More on Obama 'Can't E-mail' Attack Ad: McCain an Internet Pioneer, Per Dem Internet Pioneer

It has already been established (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) that the Obama campaign's ad ridiculing John McCain's computer skills, including the claim that McCain "can't e-mail," has several reality-based problems:

  • McCain has been an e-mail devotee since 2000, if not earlier, receiving help from a loving spouse to respond to messages, and was described by Forbes Magazine that year as "the U.S. Senate’s savviest technologist."
  • The reason McCain gets help with e-mail is that his severe war injuries prevent him from doing many things many of us take for granted, including typing on a keyboard.
  • Further, the current and previous Oval Office occupants have rarely used e-mail -- the former because he never learned how while in office, the latter because of legal considerations. Future occupants will likely be, and probably should be, similarly constrained.

So it's as clear as can be that Obama's ad is wrong and, intentionally or not, very mean to a man whose physical challenges are a result of beyond-the-call service to our country.

Beyond all that, Kevin Aylward at Wizbang has noted that McCain's 2000 presidential run was effusively praised as a groundbreaking high-tech campaign by a Democratic Internet pioneer in a 2005 book.

The book, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything" was written by Joe Trippi, who managed Howard Dean's meteoric rise from obscurity in 2003. Here is the first paragraph of the book's description at Amazon:

When Joe Trippi signed on to run Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign, the long–shot candidate had 432 known supporters and $100,000 in the bank. Within a year, Trippi and his team had transformed the most obscure candidate in the field into a Democratic front–runner with a groundswell of 640,000 supporters and more money than any Democrat in history –– mostly through donations of one hundred dollars or less. Trippi's revolutionary use of the Internet and an impassioned, contagious desire to overthrow politics as usual grew into a national grassroots movement and changed the face of politics forever.

Okay, the hype is over the top. The facts are that Trippi also squandered that treasure trove, while his candidate infamously screamed his way to electoral oblivion.

Nevertheless, Trippi was uniquely successful that year at tapping what we now call the nutroots, and campaigns of both parties have incorporated many things Trippi did into their campaigning modus operandi.

Thus, what Trippi had to say about John McCain's 2000 campaign is far from inconsequential. Here is some of what Wizbang's Aylward excerpted from Trippi's book in his post:

(From Page 59)

John McCain's insurgent Republican presidential bid in 2000 ..... (was) ..... the first national campaign to attempt to make use of the Internet. I held my breath that year - excited that someone was trying it, but terrified that they'd pull it off before I got the chance. They didn't. ..... it was the (failed Apple) Newton of online political campaigns. The technology simply wasn't quite mature enough yet .....

(From Page 103, referring to the 2000 election)

And it's how a Republican Senator like John McCain could use the Internet to raise $6.4 million after his shocking win in the New Hampshire primary.

(From the "Back Matters" section of the book)

The Dean campaign and all that we accomplished was made possible by the ideas and hard work of countless others who came before us: From Gary Hart's brilliant concentric circle organizing strategy to John McCain's first bold attempt to harness the power of the Internet, there are staff members and candidates who plowed the terrain and helped create what we were able to build.

This history should be well-known to Team Obama, especially its so-called campaign "genius" David Axelrod.

Kevin also noted yesterday, with linked support, that while McCain and his team were engaged in a pioneering Internet campaign, Obama was conducting an uninspired, dull, and likely low-tech or no-tech losing run for Bobby Rush's congressional seat in Illinois' 2000 primary.

I can already hear naysayers who want to cite McCain's acknowledged non-use of the Internet. A July 13 New York Times article quotes him as saying, "I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself."

Those critics don't understand the difference between doing and managing. McCain's acknowledged tech-savviness in 2000 enabled him to understand, manage, and direct what others were doing on his behalf without him having to do it, or even being able to do it, himself.

This is a distinction that recent Democratic presidents, to their detriment, did not understand. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were both infamous for micromanaging and creating decision-making logjams. Meanwhile, Republican Ronald Reagan was ridiculed in the press for his morning naps and his hands-off style; but in his administration, things actually got done.

But let's get back to Trippi and his relevance to the 2008 Obama campaign's "McCain can't e-mail" ad.

Take your pick:

  • Barack Obama and his campaign really are alarmingly ignorant of the history of high-tech campaigning, and of the truth about John McCain's tech knowledge and capabilites.
  • Team Obama crafted a fundamentally dishonest, mean, and offensive ad despite knowing the truth.

I don't believe there's a third choice.

Many of those at traditional media outlets surely know the history of McCain's Internet campaigning. Many of them, operating in "Anybody But Bush" mode, fawned over the Arizona senator in 2000. Yet they are so in the tank for Barack Obama that I don't expect any of them to cite how out-of-touch and downright ugly his "McCain Can't E-mail" ad is.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.