The Return of the War Room

I have been under the weather lately and did not realize until I read the New York Times yesterday that the directors of the War Room have made a follow up.  Unfortunately, I do not have the Sundance Channel at home so I did not watch it. But we talked about the documentary from 1992 in class a few weeks ago, and just as the War Room is a must see, I expect The Return of the War Room to be.


The directors Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker have interviewed the major players in the Clinton campaign in 1992; James Carville, George Stephanopoulos, Paul Begala and many more. The War Room made the players behind the scene famous – and I guess sometimes a bit more famous than their candidate. Think about Karl Rove


The War Room captures the notion of “— let no attack go unanswered, let no opportunity go unexploited — is common now. But in 1993, when “The War Room” was nominated for an Academy Award, a rapid-response operation was still an exotic concept.” I cannot remember the exact numbers that Paul mentioned in class. But in 1992, the rapid response reacted maybe 16 times a day, today a campaign responds 600 times to attacks. What a change in the war room. But watching some of the clips on YouTube, I realize that a lot of things about campaigning have not changed – just like Caryn James writes about in the Huffington Post after watching the new film.


This entry has also been posted on


Negative Campaigning

Tonight, Chris LaCivita visits my class Political Campaign Communications. It is easy to be outraged by the dirty tricks of negative campaigning that LaCivita has been involved in. He was behind the Swift Boat campaign in 2004 and now he is involved in The American Issues Project.

No matter what you think about the dirty tricks LaCivita – and , SEIU etc. – they are good at putting doubt in the voter’s mind. How good are they? I will get back to this point later!

 To prepare for this class, I read this in Washington Post to get an overview of the negative campaign – actually starting later in this cycle than in 2004. Here are some of the ads from both sides of the aisles that have been aired the last few weeks:


Know Enough?

By the American Issue Project


McCain Says We’re Better Off

By Service Employees International Union




My Friends







Conventions Speeches

This comment is also posted on my class blog, Political Campaign Communication as part of this week’s discussion. 


The parties’ conventions in Denver and St. Paul seem to be ages away. Since then, Palin frenzy has overtaken the agenda. But it can be good to look at the tag clouds from the conventions to be reminded what messages have driven each candidate – at least before and during the conventions.


My overall conclusion is that Obama tried to be more substantive than the public has (rightly or wrongly) perceived. And McCain tried to be more personal than usual.


According to the tag clouds in Washington Post (note that e.g. this one from Wordle is a bit different), Obama used promise, McCain, and change most frequently. McCain used fight, government, and life.


Obama surprised me by letting McCain take up so much space in his speech. As far as I recall, Obama was a bit tougher on McCain than he had been before (this will probably change now). But you should not talk about an elephant if you don’t want people to think about it! That was a least the point George Lakoff taught the Democratic Party in his book “Don’t Talk About An Elephant” a few years ago. Palin and McCain did a better job in this matter. McCain did mention Obama a few times, but Palin did not at all. (But everybody knew who she was referring to when she talked about community organizing).


Surprisingly, hope was not among Obama’s favorite words in his speech as it had been throughout the primaries. Is he changing his message here and creating a contract with the American people based on his promises? What does he promise? According to the tag cloud government, Washington, tax, and, the economy are important issues for him.


Erika makes an interesting point about the candidates and fight. Fight is one of McCain’s favorite words which has also been a part of Obama’s general message (fighting for the underprivileged). Fight is part of McCain’s attempt to position himself as a maverick changing Washington.  To underline this image McCain used change, Washington, and government just like Obama did. Furthermore, the word life stands out in McCain’s speech. He did talk a lot about himself, his serve, and family. On this occasion, Obama’s family and personal story was played down compared to his speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004.


Obama and McCain have both been the bipartisan candidates challenging the divided political climate in Washington. Bipartisan was not mentioned in any of the speeches. And it was not reflected in the VP nominations or speeches either. Historically, the VPs are playing the bad cop in presidential elections. Biden did mention John and McCain a lot of times, and the words Bush and wrong could indicate an attack. Palin’s attack is not so easy to see in the tag cloud. She talked mostly about America, country, McCain, and people. These might not be exclusive Republican, and maybe we do see an attempt here to appeal to the base, undecided and the other side (e.g. Hillary voters).



