More on the Push Poll

Well, it’s been an educational few days (if you haven’t read the post below about the push poll call I got from the Clinton campaign, you might want to scroll down and check it out).

My little phone call recording has gone from Huffington Post to Daily Kos to Politico to ABC news, and it looks like POTUS 08 (the XM satellite radio channel that covers the race and nothing else) is going to interview me on air Tuesday morning.

The comments have been fascinating, too, both on here and on the media sites.  I’ve been called either an idiot or a really good guy on public media sites by people from all over the US and a few from Europe.  

I was torn about whether to edit the comments here – I feel ethically OK about editing because I don’t consider this a public site, so I feel like I bear some responsibility for what’s said here. Kind of like having a rude guest at a party in your living room. It’s my place, so I feel some burden to shut them up or escort them out if they’re hurting the people around them.  In the end, though, I decided to publish all of them that didn’t contain profanity in the interest of the public discourse, though I certainly was tempted.

Here’s the thing, folks.  I know some beautiful, intelligent, inspired people who support Senator Clinton, and yes, I even know some good, bright, kind people who are Republicans.  I treasure their friendships and I respect them.  Part of why I support Obama in the first place is that he has avoided demonizing and dehumanizing people in general. He’s trying to raise the level of the general conversation. Can we avoid insulting each other and rather concentrate on holding each other accountable?  

This stuff is important, and of course we have to ask the tough questions, but there’s a difference between a tough question and an insult.

By putting this out there, I’m trying to hold the Clinton campaign accountable, not insult them. Let me be clear that if I did get a push poll from the Obama campaign I would record it and put it out to the media. That would only be fair. I’m deeply impressed by the transparency of his campaign, and that’s what justice is: everybody being subject to the same rules.  I would do that in the interest of justice, even though it would hurt the candidate I support.

I think this phone call was pretty despicable, and I think when the candidates make this kind of choice it should be made public.  I’m not willing to insult people, though.  That’s not the point.  I’m not going to ‘go negative,’ and I hope Obama won’t either. It’s one of the fundamental differences I see between the campaigns: I honestly believe that Obama would rather keep his integrity and lose the race, and sadly I don’t see the same signs coming from the Clinton campaign.

Here’s the thing — I’ve done some digging around and I can’t find *any* reference to the Obama campaign doing anything like this.  I think that’s because they’re not doing it.  The accusations are that his inspiring speeches are just empty talk.  Well, how do we check that to find out?  Against his actions, I think.  And his actions seem to speak pretty loudly.

Hang in there, people. Let’s try to inspire each other and keep to the high road, listen to each other and speak truth as we understand it, while understanding that there may be more truth out there to learn.

Oh, and while I’ve got the floor – thanks for caring enough about this stuff to chime in. Even you ranters. 😉



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16 Comments on “More on the Push Poll”

  1. Jen Says:

    We got these push polls a lot here in Iowa and all were anti-Obama. I’d give crazy answers just to make the caller crazy that I wasn’t choosing from their set of answers. Then the week prior to our county conventions in March, we (Obama delegates) got robocalls from the Clinton camp. They consisted of tidbits about her “experience” and blah blah blah, then with a rousing finish: if you’d like to be a delegate for Hillary Clinton, press 1. I was so very tempted to press 1 just to see what they’d say next but wasn’t willing to risk my delegateship. Not likely via a phone call given there’s paperwork that has to be signed, but I wasn’t taking the chance anyway.

    These kinds of tactics are repulsive. The fact that they only come from Clinton’s camp says it all and reveals why “their” way of doing things is not the way we want things done.

  2. mdgirlforobama Says:

    thank you for sharing your experience. one of the north carolina bloggers on the barack obama site got a similar call and was as you were, very disappointed.

    she states she asked where he was calling from and did not get an answer.

    I have many relatives from north carolina, and am going to warn them about what is going on. I would like to say that I am surprised about the Clinton campaign tactics, but alas, this is par for the course. Do you think bringing this to the light of the media, would make any difference? I would assume it is going on in Indiana as well.
    So sad.

  3. Sarah Cooley Says:

    I so agree with you, David. (It’s Sarah, an old-schooler–the one who saw you play in CH a week ago AND saw you at the Cat’s Cradle 16 years ago). I became an Obama supporter (over Clinton and Edwards) last fall. Like I said on my blog: “Of the three, Obama strikes me as being the least crushed if he didn’t win the Democratic nomination or the US Presidency. This is precisely why he’s getting my vote.”

