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Daily Digest: Crafting Obama's Triangle of Press, Public, and Politics

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, January 15 2009

  • Is Obama 2.0 an Extension of Dean's DNC?: The LA Times' Peter Wallsten serves up what at first glance looks like some juicy details on what evolution of Barack Obama's campaign organization will look like once he puts his hand on the Bible Tuesday. Dig into it a bit, though, and it starts to read a lot like a super-charged version of the 50 State Strategy that Howard Dean pioneered at the DNC. Obama for America 2.0, writes Wallsten, will spend millions in privately-raised funds to pay former campaign workers to do campaign-y things: "arranging phone banks, distributing signs, recruiting more helpers, buying coffee and doughnuts for house meetings and reporting voter contact data to senior officials." Against the advice of some senior folks in the Obama campaign, the organization will be housed within the party, under incoming chairman Tim Kaine's watchful eye. So what, exactly, makes this anything but a well-funded, data-driven extension of what the party has been good at up until now? (For more on where Obama's organization and momentum go from here, check out the Washington Post's Lois Romano's interview with David Plouffe, as well as takes by New York Magazine's John Heilemann and Time's Michael Scherer.)

  • Barack Obama, Newsman: In retrospect, writes Media Channel's Danny Schechter, we all failed to appreciate how much the Obama campaign created its "own media apparatus," one that shifted the balance of power between the candidate and the press. It probably goes without saying that ramping up a (relatively) low-cost media operation in the chaotic context of a campaign wouldn't have been possible in the dark pre-Internet days, but there, we said it. When you think hard on it, it also seems likely that Obama benefited from a shift in the public's media consumption habits where became as trusted a news source as the New York Times or Katie Couric. But the Atlantic's Mark Ambinder raises a smart (if troubling, depending on where you stand on the whole "future of journalism" debate) point. By routing around the press, will President Obama be hastening the end of establishment media?

  • Archiving the Living Fed Web: The White House Office of Drug Control Policy might be on Twitter, but they're having a tougher time taking to Facebook. Why's that? As National Journal's Winter Casey reports, government archiving rules create the expectation that whatever bureaucrats put online be recorded for posterity. (Via David All) That's simple with something linear like Twitter. It's a bit tougher, though, with interactive environments like Facebook or MySpace. (Though the on-going White House email debacle a case study in how it can prove impossible for government to record even the most straightforward digital content.) One point, though. Whatever Facebook status updates ODCP posts is meant to be reviewed by as many eyeballs as possible. We're all watchdogs today. Are ambitious federal archiving regulations still the best approach for such über-public content?

  • Mr. Stoller Goes to Washington: We noted a short time back that Open Left blogger Matt Stoller had gone native, taking a job on Capitol Hill. It turns out that Stoller's joined up with freshman Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) as a "senior policy advisor." Stoller is, not unexpectedly, doing things differently than your traditional Hill staffer. He's posted a YouTube video on his old blog home in which Grayson grills a Federal Reserve official on some $1.2 trillion (yes, trillion) the Fed has lent to banks at home and abroad over the last few months. The official declined to tell Grayson just where that trillion (yes, trillion) or so went, so Stoller reached into his bag of blogger tricks, asking for help figuring out "what kinds of questions should we pursue" in upcoming hearings. In other Hill YouTube news, Rep. Buck McKeon opens up about how his charmingly unscripted behind-the-scenes videos came to be. (Via Patrick Ruffini) Well worth a watch, but we'll tell you this: McKeon owes much to a particular WalMart that keeps especially late-night hours.

  • Forget Big Brother...: LittleSis pegs itself as "an involuntary facebook of powerful Americans," and, yep, that's basically what it is.* The beta site builds profiles of political figures revealing who they know, where they've worked, and what kind of cash they've kicked in to candidates and causes. LittleSis is counting on its audience to flesh out the site. They concede that their information might be a little off, especially in the early going. "Our job is to give you a quick look at the big picture and links to help you research the details," read the FAQs. "Your job is to do the research and check your sources." It will be instructive to watch what happens when one of those "powerful America" isn't pleased with what LittleSis has to say about the circles they run in.

  • Calling for Conservative (Venture) Capitalists: The Next Right's Patrick Ruffini draws lessons from recent woes facing the SoapBlox blogging platform preferred by progressive bloggers. When it comes to the right, writes Ruffini, "[w]hat we need, and what currently doesn't exist, is something that can translate the goals and strategies of conservative funders into specific and fruitful technology projects."

  • Victory Garden Victory: While we eagerly wait for the results of's Ideas for Change in America contest, which wraps at midnight west coast time tonight, here's a look at the priorities on the minds of Americans. On Day One, a project of the Better World Fun, held a similar competition to deduce the best suggestion for Obama's first steps. The winner "[P]lant an organic Victory Garden at the White House."

  • Two figures who made their mark on the Internets have new gigs worth noting. Former Wonkette and editor Ana Marie Cox has joined up with Air America as an on-air and online political correspondent. And Five Thirty Eight's numbers guy Nate Silver has a new Esquire column called...wait for it..."The Data."

In Case You Missed It...

Tom Watson picks up on some details about stimulus transparency from the confirmation hearing of OMB nominee Peter Orszag -- including the memorable Joe Lieberman line, "Define PDFs."

Nancy Scola says that posting the raw digital photo of Obama's official presidential portrait makes him a "brave man."

And our Andrew Rasiej joined Pew's Lee Rainie and the Brookings Institution's Darrell West on DC radio station WAMU's "Kojo Nnamdi Show" earlier this week to discuss "the future of e-government." Give it a listen.

*Note: LittleSis is funded by the Sunlight Foundation, to which our Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry serve as senior advisors.

Got tips, leads, or story ideas for the Daily Digest? Get in touch. Email or contact @techpresident on Twitter.