Friday, January 19, 2007

Handling A Hit Piece

Barack Obama is certainly the most talked about politician in America. The glowing reviews of his autobiography, the comparisons to the glory days of JFK and Camelot, the chatter about his presidential aspirations are all part of a brilliant PR campaign. However, there are other people with high hopes who are willing to provide the media with fodder for scandal. How you handle a hit piece could mean the difference between ultimate success and tragic failure.

Check out this article from yesterday on Insight Magazine's website with the header, "Hillary's team has questions about Obama's Muslim background." Here's how the story begins:

Are the American people ready for an elected president who was educated in a Madrassa as a young boy and has not been forthcoming about his Muslim heritage?

This is the question Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s camp is asking about Sen. Barack Obama.

An investigation of Mr. Obama by political opponents within the Democratic Party has discovered that Mr. Obama was raised as a Muslim by his stepfather in Indonesia. Sources close to the background check, which has not yet been released, said Mr. Obama, 45, spent at least four years in a so-called Madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia.

"He was a Muslim, but he concealed it," the source said. "His opponents within the Democrats hope this will become a major issue in the campaign."

When contacted by Insight, Mr. Obama’s press secretary said he would consult with “his boss” and call back. He did not.

Big mistake. Politicians have an alarming tendency to avoid confronting controversial issues in their past--but when you can show that you have overcome the issues or solved them in a socially acceptable way, why not embrace the problem and celebrate your victory?!?

In this case, Sen. Obama could say, "It was never my intent to hide my Muslim upbringing--I guess since my life is now filled with the love of Christ, it just seemed to me to be a part of my childhood environment and not a conscious life decision that I should be worried about. I am much more concerned that there are politicians who preach tolerance yet promote intolerance. If they want to use religious bigotry to further their worldly ambitions, then I feel sorry for them."

Insight Magazine has presented a ticking bomb for Obama--and if he really has the right stuff for a presidential run, he will difuse it rather than refuse it.

UPDATE: It looks like the hit piece was based on false information--here are the details from the Chicago Sun-Times:

"Barack Obama's week-old presidential campaign has been hit with a smear. Hillary Clinton's White House bid, launched Saturday, has been attacked with an unfounded accusation.

Contrary to what was reported in Insight magazine and then repeated on Fox News and in other news outlets, including a column that ran in the Sun-Times by free-lancer Mark Steyn, Obama was not educated in a radical Islamic school when he was an elementary student in Jakarta.

And there is no evidence whatsoever that Clinton's campaign had anything to do with spreading the damaging rumor that Obama hid a Muslim background."

A free pass for both campaigns...but my advice still stands.

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