    He’s rather do his thing with integrity and lose, than to sell out to win. It’s what I’ve thought all along.

  4. Flander Annapollis Says:

    I am not suprised at anything her campaign has done. Years ago, I remember someone on television saying that Bill could not hold a candle to what his wife is capable of. It is ashame that she is “one of ours”, or is she? How could a female allow her daughter to see what she is capable of, does this mean Chelsea is the next Clinton to run for office while lying her way to the top.

  5. FormerNorthCarolinian Says:

    I don’t think the phone call you got was unusual. I’ve done issue realted campaign work, and calling registered voters, and presenting information & getting feedback is just how it’s done. I didn’t hear anything nefarious about the phone call, despite how it’s being spun.

  6. John Says:

    I listened to the push poll, and I have to say that when you said “no doubts” to uninsured health care…you MUST be kidding. How will single payer health care aka obama’s health care plan cover all people in case of an emergency? If something happened to your wife/gf/mom and she is uninsured today and gets in an injury tomorrow, how will obama’s health insurance cover you? nice try

  7. Mark Says:

    Although I will probably be rebuffed almost immediately after posting this, I do feel the need to clarify what exactly you mean by, “…doing anything like this.” Are we speaking solely of push-polling (which I do agree, is a play straight out of Karl Rove’s handbook), or of negative, misleading attacks in general? I don’t know where you’ve been doing your ‘digging’, but this link is the very first one in the auto-generated links:

    (The original article is on Ben Smith’s blog at Politico)

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but does this not strike anyone else as a dirty ad? Yes, I can already hear the army of Obama die-hards chiming in to say, “Hey don’t blame Obama for these ads, they’re not from his campaign!” If the hypocrisy pointed out in the blog (Edwards and 527s) doesn’t deter these zealots from their claims about the distance Obama (and apparently his spokesman too) should be allowed to keep from the ads, those people should consider the fact that they very likely blame Bush and his campaign for allowing the Swift-boat ads to continue and bring down Kerry in 2004. Allowing Obama to dodge the blame for ads like this has Double Standard written all over it.

    This is not to suggest in anyway that Clinton’s camp has not already engaged in dirty, tactics (she has), nor to excuse them. This is politics at its best (which, one could argue, is simultaneously its worst), and I would simply like to try and help dispel this myth (and it is most certainly a myth), “…that Obama would rather keep his integrity and lose the race, ” than resort to ‘disgusting’ tactics. Feel-good-Jimmy-Stewart-style honesty and humility make for great movies, but lousy (and short, see: Carter) presidencies. At this moment, the two most conceited people in America are very likely Senators Clinton and Obama, and with good reason: to lead the free world, one needs to believe that one is better than every single other individual in the country (and be willing to take extraordinary steps to prove it).

  8. Bill Says:

    Well said David!

  9. lowerdryad Says:

    A few responses (note that I still have chosen to post all these comments, though they all require my approval)…

    • Former North Carolinian: Cool. If you don’t hear anything nefarious, then I don’t guess it should concern you. I’m not actually interested in spinning, and I’ve been clear that if Obama were sponsoring these kinds of calls, I’d record them and broadcast them too.

    What I do here is some duplicity: pretending to be what you’re not. They’re not trying to gather data, they’re trying to convince you of their underlying premise. When you present a question that’s over a minute long, consisting of multiple statements, then ask a question based on that information that gives you no opportunity to dispute it, that’s not trying to gather useful data. It’s propaganda disguised as polling. That’s deceptive. They’ve got every right to do it, but it doesn’t make them look good.

    • John – you’re absolutely right. That’s not my honest answer, because it’s not an honest question. The data in the question is erroneous, which makes the question meaningless and manipulative. I made that clear in my original post. I gave contrary answers just to hear the rest of the questions and not let myself be manipulated into the answers they wanted.

    My honest answer is “If that were true, I would find it disturbing.” That’s not an option that the pollster offered.

    • Mark – your source for that story loses a bit of credibility with me due to the fact that they can’t spell “precinct,” and that they don’t know the difference between “ad” and “add.” Not very serious or intelligent journalism.