Summer Musings

I’m back to regular life after 5 weeks off. School started for me this week. It is my fourth semester at PR and Corporate Communication at Georgetown University. This semester I will focus on Strategic Communications Planning and Political Campaign Communications. Again I am thrilled to be in classes with intelligent and hardworking classmates and professors. It is time to do something else than just PR and technology! But of course tech will be an integrated part of both classes.


I have been offline in August spending time in Charleston, Savannah, and home on the farm where I grew up in Denmark. I also had the privilege to present my final project in Digital Campaigns on COP15 to two members of the COP15 web team. Of course part of my social media strategy was way too ambitious – like creating a conversation platform. But it was interesting to examine how the closed political process could be opened up. But it is a challenge to balance access, participation, Web 2.0, and control. I mean – it is hard to use YouTube or a blog and ignoring the dialogue including the critical comments. Well, I cannot wait to see the website the Danish Foreign Service is launching later this year. By employing a social media strategy, it is easier to reach out to green influentials in G8  countries – and they will be with us and our agenda – also if we have to use plan B and the successor treaty of the Kyoto Protocol won’t succeed in Copenhagen next year.


In the end of my vacation, I missed my online life and the daily dose of American politics. To be continued!

Can FISA Guide Us to the Future of Web 2.0 politics?

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon by Robert Goodwin from


Tonight the last class of Digital Campaigns will cover upcoming technologies and trends. For sure, technology will take politics on avenues that we cannot imagine. I am quite sure that guys we have followed in this semester (e.g. Cyros Krohn from RNC (interesting article in WashPost the other day), Netroots Nation, pdf08) have a vision of the next step. But something unforeseen—like YouTube did—can change it.  Right now, Obamania seems to write the Web 2.0 story of the 2008 election. Ruffini questions this in a well-written blogpost on Techpresident today.  It is all about fundraising and that does not fit all purposes at all times.


Control of social networking -?

For now I will leave the tech presentation to Garrett for tonight and allow myself to elaborate on loosing control of the political process because of social networking. The Dean Campaign 04 took social networking to a political “extreme”, and it is useful in insurgent campaigns, but in most cases we need a model capturing the strength of the Internet but retaining control of the political process. I stumbled into this question when I read the wrong chapters in Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope.


Please Get FISA Right

In this light, it has been really interesting to follow the group formatting and growth of President Obama – Please Get FISA Right on Obama’s SNS MyBarackObama. Talking about exponential growth, it had more than 14,000 members after a week. At the time, it was the biggest group but now it’s the fifth largest group. This group of Obama supporters used his campaign platform to organize against Obama’s support of the Congressional compromise on FISA.


It is not that surprising that it is happening. I mean this kind of conversation is the purpose of opening up a process allowing peer-to-peer production or collaboration. And in the old-world of politics, constituents have always tried to influence politicians to change policy. But it is NEW that a political campaign opens up, invite its peers to join and open platform, and then a group challenge the candidate from within.


Here is the potential for “a collective, public discussion” but we do obviously not have the norms for it yet. (Read Micha L. Sifry’s critical analysis of MyBarackObama as an organizing tool). For a few days, the blogosphere and others wondered how the Obama campaign would respond. Would Obama really listen?


According to Carlo Scannella, one of the organizers behind the group; “His response to the Get FISA Right group was a moment of validation; this became something real.”Obama’s response did not stop the group, and it is ridiculously easy to organize the grass root campaign online.


So what does it mean? Jeff Jarvis had an interesting point:


Now if a campaign is going to argue that it’s truly grassroots, what is it to do with a revolt or protest from within? I’ve argued since Howard Dean’s run in 2004 that campaigns aren’t or can’t really be bottom-up when it comes to policy. They are necessarily propagandistic: This is what the candidate says. Indeed, Dean’s supporters acted like white blood cells in his blog discussions quite effectively surrounding and strangling dissent and opponents in the bloodstream. That’s the way campaigns have to work if you’re going to decide what this guy stands for and whether to vote for him, right? It’s about the message, no?


And what does it mean for the future? It is great to see this kind of disagreement within a campaign. It is democracy – isn’t? And what we are seeing is that a group is organizing around an issue instead of around a party. As Garrett asked in class a while ago; How will Obama’s supporters influence a Obama White House?


