Lots of weird stuff this election, for those of us who look at how organizations communicate, react.
The "obama birth certificate" issue has fascinated me the past two weeks, since I first learned that campaign lawyers filed for dismissal in the Pennsylvania case, and then particularly after they ignored the 30-day discovery period. Some recent thoughts:
- There are very likely teams of lawyers and strategists already working on the contingencies in both campaigns. Probably independent teams in DNC and RNC too. I don't know which branches of government are involved, but I think it's unlikely that there are not teams already researching the issue. News service staffs must be having internal conversations by now. Bottom line: I'm betting many organizations already have groups preparing for this "as if" it is real.
- The lawyers did not consider the websites' COLB as being worthy of submission. Yet fightthesmears.com and factcheck.org both continue to urge people to point to the old, disounted pages as "proof of Obama's citizenship". There's a distinct break in awareness between campaign insiders and campaign outsiders.
- In 2004 the big media companies ignored the Swift Boat Vets' "what's a silver star with v-for-valor?" for about three weeks, before launching the successful "it was all debunked long ago" campaign on the same day as the DNC. But that was earlier in the election cycle, and would not work as well on this late curiosity about the reluctance to establish basic eligibility. Different dynamics, hard to say how they'll play it.
Two other issues arose this week, each of which is also a "wtf could that organization be thinking" situation:
Website credit-card validation: Washington Post has a roundup. The campaign website apparently disabled standard anti-fraud checks on donations, such as checking that the name matches the cardholder. The story broke last week, and made it to mainstream Obama-friendly papers this week.
I can see a rogue worker in an organization making a bad decision. But I cannot understand how an organization cannot deal with it in a timely manner. Even today, the Post quotes an Obama staffer as emphasizing that they cut out all fraud at the back end, even as bloggers uncover individuals who have had their names impersonated, in excess of donation limits. Another Obama campaigner then said the McCain campaign did the same thing, which was not borne out in subsequent Post investigation.
The shocking thing here is not the original credit-card fraud, but the response to it. Instead of owning up to a mistake, they do not react, and then attempt to deflect.
Khalid video: Obama was apparently at an Islamic dinner with speakers who threatened Israel. He was alleged to have made some incendiary comments in reply.
This case is a little different, because of the shorter timeframe. But Obama has not addressed the issue, and the Los Angeles Times has provided a series of reasons for why they will not release the tape.
The normal tactic would be to come clean, to provide transparency, and to defuse the issue. But the campaign (and their allies) has continued with a stonewalling approach.
In all three issues, the common theme is to underestimate a potential risk, and to not respond to it in a timely and effective fashion.
I'd bet that, in each issue, there are different camps within the campaign, urging different types of responses.
A strong, resilient organization would respond at a variety of scales, in a variety of timeframes. But here, the response seems to be waiting for a central decision, and the margins of the organization are silent, waiting for leadership.
It's all quite strange.