Maybe we misjudged the quality of Tim Russert’s questions.
At the time of the Halloween debate, we appropriately criticized Russert for leading the assault on Hillary, with wedge issue questions, while asking Obama little of substance.
Russert questioned Obama as to his choice of Halloween costume. We mocked Russert’s question. Now as we recall that Obama answered he would wear a Mitt Romney mask, perhaps we were wrong. It turns out Obama decided to adopt Romney not just as a mask but as a role model too.
Recently the Obama campaign was in full drama mode over a Ripublican Bob Novak column. Mitt Romney too was in full drama mode. There were similarities to both dramas:
Former Bay State Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign furiously denied rumors yesterday that his own supporters were involved in calls placed to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire that spread anti-Romney smears under the guise of conducting a poll.
Political strategists and bloggers slung accusations at Romney’s camp yesterday after a scathing article appeared in the National Review titled “Did Mitt Romney Push Poll Himself?” which identified several Romney supporters at Western Wats, a Utah-based firm believed to have made the calls. The practice of using phony polls to plant a negative message is commonly known as push-polling. [snip]
Among the questions asked during the 20-minute calls placed last week were whether the person polled knew Romney received Vietnam-era military deferments while serving in the Mormon missionary in France, that none of his sons served in the military and that the Mormon religion didn’t accept blacks as bishops until the 1970s. [snip]
The National Review article cited sources who speculated Romney’s camp put the hit out on itself “because his campaign wanted polling data regarding the negative perception of his Mormon faith for internal use.” But others speculated a motivation to pre-empt attacks on Romney’s faith.
As the Romney push polling story developed, it turned out the few people who received the alleged phone calls were Romney employees.
Deepening the mystery surrounding the anti-Mormon polling calls, the Romney campaign is confirming that it referred reporters to two recipients of the calls without disclosing that the two were also on the Romney campaign payroll, TPM Election Central has learned.
In response to questions from TPM Election Central, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden confirmed that the campaign had failed to disclose this info to reporters. Madden suggested that the campaign had identified them as “supporters,” which is a far cry from being directly paid by the campaign, as the two call recipients were.
The revelation could add grist to the theory — now spreading on conservative blogs and even getting coverage by news organizations — that the Romney campaign itself is behind the calls. Some have speculated that the calls — which attack Romney and refer to his Mormon faith while saying positive things about McCain — are an effort by the campaign to test negative messages about itself while getting McCain blamed for the calls.
The new revelation could give more ammo to those who question whether the firm making the calls — which is already reported to have on staff several people who have donated to the Romney campaign — knowingly called Romney supporters because they could be counted on to tell the press about the calls and to suggest to reporters that Romney rival John McCain was behind them.
It also raises the question of whether the Romney campaign referred reporters to the callers — without disclosing their relationship with the campaign — for the same purpose.
Over the weekend, Robert Novak printed what used to be called a “blind item” but now is called “daily journalism.”
Novak wrote: “Agents of Sen. Hillary Clinton are spreading the word in Democratic circles that she has scandalous information about her principal opponent for the party’s presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama, but has decided not to use it. The nature of the alleged scandal was not disclosed.”
The item probably would have died a quiet death — there have been a number of presidential candidate scandal rumors percolating on the Web that have not gotten much attention — when Obama assured that it would reach critical mass.
Obama issued a vigorous and lengthy statement saying the Novak item was “devoid of facts” and was “Swift Boat politics.”
But the guilty party, Obama made clear, was not Novak; it was Clinton.
“If the purpose of this shameless item was to daunt or discourage me or supporters of our campaign from challenging and changing the politics of Washington, it will fail,” Obama said in language that neatly fit into his campaign theme. “In fact, it will only serve to steel our resolve.”
And he issued a challenge: “In the interest of our party, and her own reputation, Sen. Clinton should make either public any and all information referred to in the item, or concede the truth: that there is none.”
Obama also whacked Clinton for hypocrisy, because she had stated during last Thursday’s debate in Las Vegas that she did not like the politics of “throwing mud” but was now engaging in it herself.
Politico listed several reasons for the Obama reaction, two of which we find interesting: “it served as inoculation so that if more stories surface, Obama can claim they are just more Clinton-inspired dirty tricks” and “it shifted press attention away from Obama’s poor debate performance in Las Vegas and onto Hillary’s allegedly poor behavior in leaking scurrilous information.”
Obama does not want to answer questions about Rezko or about his previous non-public life. Any question about Obama’s ethics and associations and finances is blasted as being “old”, “answered”, or “swiftboating”. But all the questions about Rezko are recent, open and relevant.
In the recent series of campaign statements Obama was imitating Romney but in bed with Karl Rove.
If Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Hillary Clinton’s campaign told him that they had some dirt on Obama, would Obama’s staff react as they did to the Robert Novak column of November 17? And yes, I am putting Novak in the same category as the crazy Iranian leader. Novak has damaged U.S. national security as much as Ahmadinejad with his exposure of Valerie Plame and the subsequent destruction of her clandestine intelligence network.
Why has Senator Barack Obama kept the Novak story alive through repeated statements for days? Is he just naïve or is he misinformed? Is he really so unfamiliar with the journalistic incest of Washington and Novak’s status as a Republican hit man? Why would Obama focus his campaign on unfounded “smears” circulated by Novak? Why would Obama, the candidate of “hope,” pump up the claims of Novak, “the prince of darkness”?