    But on to the larger point. I wouldn’t claim for a moment that Obama’s campaign hasn’t done anything that I don’t agree with/approve of. But yes, as you predicted it does matter to me that this ad wasn’t made by his campaign, and yes, I was speaking a bit more specifically. McCain and Clinton have both used push polls extensively. Obama has not. That speaks volumes to me. He claims that his campaign is about doing politics in a different way, and the facts seem to bear him out.

    I don’t confuse Jimmy Stewart with Obama, and I won’t get into a long discussion of the Carter presidency, but if honesty doesn’t seem like a significant criterion for being President to you, then we really do have pretty different world views. I think a lack of integrity has been one of the biggest problems we’ve faced in the White House in the last few years, and I think Obama really does bring that integrity.

    And I think you’re over-reaching a bit with your last statement. One doesn’t have to believe one is better, only that one is the best person for this job at this time of the candidates that have presented themselves. I agree with him on that one. I’m not quite sure how the humility/arrogance question got in here, though – I was talking about push polling.

    Thanks again, all, for chiming in.

  10. Karin Says:

    John in the comment above appears to be a little bit confused. Firstly, neither Obama nor Hillary are offering a single payer health insurance model – although I personally think that would be a pretty good idea. Single payer means that although you might have different insurance delivery mechanisms, all health insurance is covered out of one single government pot, paid for in some form through taxation. It’s a bit like social security.

    Both Obama and Clinton are proposing a universal coverage system that it not singel payer, with the biggest difference between them being that Hillary makes this coverage mandatory while Obama does not. Both have extensive initiatives to make helathcare mroe affordable, and they aregue with each other about whose would be more successful. The reality is we can’t be sure which plan would be better from this point of view but we can be 99% certain that either plan would make coverage significantly more affordable than our current highly inefficient system.

    As for the question, “if she is uninsured today and gets in an injury tomorrow, how will obama’s health insurance cover you?” – the simple answer is that yes, Obama’s plan has extensive provision for catastrophic coverage that will indeed act as a safety net to cover even those people who are otherwise uninsured.

    All best wishes,


    PS: Yes, I’m an Obama supporter. But I’m an even bigger supporter of “let’s get our facts straight”.

  11. Mark Says:

    Fair enough; Humility was off topic, and truth be told, that should have been directed more to a friend with whom I was having a similar, but admittedly less factually based, argument with. It is off topic, and my fault for injecting it (personally I find “best person for the job at this time” to be effectively the same as “better than everyone else” at least for the short term, but like you say, it is irrelevant to the topic at hand).

    To address your points:

    -I am not quite sure how to address your questioning of journalistic integrity. Perhaps first by pointing out the logical fallacy of equating nuanced or specific problems in an article or blog with an inability for the author to relate factual content to an acceptable degree of accuracy. Or maybe it would be better to point out an analogous situation (cringe-worthy from the view of formal logic) and point out that major news outlets misspell words and names in their publications and on their websites all the time, yet we still (or at least I do) give them the benefit of the doubt (case in point, the New York Times Finally, as I said before, the article (sans Edwards and 527 talk) came from Ben Smith, at politico, who I hope we can give some journalistic credibility to:

    I devote a disproportionately large number of lines to your journalistic integrity accusation because by placing it first in your response, you are able to discredit the source without actually addressing its contents.

    -I will address your later point first, before getting to the push-poll at hand. Honesty is certainly a criteria for presidency in my world view, because as many have pointed out, a dishonest person cannot be trusted to transform rhetoric into policy. I do not think that either Senators Obama, Clinton or even (loathe as I am to say it) McCain are dishonest individuals. As you point out, this is a question of integrity, or perception thereof, and I simply do not agree with the the contention that Obama’s campaign conforms to a profoundly higher (or lower) standard of integrity than Clinton’s does (however he most certainly conforms to a higher standard than the McCain campaign).

    -I suppose if we proceed from the assumption that all Push-Polls are created equally, then yes, Clinton has engaged in “demonizing and dehumanizing” her opponents, especially if we consider this poll:

    to be just as bad as this poll:

    While I find Clinton’s to be distasteful, it hardly strikes me as something that can be compared to turning Bangladeshi orphans into illegitimate black babies. In the world of push-polling offensiveness, misleading questions about NAFTA and energy bill votes strike me as being very mild. Allowing ads like the one I linked above to continue to be aired and taking the opportunity to denounce it as an opportunity to denounce Clinton, seems to me to lower the general discourse.

