As the Presidential campaign heats up, efforts by Obama to attract new voters have to be matched by measures to keep his base intact and maintain internal cohesion in the face of John McCain’s attacks along his seams. With Obama losing momentum in the past few weeks, the game seems to have switched, to use a basketball metaphor, to defense. Although Obama is sure to use the Denver convention as a platform to attack his opponent and his policies, he is not neglecting measures to keep his troops in line. One priority is to blunt any attacks before they open up a gap that can be exploited. If sweet talk won’t work, then threats will be employed. The Politico reports that Barack Obama’s campaign has written the Department of Justice demanding a criminal investigation of the “American Issues Project,” which sponsored an ad linking the candidate with William Ayers. Obama general counsel Bob Bauer argued “that by advocating Obama’s defeat, the ad should be subject to the contribution limits of federal campaign law, not the anything-goes regime of issue advocacy. …”
Bauer’s letter called on the Justice Department to open “an investigation of the American Issues Project; its officers and directors; and its anonymous donors, whoever they may be.” … “The Obama campaign plans to punish the stations that air the ad financially, an Obama aide said, organizing his supporters to target the stations that air it and their advertisers.” … Obama’s campaign has written a pair of letters to station managers carrying the ads. The letter calls the ad’s attempt to link Obama to terrorism “an appalling lie, a disgraceful smear of the lowest kind on the senator’s patriotism and commitment to the rule of law.” Airing the ad “is inconsistent with your station’s obligations under Federal Communications Commission regulations,” the letter continues, saying Simmons’ group lacks formal incorporation.
Within the Democratic party itself, the process of “healing the rifts” may mean in practice mean cracking the whip to get people back in line. In Denver, an African-American Illinois woman delegate for Sen. Hillary Clinton, Delmarie Cobb, accused Emil Jones, a supporter of Sen. Barack Obama, of calling her an “Uncle Tom”. Jones later explained she mistook the term “Doubting Thomas” for “Uncle Tom”. Cobb recalled:
“There’s this feeling out here that we’ve somehow betrayed the race,” Cobb said. “The attitude (from Obama supporters) is that they’re going to beat you into submission and make you admit you were wrong for supporting Hillary.”
The National Organization of Women has called on Jones to resign from the Illinois State Senate, where he was widely known as Obama’s “political godfather”. But I think it’s just plain wrong to accuse Jones of sexism. He would have called Cobb a “doubting Thomas” even if she were a man.