Well, there I go again; using kung fu as a metaphor. I can’t help it today, ’cause there’s just no other way to describe what happened.
First, The blogs were buzzing about this lame and overly dramatized ad that featured Hillary Clinton as a woman who apparently never sleeps (or, at least, never puts on pajamas) and is able to answer a ringing phone at 3am. I know what she was trying to get across with this thing (that only she has the experience to handle whatever terrible news that phone call may bring), but I’m not sure it’s really going to work. Maybe this was the “kitchen sink” we were promised. I dunno. Half the blogs thought this would be a better ad for McCain to run. All I know is that the ad got a lot of attention and reaction on both sides of the spectrum today (complete with some Matchbox 20 references), and there seemed to be an air of anticipation for Obama’s response. Whether that perceived need was borne from the effectiveness of the ad or simply the hype that surrounded it, I’m not sure, but it was there.
Well, we didn’t have to wait too long. Within hours:
I don’t think these ads will work this time because the question is not about picking up the phone. The question is, what kind of judgment will you exercise when you pick up that phone. In fact, we have had a red phone moment; it was the decision to invade Iraq.
Senator Clinton gave the wrong answer. George Bush gave the wrong answer. John McCain gave the wrong answer. I stood up and I said that a war in Iraq would be unwise. It cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars. I said that it would distract us from the real threat that we face, and that we should take the fight to al Qaeda in Afghanistan. That’s the judgment I made on the most important foreign policy decision of our generation.
A reporter asked whether Clinton should drop out after Ohio and Texas. Obama adviser Richard Danzig responded:
“I would encourage you on March 5 to call Sen. Clinton at 3 a.m. and ask that question.”
Ouch! And most impressively:
You saw that right. Obama came out with a rebuttal ad…the same day! Apparently Obama has taken the criticism that he is dangerously slow to counterattack to heart, because I think even the Obama-haters out there would have to find that impressive in and of itself. That phone rang, and Obama answered. While Hillary’s camp was spending $100,000 at the deli, Obama was obviously putting together a pretty good team (a quality that would also reflect well on him as president).
Exit question: Can we expect the political warfare to continue to be fought on the battleground of youtube.com? The “1984” vid may be revealing the tip of the iceberg. With a relatively small but competent staff of video editors and sound mixers, a candidate could crank out stuff like this a few times per day. For free. The only danger, I suppose, is the more you put out, the less control you’d have over the message. This would increase the likelihood of something coming back to bite you in the ass. But with a well-oiled machine, these kinds of instant rebuttals can be quite powerful and effective.