    Finally, even more telling for me perhaps, is that the Obama camp’s refusal to denounce the 527 ad came early in the primary, when he was by no means the presumptive nominee, and indeed was polling behind Clinton in most places. What has changed since then, that he now can take the high road without resorting to these tactics his campaign used in January? He’s in the lead, and will probably win. He doesn’t need to be aggressive, he just needs to finish. So while I don’t think that if the tables were turned we would suddenly see Obama’s evil twin, I do think that we would be having a different conversation about polling tactics.

  12. lowerdryad Says:

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for sticking with this conversation. It’s a good one, and you’re making a good case.

    You make a good point that I dismissed that article without really addressing it. Repeatedly misspelling basic political vocabulary like “precinct” in a public article, though, without taking the trouble to spell-check it, does speak of a certain sloppiness that generally corresponds to intellectual sloppiness as well, so I do take that article less seriously than Ben Smith’s. I don’t always agree with Ben, but he’s certainly a sharp political writer and a smart guy. Same goes for you, based on our few exchanges.

    I think I did respond to the article, though, by saying, as you predicted, that a call directly from Senator Clinton’s senior strategist is more damning to me than an ad from a union that has endorsed Senator Obama. I’m with you that Bill Burton should have condemned that ad. Point taken, but I it’s hardly equivalent.

    It seems to me that almost all of the attacks on Obama have to do with some other person he’s associated with, seldom himself, and frankly, I’m shocked that they can’t come up with more. I know if I were foolish enough to run for office there would be plenty of ammunition for my opponents based on my *own* actions.

    As for push polls being equated, I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that the call I got was as offensive as the one you link to attacking McCain with racist lies and slander, Nor the Swift Boat ads against Kerry, for that matter.

    The reason I wrote about it isn’t that I think it’s the story of the century, but that this one happened to *me.* The Clinton campaign made a phone call to my house and lied to me, asking manipulative questions and slandering her opponent with mythologized untruths, not only about the NAFTA affair, but claiming that Senator Obama chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee with oversight over Afghanistan (verbatim), which is a blatant lie.

    You can’t stretch the facts that there are European troops in Afghanistan and that Obama chairs the subcommittee on European relations into that accusation. I find that offensive. Not the most offensive thing that ever happened in a campaign, but worth sharing with other people who may be interested.

    Obama has been counted out, then the presumptive nominee, then down again, up again, etc. throughout this race, and at no time during the whole thing has he resorted to using this tactic. That impresses me, and it’s OK with me if it doesn’t impress you.

    Make of it what you will. If the call doesn’t bother you then you don’t need to factor into your decision, but I certainly don’t think it is inconsequential, and I’ve received plenty of thoughtful response thanking me for sharing it, so I suppose it was worthwhile.

    By the way, I could see how you might misunderstand me, reading over my own comments, but when I used the phrase “demonizing and dehumanizing” I was talking about trying to keep our own (citizens’) attitudes right. There have been comments on this blog (from people on my side of the race, no less) that disappoint me. I have no need to talk about ‘repugnicans,’ as one commenter wrote, nor to demonize Hillary Clinton or anyone else. That’s not the point.

    The point in sharing this is simply to hold Senator Clinton accountable for her own decisions in calling my house and lying to me. If I receive a call like that from the Obama campaign, I’ll share that too, as I expressed before.

    Thanks again for the good conversation.

  13. bryce Says:

    I heard you perform years ago, first thing in the morning, at the Black Mountain Folk Festival (or was it the LEAF by then). Anyway it was great to hear you, again, on POTOS 08 this a.m. Thanks for bringing this issue to the attention of others. I live in Muncie, In. (another battleground) and have been volunteering for the Obama campaign when I can. I has been very empowering to be participating on a grass roots level. I have helped seat folks at the Obama town meeting here, passed out Dave Mathews tickets, driven folks to the airport, made phone calls, and have gone door to door to get out the vote and get information to undecided voters. In all my interactions with both local and national Obama employees and volunteers, I have been struck by the consistency of the message to stay positive and respectful in this campaign and do politics different than it has been done before. I have even observed bloggers on the Obama site monitoring themselves and each other in this respect. Their lack of willingness to make personal negative statements about Sen. Clinton pervades and has inspired me to bite my tongue on several occasions. In spite of the lack of belief by those outside of the campaign (not evidence-based), inside of the campaign the apparent difference in the Clinton and Obama campaigns is striking. The real story that is being missed may be the very different processes of these campaigns, rather than the outcome of the primaries.

