David Perdue (AP/Phil Sears)

David Perdue's "terrorism" assault: The predictably pathetic state of Georgia's Senate race

The Georgia GOP Senate candidate is wielding Michelle Nunn's leaked campaign strategy just as cynically as imagined


Jim Newell
October 3, 2014 11:15PM (UTC)

Earlier this year, a 144-page compilation of memos outlining the strategy for Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn's campaign leaked to National Review. The bulk of the document was mundane and unsurprising: apparently Michelle Nunn, the Democrat candidate, intended to turn out important Democratic voting blocs in her quest for victory! Intriguing. Her campaign also sought to "raise" "money" from "donors." Highly unorthodox stuff, there.

The leak was nevertheless embarrassing, and one part of the memo bundle, specifically, left her vulnerable to various nonsensical -- but effectively nonsensical -- attacks from her Republican opponent, David Perdue. "The Research team will produce a ‘pushback’ document for each identified vulnerability in Michelle’s record," the strategy document read, "as well as common attacks frequently leveled against Democratic Senate candidates." The Research team used its extraordinary imaginative powers to come up with such predicted attacks as "Nunn is a rubber stamp for Democrats" or "Nunn is not a ‘real’ Georgian" or "Nunn is Obama’s/Harry Reid/Nancy Pelosi Best Friend." And then there was this presumed political vulnerability from Nunn's time as CEO of the volunteerism non-profit Points of Light: "service awards to inmates, terrorists."

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The research team believed Republicans would highlight a five-figure grant from a Points of Light-owned business that funneled its way to an Islamic charity that has partnered on disaster relief with another Islamic charity that once had an account closed by one British bank over terrorism funding concerns. It's a tenuous link, but something that any good counter-opposition researcher would prepare for.

When the memos leaked, we here at Salon made two (not especially reckless) predictions: Georgia Republicans would use the leak to legitimize over-the-top slams on Nunn's record -- her campaign said so in the first place! -- and the Points of Light foundation, "a sort of bland non-profit to promote volunteerism established by George H. W. Bush, and named after a famous line from one of his speeches," as we wrote at the time, would have its name dragged through the mud as a supporter of terrorism.

Well, you'll never guess what happened!

It's even grander than we could have imagined, working in footage of scary ISIS dudes and railing against amnesty, all at once. But hey, "Michelle Nunn's own plan" justifies it.

The ad, however riddled with predictable nonsense, was effective enough to force Nunn to cut one of those embarrassing, look-straight-at-the-camera defensive ads denouncing Perdue's allegations. And Neil Bush, son of George H.W. Bush and chairman of Points of Light, has trashed the ad:

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Neither Points of Light nor Michelle Nunn have had anything to do with funneling money from our organization to terrorists organizations. Anyone who makes that claim needs to understand the facts and then they need to denounce those claims. To attack an organization founded by my father, whose integrity is unimpeachable, to smear our organization for political gain, is in my opinion shameful.

Meanwhile, Perdue has the luxury of being able to dodge all questions about the accuracy of his attacks by reiterating, over and over, that this came straight out of the Nunn campaign's own plan. Nevermind that the context of the plan was, here's some stupid shit that the Republicans are likely to say. Perdue can just plug his ears and sing "la-la-la she started it la-la-la" until Election Day. That's precisely what he did, for example, on a radio show this morning:

Perdue: “This ad from my Democratic opponent is exactly out of their playbook. It is a distraction from the real issues. I mean this ad that we had is straight out of Michelle Nunn’s own campaign plan. They raised it in their plan as a serious concern and a vulnerability. This ad really contrasts where the two candidates stand on the issues. I’ve been extremely clear for the past year and a half about where I stand on national security and the need to secure our border. …

Bryant: “Let me ask the question directly then: Do you believe Michelle Nunn is in any way associated with terrorist organizations?”

Perdue: “Well, that’s what it says in their plan, Tim.”

Says it right there in their plan, Tim. Tim, did you see the plan? It's all part of the plan. Tim. The plan to unleash ISIS terrorists on America through amnesty. Nunn, Reid, Pelosi, Obama, Big Government, Communism. This is The Plan. I am no fan, Tim, of the plan.

It would be cool if David Perdue stopped releasing inaccurate campaign ads. But how does that old escape hatch from ethical responsibility go? "We live in the world as it is, not as it should be." So try not to let your campaign strategy documents leak, down the road.


Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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