Why Did President Obama Choose Reddit?

by admin on August 30, 2012

This appeared on blog on August 30th, 2012

It may not go down in presidential technological history – along with FDR as the first president to appear on TV, or Truman as the first president to address the country on TV – but President Obama’s decision to hop on Reddit and participate in their “Ask Me Anything” session is an interesting sidebar to this tech-fueled political season.

Some are wondering why the president made the surprise decision to choose Reddit, over all the other social and community options available, including some more obvious choices like Facebook or Twitter or Google+. Could it be that Alexis Ohanian, one of Reddit’s founders, was active in the fight against SOPA?…read more »

Why GOP Branding Isn’t Working

by admin on August 30, 2012

This appeared on on August 29, 2012

There isn’t just one Republican national convention that started on Tuesday; there are four of them going on.

There’s the convention for the base, which is why Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz were up there, and why the day was suffused with religion.

Then there’s the convention for the undecided — or as they are called now, the persuadables. Anne Romney and Chris Christie were the headliners for this bunch. Mrs. Romney’s role was to be the humanizer-in-chief, and the governor’s role was to bring his blunt charm to independents looking for a lack of posturing and pandering. As the week progresses, other speakers will be carefully chosen for their ability to get fence-sitters to climb in their direction…read more »


Two Recent Guest Blogs

by admin on August 28, 2012

The first for VentureBeat, discusses Big Data and its impact on the campaign.  The second is from Mashable, and it’s a cautionary look at the ability of social media to change opinions.  This is critical given what a small number of undecideds are left; for example, 90% of people say they know everything they need to about President Obama.

You Bet Your Wife

by Adam Hanft on December 22, 2011

Both Rick Perry and Mitt Romney are betting much of their Strawpollian lives on commercials that feature the spouse trot. It’s a questionable strategy, one that’s transparently manipulative and likely to reinforce the candidate’s existing supporters rather than bring in the undecided.

Each of them are not-so-subtle attacks on Newt Gingrich’s wandering eye, and his roly-poly body that has historically been not too far behind.

Romney’s spot goes for the jugular in the most obvious fashion. Anne Romney hammers the message that peccadilloes are a presidential non-starter by saying “You can never predict what kind of tough decisions are going to come in front of a president’s desk. But if you can trust they will do the right thing…if you really want to know how a person will operate, look at how they’ve lived their life.”

Of course, that’s completely specious reasoning that is agnostic of politics, given that ghastly decisions have been made by uxorious Commanders-in-Chief, and brilliant ones by those who were led around by their own chief commander.

She closes by going as close to nuclear on Newt as a putative First Lady can get “…I think that’s why it’s so important to understand the character of a person. To mean that make a huge difference. Maybe to some voters it doesn’t. But to me it makes a huge difference.”

Meanwhile, Rick Perry’s spot features his wife Anita, sporting some serious big-hair that reinforces their Texas cred, the one element of his candidacy that is in no need of any validation.

She recounts their courting and marriage as “…an old-fashioned American story, I married my high school sweetheart.” Then she causes some Christopher Hitchens grave-turning – I’m actually pleased that his ire is being raised so shortly after his demise – by saying “…we grew up in small towns, raised with Christian values…and we know Washington D.C. could use some of that.”

At the end of the spot, Rick enters the frame unexpectedly – Gawker called it a cat-like pounce and says with the faintest of chuckles that he “really approves this message.”

It’s an attempt at humor and intimacy that falls flat as a tortilla made by an illegal immigrant.  It also reinforces Perry’s lack of gravitas, and highlights the struggle that political consultants find themselves in these days, as they navigate between the need to show warmth and humanity, and to project leadership.

Will these spots – and others that are bashing Gingrich work?  An evangelical group in Iowa has sent around a video that’s makes Perry’s and Romney’s spots look like subtle poofs.  It’s a high-energy accounting of his debauchery, calling him the “Kim Kardashian” of the GOP.

