Anita Dunn: How We Created Obama's Cult of Personality
For months NewsBusters has been reporting how the media aided and abetted the creation of Barack Obama's Cult of Personality leading to his eventual election as the 44th President of the United States.
Eight days before his inauguration, Obama's Fox News-hating communications director Anita Dunn and his digital strategist Ben Self, while at a conference in the Dominican Republic hosted by the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development, confirmed the allegation in a tutorial they gave to President Leonel Fernandez and other government officials and guests on how to turn an unknown politician into a messiah.
On Sunday, World News Daily uncovered one of the nine videos recorded that day which gave clues as to how the Obama campaign successfully manipulated the media to force his cult like status upon an unknowing public (video of part 8 embedded below the fold with partial transcript, h/t NBer Free Stinker):
Viewers who are willing to watch the entire lecture will be rewarded. In a rare case of total candor, Dunn admitted selling a presidential candidate to America that had almost no experience as well as controversial ties to former terrorists.
ANITA DUNN, OBAMA CAMPAIGN ADVISER: But the reality is that whether it was a David Plouffe video or an Obama speech, that a huge part of our press strategy was focused on making the media cover what Obama was actually saying, as opposed to you know why the campaign was saying it, what the tactic was. That we had a huge premium both on message discipline, on people in the campaign not leaking to reporters, on people in the campaign not discussing our strategy, and also on making the press cover what we were saying.
So, we no, one of the reasons we did so many of the David Plouffe videos was not just for our supporters, but also because it was a way for us to get our message out without having to actually talk to reporters. We just put that out there and make them write what Plouffe had said as opposed to Plouffe doing an interview with a reporter.
So it was very much, we controlled it as opposed to the press controlled it. And it did not always make us popular with the press. But we, increasingly, by the general election, very rarely did we communicate through the press anything that we didn't absolutely control. So, President - Senator Obama himself did a lot of local television. We went to as much live television as possible so it couldn't be edited when it came to him, it was live, so that he could speak in longer than a 12 second sound bite. So that what the voters heard, we determined as opposed to some editor in a TV station [...]
But no, you're right, we went around that filter.
"In retrospect, it looks much easier than it felt at the time," Dunn said. "We made experience, which was a prime target of our opponent, we made it a negative trait."
The concept behind the cult of personality emerged during this tutorial when Dunn moved to the subject of Obama's "scary friends" like William Ayers. Their strategy to overcome Obama's ties with a former terrorist was simply to divert the public's attention:
Barack Obama was the best answer to the "too risky" argument...when they heard Barack Obama and when they saw Barack Obama, he didn't sound scary. He didn't sound risky. He sounded like a president....the best answer to the argument that you couldn't trust him was to listen to Barack Obama.
Nevermind the fact that he did attend a radical church for 20 years as well as a party at William Ayers' house. All you need to know is that he sounds and looks charismatic.
With a compliant media willing to focus on his "rock star" personality, Obama got away without having to address many of his questionable friends that never even made it into the public discussion.
Seeing how well this method worked on Obama's church, the campaign decided to use his charm as an answer for most everything else. Self explained:
You can use it to amplify excitement that's already there...you have to create that value or enthusiasm for whatever it is you're passionate about, and then you can use technology, grassroots activism to make it bigger.
As a result, while Sarah Palin was being grilled on the Bush Doctrine and John McCain was hammered for his views on Iraq, the mainstream media couldn't get enough of Obama's celebrity status. Time and again, important issues were brushed aside in favor of sensational tingles.
This conference essentially confirmed all that NewsBusters had said throughout 2008: Obama's campaign chose to ignore a discussion on specifics, building their message simply on personal appeal, and his adoring media were there for him every step of the way.
Self described this process in chilling terms:
You bring these people together, what do you do with them? How do you transition those people you've collected...and get them to do what you want them to do. These are the Bible in many ways of new campaigns and organizing...
It's much like a relationship. You don't ask them out on a date and then the next day propose marriage. You have to bring them through the stages and develop this relationship...Make it more like they're reading a letter from their friends.
Most Obama supporters had no idea there was a purposeful strategy of fabricating an intimate relationship. Yet once again, the media chose to ignore all warning signs and encourage people to get swept off their feet.
Apparently NBC reporter Lee Cowan was serious when he said it was impossible to talk about Obama objectively; it makes you wonder exactly whom Self had in mind when he spoke about getting people "to do what you want them to do."
Despite such nonstop cheerleading from most of the mainstream media, Dunn admitted that she was still not satisfied with Obama's coverage. Any attempt at objective journalism was seen as a "filter" that had to be bypassed:
So that what the voters heard, we determined as opposed to some editor in a TV station...But no, you're right, we went around that filter.
Dunn also complained about the media's habit of editing extensive quotes for time restraint. The campaign favored live interviews where nothing could be edited and Obama "could speak in longer than a 12 second sound bite."
The sound bite issue had been a problem for Obama early on. As Dunn revealed, instead of coaching their candidate to perform faster, they forced the press to play by their rules so that Obama could ramble on as long as he wanted.
The goal of this approach was to influence everything that appeared in the media:
...a huge part of our press strategy was focused on making the media cover what Obama was actually saying, as opposed to why the campaign was saying it, what the tactic was. That we had a huge premium both on message discipline, on people in the campaign not leaking to reporters, on people in the campaign not discussing our strategy, and also on making the press cover what we were saying.
Pay no attention to the fact that Obama fudged his data or cited information from questionable sources. Don't think about why Obama would want to divert your attention to a certain place.
Dunn wanted no analysis, no question of motives. All that mattered was repeating Obama's talking points, and when there was danger of this not working, or a reporter airing an unbiased piece that might appear negative, the Obama campaign responded by becoming more restrictive:
So it was very much, we controlled it as opposed to the press controlled it. And it did not always make us popular with the press. But we, increasingly, by the general election, very rarely did we communicate through the press anything that we didn't absolutely control.
After eight years of media complaints about the secrecy of the Bush administration, it would seem that such tactics from Obama would raise concern.
Yet once more, Obama's charm made up for controlling the media.
Predictably, the spin has begun to whitewash the findings of this conference.
Politico's Ben Smith on Sunday offered a sympathetic take on Obama's plight as President "in spite of an independent news media."
If America truly had an independent news media, they would not have allowed the Obama campaign to manipulate them so easily. Maybe just as important, if the press believed in telling the truth, footage of this conference would have been analyzed nine months ago.
In the end, whether the media are ashamed to admit that they dropped their guard or they are still compliant in helping Democrats control the message, they had little interest in covering the truth behind the conference in Santo Domingo on January 12, and continue to give cover to those who manipulated them.