In 2008, a video taken by a cell phone at a San Francisco fundraiser cost Barack Obama the Pennsylvania primary when it caught the candidate claiming that rural voters bitterly cling to guns and religion in tough times, as well as their xenophobia, as an explanation of why he wasn’t polling well in the Keystone State. One might think that Obama would have learned to stop saying foolishly arrogant comments about voters. Instead, he’s just learned to confiscate cell phones at fundraising events:
In the latest attempt to crack down on potentially embarrassing digital leaks from presidential fundraisers, President Barack Obama’s campaign has begun asking donors attending small fundraisers with the president to turn over their cell phones before entering.
Pool reporter David Nakamura of the Washington Post reported that at a $35,800 a head fundraiser at the home of Blackstone COO Hamilton “Tony” James in New York City Monday night, the 60 attendees were asked to place their phones in plastic bags by the door.
An Obama aide called the move it “standard operating procedure,” but veterans of a range of other campaigns said they’d never heard of the practice, which is common in secure White House spaces where there are concerns of espionage, but unknown in contexts in which only political secrets are discussed. The new prevalence of sophisticated audio and recording capacities in mobile devices owned by virtually anyone wealthy enough to write a check to a political campaign, however, has put a new pressure on campaigns concerned with staying on a public message.
That is SOP in Congress, where visitors have to surrender cell phones and other recording equipment before being seated in the gallery, but … the proceedings are broadcast on C-SPAN anyway. Other campaigns ask attendees not to record the proceedings at intimate fundraisers, but according to campaign pros contacted by BuzzFeed, no one has ever heard of a campaign confiscating cell phones. A former Hillary Clinton aide called it “absurd,” while Rick Perry’s campaign manager gets to the heart of it:
Former aides to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Rick Perry, and Jon Huntsman all expressed surprise at the practice, and they’ve never seen an instance where a campaign asked donors to surrender their cell phones. …
“What is he hiding? Candidates should be for and against the same issue in private as they are in public,” said former Perry campaign manager Rob Johnson. “This shows just how uncomfortable the Obama team is with their message an their candidate. And in addition to religion and guns, voters like to cling to their cell phones.”
What is he hiding? His next bout of foot-in-mouth disease, of course. Obama and his team must be pretty sure that they can’t trust the President to talk extemporaneously if they’re this concerned about hiding Obama’s responses. After more than three years of writing this feature, I can’t say that I blame them, either … even if it means getting less material in the next five months.
Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.
Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!