Romney should be more worried about Paul in Iowa, and should defer attacking Gingrich until later.  If Paul wins, Romney gets embarrassed and his inevitability gets seriously dinged.  Meanwhile, most polls show Gingrich in third place anyway, running behind Romney and Paul  – who are in a dead-heat according Nate Silver in the New York  Times, and few points ahead of Bachman.  The Times gives him a 9% chance of winning the straw poll.

Romney is making real strategic mistake.  (For Perry, it doesn’t really matter, his candidacy is done.)  What’s more, Gingrich’s true vulnerability here and elsewhere isn’t his multiple infidelities as much as a perception of high-beta emotionalism in general.  He’s off the peak of his polls, but if Romney, Perry continue to go after his spousal problems, it will backfire and highlight their individual weaknesses: Romney’s smooth and potentially fatal judgmentalism and holier-than-thou-ness, and Perry’s trigger-happy superficiality.

There are some people who believe a cheater is a cheater – falsum in uno, falsum in omnibus, as they say in Latin – and others who can compartmentalize.  Those mental framings are fixed, and money spent to shift them is money wasted.

America Isn’t Defined By Politics and Cable News; We Are More Civil Than Obama Gives Us Credit For

by Adam Hanft on January 13, 2011

President Obama is generally getting strong reviews for his speech last night, and I think he did a fine job of calling the nation to a higher purpose. There were even some moments when his rhetoric spread its wings, as when he urged us to “expand our moral imaginations.” Although there was nothing that came close to Peggy Noonan’s words written for Ronald Reagan, and spoken on the day the Challenger astronauts perished:

“We will never forget them this morning as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”

My issue, though, is that while the America the president describes might be the one he and his tight circle of advisors inhabit, it is not the one I see, or that most Americans do. The White House is in a bubble that magnifies the partisanship, the incivility, and the coarseness of the conversation. It is not surprising that from his point-of-view “our discourse has become so sharply polarized” that “we are far too easy to lay the blame for all that ails at the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do.”

But most American do not reside in a Manicheistic world that cleaves into an Olbermann/O’Reilly divide. There are over 200 million adults in America, and only a small fraction of them – like 3% – are regularly watching the cable programs that burn with heated rhetoric.

In fact, it’s the other way around. As the Pew Report puts it:

“Centrism has emerged as a dominant factor in public opinion as the Obama era begins. Both political parties have lost adherents since the election and an increasing number of Americans identify as independents. {In fact} The proportion of independents now equals its highest level in 70 years.”

The fact that most Americans are in the middle, that millions of us are rejecting the dogmatism of the two major parties, belies the description of the country that Obama put forth yesterday. The reality is that there aren’t many Americans for whom politics is the ultimate lens through which they see the world. There are only a handful, in fact, of those who will view the events in Tucson as a platform for ideological debate. When President Obama warns against speaking “…on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle” he is speaking from his own struggles and wounds, but isn’t capturing the mood of the vast majority of Americans – those for whom he should speak.

Outside of the dysfunctional world of the Beltway, or the absurd demonization of political advertising, or the ratings hunt that drives cable TV to ever-increasing heights of manufactured hysteria, or the rants of noisy but ultimately small groups of flame-throwers, most of “us” go about our lives with a level of civility and tolerance of differing political perspectives that doesn’t chime with the portrait of America painted last night. I am well aware that the Tea Party was the elephant in the room in Arizona – but it’s a mistake to turn its emergence, and its spotty performance in November, into a proxy for American attitudes.

Yes, the president is right on one level. Who can argue that we should “listen to each other more carefully” and “pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.” But last night, he made broad and sweeping generalizations that are inaccurate summations of the current state of American society; his implicit use of Fox and MSNBC and radio talk shows as proxies for our state-of-mind is as mistaken as any political stereotyping, whether it be immigrants as dangerous criminals or government workers as lazy sloths.

I understand why the president used the meme of a polarized nation as his foil. Creating an opposing framework is a classic rhetorical device. But in doing so, in misreading the true nature of American character, he actually credentialized the extreme voices – those on the angry right and angry left – who view the world in exactly the same way he describes. The “we” the president chose as his rhetorical peg is far, far less universal than the pronoun itself signifies.