    As you have indicated, if we want to make good decisions about our leaders, we must think and observe a bit on our own. Are their actions consistent with their words? How can we expect a candidate to be truthful and transparent as a leader (something that has been lacking for years) when they have trouble being truthful and when they engage in deception in their campaigning? I realize that what I am supporting is an ideal that even the Obama campaign may fall short of at times. But, at least it is a guiding principle for the campaign and from what I have seen, from top to bottom strong efforts are made in the Obama campaign to engage in actions that are consistent with this.
    Thanks again. Bryce

  14. Mark Says:

    Thanks for keeping this going as well, its definitely the most interesting and well thought-out conversation I’ve had about the two candidates in a while. Truth be told, I think you have hit square on the dilemma that I had when choosing between the candidates in the first place. It would have been my greatest wish (and likely would have been the wish of the entire party, especially the leaders trying to avoid conflict) to see each candidate serve a happy and productive 8 years in office, one after the other. I remember my first time seeing Obama speak in person several years ago, and being extremely impressed with the poise, intelligence, and honesty I saw there (I also remember an audience member asking whether the title of “Senator” was the highest we would be seeing in front of his name, and the subsequent raucous cheering, and the mandatory, coy response, “We’ll see, right now I’m quite busy being a Senator”). If Clinton and Obama were running in different elections, no dirt would have been dug up, no negative advertising thrown inside of the party, and easy victories for the next 16 years.

    Unfortunately, the head to head matchup did happen, which has definitely brought out the worst in these campaigns and their affiliates. While I still firmly believe that Clinton is the better candidate (right now) for the job, her campaign’s antics are admittedly trying my patience these days. Most offensive to me actually, is not push-polling, or negative advertising, but outright pandering: pretending to support a gas tax holiday that will NEVER be enacted is outrageous not only because it is an empty promise, but also because it is something that the republican propaganda machine is spewing out. We’re not supposed to be a little bit better than that; we’re supposed to be MUCH better than that, and breaking with Obama on this issue is killing me. I take a somewhat (but not excessively) cynical view of the mechanics of this political process to begin with (and nothing will likely change that for me, I simply feel it is the nature of the beast ;)), which perhaps allows me to have a little more ‘moral flexibility’ (to blatantly steal a phrase from “Thank You for Smoking”) than many would. As a result, I am willing to allow a little bit of ends justification, provided the job gets done and everything is ultimately healed. Clinton’s campaign is definitely starting to push the limits of that boundary, and I am finding it more and more difficult to imagine an end so powerful and compelling that I can forgive things like this pandering along the way. As long as her campaign is not reduced to incessant and blatant slander, I will probably be able to stay by it. However I am wishing more and more these days that one of these two would have been blown out in the last several months so that this would not have occurred (people may not have liked party bosses choosing candidates, or short, meaningless primary seasons ending after the third state, but at least neither of those two situations ever created rifts like this). Hopefully the June deadline that Howard Dean has set will give everyone enough time to cool down, and move on with this.

    One thing that I am confident about (and hope that others can agree with) is that either candidate will be an excellent president, and a huge step forward for a country that seems to have lost its way.

    Thank again for your thoughtful and compelling input. I believe THIS is what elevated discourse is :).

  15. Jean Says:


    Thanks for bring this to light. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to get the news anchors to report on this.
    This makes me more determined to work harder than ever to get Senator Obama elected.
    If you have any suggestions on how to get your story and others like it on the main stream media, I would love to know.

    Keep up the good work!

  16. jeremy Says:

    @Flander Annapollis:

    “How could a female allow her daughter to see what she is capable of, does this mean Chelsea is the next Clinton to run for office while lying her way to the top.”

    This is what really skeeves me out about Hillary, the extent that her family is going to support her campaign reeks of dynasty. 3million people in the US and why is it being run by the same few families? Probably because democracy doesn’t really exist.

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