Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dangerous Bedfellows, Part II

So the Matt Drudge-affiliated website, the Politico, cites an "anonymous" Clinton aide making the incindiery claim that Clinton would target Obama's pledged delegates. That's an amazing bit of information to let slip if true, and the veracity of the story should be severely questioned due to the potential damage it could do to the Clinton campaign (why admit that?) as well as the messenger (Roger Simon of all people!).

Naturally, Obama supporters having paid attention to the way rumors and innuendos are churned out regularly by GOP hack shops, then parrotted reflexively by mainstream outlets to launder and amplify the charges in order to greatly damage Democratic candidates refused Actually, they jumped all over it, with nary a grain of salt in sight!

This is equal parts shortsighted, superfluous and succor to the enemy. Think about it: with Obama the presumptive nominee, tarring Clinton with this dubious accusation was more or less unnecessary from a political advantage point of view at this time. Further, as the likely Democratic candidate, the Politico, Drudge and various Swift-Boat like outlets will soon train their sites on Obama (they've started already) - and the Obama camp has just bolstered the Politico's credibility.

Unfortunately, the Obama camp is going to find it harder to dismiss the Politico outright since it has already treated its reporting as legitimate. What the Obama camp should have done was immediately undermine the messenger, call out the Politico for what it is, taken the high road and thus preserved its principled objection to the source. Not only would Obama have looked bigger - actually practicing the "new kind of politics" that he so eloquently preaches - but he would have reinforced the frame that there are right-wing rumor mills in the business of making unfair attacks so that in the near future, when Roger Simon starts quoting "anonymous" sources in the Obama camp making startlingly suicidal "confessions," the public would be primed to interpret the slander as such.

Furthermore, Obama's future rebuttals to Politico et al it wouldn't appear opportunistic and defensive, since the Obama camp would have already taken the same stance when the unfounded rumors were being spread about an opponent. This is part of what I was getting at in a post last week about the risky flirtation with right wing media and rhetoric. That's one voracious beast to feed.

(To his credit, staunch Obama supporter Scott Lemieux is hip to the game)

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