, especially for an African American whose ties to the community are, for some, an issue.

One of the ministers is Bishop Kenneth Ulmer, Pastor of the Central Bible Church in Inglewood, California. This is relatively new territory to Obama, judging from the memo.

“Faith Central has more than 13,000 members and owns and meets at the Great Western Forum, the former home of the L.A. Lakers. He has a weekly broadcast on TBN that reaches millions of viewers. “Bishop Ulmer is very interested in your candidacy,” the talking points continue. “His primary concern is that your campaign is about more than politics, and that you will be interested in a relationship with him whether or not you win.

“YOU will be in Los Angeles this Sunday but will not worship with Bishop Ulmer. You’ll be at first A.M.E. for a service commemorating the anniversary of the L.A. riots.”

Then the staff gave Obama a suggested script for his conversation with Ulmer: “Bishop, it’s good to connect with you. I’ve been looking forward to speaking with you for a while. How’s everything going at the church? I’m looking forward to worshipping with you all very soon. Have you been following the campaign? How do think we’re doing so far?”

The suggested script continued, “Bishop, my campaign is about integrity – returning integrity to the political process, and treating people’s needs with integrity. I understand that’s the same approach you’ve taken in your ministry for a long time. I think we have a lot in common. Bishop, I’d be honored to have you on my team. I would like you advising me on the landscape in California and how to approach the religious community nationally. Can I count on your support and guidance?”

There is nothing wrong with Obama’s manipulation, sweet talking charm and phony interest in the opinions of those he is out to charm and seduce. There is nothing “new” about any of this. Obama’s problem is that he is claiming to be “new” while he is as old school as any con artist or Music Man.

If the latest polls from Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina are any clue, Americans are starting to figure out that the new sizzle is the old fizzle.