We can only guess. Personally, I am excited and convinced that the possibilities and consequences are just as enormous as it was to send a man to the moon. (Sorry to end the semester with such a cliche).


Passing 2.000 Hits

Everything is about hits. I cannot remember where I read that earlier today researching for the blog I will post in a minute. Hits and Technorati Authority define a blog’s worth. SO I just have to share the new hit statistics: 2,058.  No exponential growth here except on a few ocassions where my professor linked to an old post – thanks to his current students in Social Media. The link from e.politics to my entry on Video as a Campaign Tool did help as well. And I do see some exponential growth in the hits on my COP15 post. But thanks God it is not a Perfect Storm or a Hocky Stick (see Joe Trippi).

One more post to go. Thanks to my class and Garrett for another great adventure. Enjoy August and some time off.

#COP15 from Copenhagen

For my final project in Digital Campaigns, I have chosen to develop a social media strategy for COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark in November/December 2009. For another assignment, I stumbled upon, the temporary Website for COP15. It is built on the Web 1.0 design that the Danish Foreign Service has used for 5-6 years. And to their defense, the new Website, they are developing, will hopefully include more Web 2.0 platforms than just the current RSS-feed.


The following is an excerpt but somewhat re-written version of my paper:


World leaders will assemble in Copenhagen and attempt to write the succeeding agreement to the Kyoto Protocol. It is a unique opportunity for Denmark to brand its progressive climate agenda and regain its reputation after the Cartoon Crisis in 2006.


However, it is a challenge to build an efficient organization and communications platform handling delegates from the 192 partnering countries, thousands of media outlets, NGOs, and other interested actors. It will be chaotic.  But a social media strategy will provide the tools and the directions to succeed in this chaos.


Exploring Social Media in Political Processes

Employing Web 2.0 platforms will represent a courageous and experimental strategy. Governments around the world have not yet embraced social media as businesses and NGOs have. It is also the case in Denmark, but a social media strategy should fit well in with the management skills of the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and with Denmark’s tradition of being a progressive and pioneering country. Furthermore, UN in general has wide experience in using social media in the political process, which Denmark could build on (Garrett Graff, lecture, Summer 2008).


However, the question is how do ordinary citizens (or green influentials) get access to relevant information about COP15 and engage in the negotiations?


The Internet can be a “platform for informed, interactive politics, stimulating political participation and opening up possible avenues for enlarging decision making beyond the closed doors of political institutions” (Sey & Castells, 2008, p.225). On the other hand, the Internet, especially open source projects, is user-generated, and the actual influence or participation is by no means obvious.


Taken to an extreme, this would be direct democracy – eroding the current representative democracy in the Western world as many politicians probably fear. Dean’s campaign in 2003 and 2004 tapped into the Perfect Storm[1] and is the perfect example of an “extreme” social media strategy. Politicians have also been cautious about opening up the political process because it is time consuming, and it requires giving up some control. 


The challenge for COP15 and for political processes in general is “to find a model of Internet politics that captures the strength of the medium, while retaining control and organizational precision in the hand of politicians (Sey & Castells, 2008, p. 228). Furthermore, social media should be used to mobilize the allies of climate change to put pressure on world leaders in the participating countries.


It does pose a risk for Denmark to experiment with a new framework for political decision-making, but hosting COP15 is in itself a risk. And anyway the green influentials in the Web 2.0 landscape will be listening, talking, and connecting about climate change and COP15 anyway.


All in all, the goal is to build a Web 2.0 platform providing a framework for climate diplomacy and providing the target audience (green influentials) information about and access to the COP15 negotiations, thereby sustaining accountable and transparent negotiations.


The social media strategy could include:


1. Social Media Site: integrating all the Web 2.0 platforms like 1Sky or

 2. COP15 Conversation Platform facilitates conversation and participation like does


3. Cop15Blog with sevaral voices like Tree Hugger, GristMill, and Daily Kos.


 4. The LinkedIn Group COP15 to sustain a professional network


 5. Flickr: I was there


 6. The COP15 Channel on YouTube featuring round ups and raw material.


 7. #COP15 – twittering during the conference like from Netroots Nation