Obama Learns Lessons From Democrats Past

OK class -- what have we learned this first full week of the general?

- This fight could be about taxes.

- It could be about the war.

- Or it could be about the backgrounds of the people who help the candidates explore the backgrounds of the people being considered for vice president.

- It might be determined by the Supreme Court (though probably not THAT way).

- Or by Ron Paul (who won't be the next president, but may still host the most interesting party in Minneapolis-St. Paul).

- Or even Mike Huckabee (true calling found?).

- Also -- Barack Obama has a Roman numeral after his name. (And you thought it was easy to tag him as an elitist before? At least there's is a higher purpose at work here...)

It hasn't been the smoothest of weeks for Sen. Obama -- but we do know he's no longer waiting for himself to be defined in this campaign. On the big (and little) issues above, this first week may have broken little ground, but Obamaland has served notice that he's leading the Democratic Party by playing a different kind of game.

You can read all about it online: "Barack Obama has vanquished the powerful Clinton Democratic machine, but he has not yet been able to beat back those persistent and untrue rumors about him and his wife," ABC's Jake Tapper reported on "Good Morning America" Friday. "So he has taken the unusual step of launching a new Website called fightthesmears.com."

"The Obama team acknowledges the old approach was doing nothing to stem the tide of questionable -- and in several cases demonstrably incorrect -- snippets about Obama's life," Christi Parsons writes in the Chicago Tribune. The new approach is "a far cry from past practice across the political spectrum," she writes.

It all sounds very un-Democratic -- surely not in the vein of Mondale/Dukakis/Gore/Kerry (or, at least, in the collective remembrance of said campaigns).

"Launching the website breaks what has been a conventional mindset in American politics: that giving attention to rumors only dignifies and broadcasts them to more voters," Scott Helman writes in The Boston Globe.

Lesson learned: "Barack Obama is tapping the Internet to try to deflect smears like the devastating Swift Boat attacks that four years ago questioned John Kerry's duty in Vietnam," Ken Bazinet writes in the New York Daily News.

"From now on, rather than try to ignore rumors when they start -- that Obama was a Muslim, did not say the Pledge of Allegiance, was not born in the U.S., etc., the Obama team will activate its millions of followers into an Internet-based truth squad to separate lies from facts, based on information at the anti-smear site," Lynn Sweet writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.

"What the Obama campaign wants to do is basically create a virtual army, with foot soldiers all across the country sending along the e-mails to counter what they consider the unfair, untrue e-mails," ABC's George Stephanopoulos reported on "Good Morning America" Friday.

Obama has played more defense than the Lakers this week -- but Jim Johnson's already well gone, and the campaign is shooting enough to score some baskets.

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