Milt Rosenberg, host of the WGN radio program Extension 720, had Stanley Kurtz on the radio last night (podcast/mp3 here). Most people would never have noticed. Dr. Rosenberg is an intellectual and talks about various erudite subjects that a lot of listeners would find incredibly dull and dry. However, when the Obama campaign sent out an email to supporters telling them to call WGN radio to tell them not to air the show, suddenly a lot of people were listening. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the radio station was flooded with emails and phone calls.
What did this do? It gave Dr. Rosenberg's show, and WGN, a HUGE number of listeners. Zack Christensen, the show's producer, mentioned that show has gotten the greatest response ever from a campaign or candidate. After listening to WGN for the better part of today, I'd have to agree--people were still calling in throughout the day to the radio shows, even when the topics were completely unrelated. I happen to think that's great for WGN and Dr. Rosenberg, I like them both.
What I don't like is how this makes the Obama campaign look. I think they are making tactical errors on this issue. What are these mistakes?
1. They declined to come on the show to explain their position. If you want to counter what you think is a smear campaign, then talking to Dr. Rosenberg reasonably would have been the single best way to handle this. The campaign missed a prime opportunity to handle this appropriately.
2. This is an over-reaction, and it makes them look like they have something to hide. Let's face it, Obama's relationship with Ayers is going to come under fire. Obama has dealt with that by saying he didn't agree with Ayers' unrepentant bombing. Fair enough, but now it just looks like the Obama campaign is very worried about what's in those documents that Kurtz has been researching.
3. It's going to make people wonder if Obama thinks the First Amendment applies to everyone except him, since it looks like the campaign wants to suppress free speech.
4. It just gave Kurtz, who the campaign people think is smearing Obama, a lot more press than he really deserved.
All this has done is give tremendous bad press to Obama's campaign. If they had just come on the show to give a rebuttal (perhaps a few nights later), it would have been a far more reasonable move, and it would never have given Kurtz the national press attention he's now enjoying. Obama's people should have left that little flame alone. Instead, they've managed to turn it into a raging forest fire.