Larry Johnson, author of Why is Obama in Bed with Karl Rove? needs to read this site more often. For Obama smears is normal operating procedure:
The Republican smear masters had already tipped their hand for dealing with Hillary Clinton. Look at Karl Rove’s debut column in Newsweek, where he lays out the strategy that Obama appears to be parroting:
“And so the question to John McCain from a woman at a town hall in South Carolina last Monday was tasteless, but key: ‘How do we beat the [rhymes with witch]?’ Right now, Republicans are focusing much of their fire on Senator Clinton. Criticizing her unites the party, stirs up the unsettled feelings many swing voters have toward her and allows each candidate to say why he is best able to beat her.”
With Rove’s instructions to Republicans in mind, take a new look at Obama’s reaction to Novak. Is Obama wearing a wrist bracelet that says, “what would Karl Rove do”?
Robert Novak is a seasoned conservative columnist with a long history of publishing falsehoods, distortions and gossip. And he has been in bed with Karl Rove in running “information ops” against democrats. For decades he has been renowned for inflating shreds of tidbits of rumors into major stories to support various Republican efforts. In 1992, Karl Rove, one of Novak’s regular sources, was fired from the campaign of President George H.W. Bush for leaking derogatory information to Novak about Bush’s campaign manager and friend, Robert Mosbacher. In 2003, Rove again served as a source to Novak, leaking the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson. Even though the CIA warned Novak not to disclose her CIA identity in the interests of national security, he did so, insuring that Rove got a copy of the column before it was published. In 2004, Novak promoted the smear campaign of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth against Senator John Kerry’s heroic Vietnam War record. When it was revealed that Novak’s son was the marketing director for the right-wing publisher of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth tract defaming Kerry, Novak expressed disdain about the conflict-of-interest: “I don’t think it’s relevant.”
By his own admission Novak’s latest hyped controversy has no basis in fact. On November 17, he wrote, “Agents of Sen. Hillary Clinton are spreading the word in Democratic circles that she has scandalous information about her principal opponent for the party’s presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama, but has decided not to use it.” His sourcing consisted of “word of mouth” and unnamed “experienced Democratic operatives.” Two days later, on Fox News, where Novak is a commentator, he confessed that he had heard a rumor from someone who had heard a rumor from someone. In short, he had no facts, perhaps explaining why Novak has been dubbed “No Facts” for years.
Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson’s categorical statement would seem to have put an end to this pseudo-event: “The Clinton campaign has nothing to do with this item.” But it did not end. Instead, it is being kept artificially alive.
As soon as Novak published his rumor, Obama elevated and dignified it as though it had credibility. “But in the interest of our party, and her own reputation, Senator Clinton should either make public any and all information referred to in the item, or concede the truth: that there is none,” he declared. Obama turned the alleged smear upside down. Rather than acknowledge that the predictable right-wing smear artist Novak was responsible for the innuendo, Obama accused Senator Clinton of being ultimately to blame. With this extraordinary statement, Obama lashed himself to Novak’s credibility as a reliable source on a story that transparently lacked any true source.
Larry, Larry, Larry — we deal with Obama’s smears every day – Obama knows exactly what he is doing.
Even when the Clinton campaign forthrightly again denied the item was false and that no one involved in the campaign had anything to do with it, Obama’s campaign refused to let the matter die. Obama campaign manager David Plouffe once again accused Senator Clinton and her campaign of doing what Novak claimed: “Are ‘agents’ of their campaign spreading these rumors? And do they have ‘scandalous’ information that they are not releasing?”
Once again, the Clinton campaign openly stated it had nothing to do with the story at all. Then, Plouffe made another statement that suggested Obama had somehow wrung a confession out of the Clinton campaign and still implied that it was behind Novak’s lie: “The Clinton campaign has admitted that they do not possess the ‘scandalous information’ in question and we take them at their word. But what we don’t accept is their assertion that this is somehow falling for Republican tricks.”
The following day, November 19, Obama began a new line of attack, picking up a discredited story circulated months ago. “I’m not in this race to fulfill some long-held plan or because it was owed to me,” Obama said. An Obama spokesperson reinforced the point: “Barack Obama has not been mapping out his run for president from Washington for the last 20 years like some of his opponents.”
Wow, Larry Johnson does get it.
But where did this new attack originate? Just as he had used Novak’s false story for the previous two days, now he tried to damage Senator Clinton’s reputation by using another patently false story. Months ago, Jeff Gerth, the reporter who spent years hyping the Whitewater fables as real, and his co-author Dale Van Natta, attempted to promote their anti-Hillary screed, “Her Way,” with the supposedly startling revelation that Hillary and planned to run for president 20 years ago. But Gerth and Van Natta had no actual source. And the one source to whom they did attribute the story, Pulitzer Prize winning historian Taylor Branch, was someone they never interviewed and who told the Washington Post, “The story is preposterous. I never heard either Clinton talk about a ‘plan’ for them both to become president.”
Despite this story’s exposure as false for months, Obama eagerly exploited it to try to portray Senator Clinton as Lady Macbeth. First using Novak and then Gerth for his materials, he painted her as a dirty trickster, dishonest and recklessly ambitious.
But why does Obama do this? Once Novak’s story was exposed as a smear itself, why didn’t he stop? Why did he keep it going? And why did he revive the Gerth falsehood to tarnish Senator Clinton’s character?
Obama’s tactics appear in sync with Rove’s script. His feigned victimhood is a negative attack on Senator Clinton’s character to drive the numbers, which in turn Obama hopes will determine the nomination. While posing above the fray, but executing Rove’s strategy and exploiting Novak’s innuendo, Obama has embraced the audacity of hype.
“Audacity of hype” is a weak description of what Obama is doing. A correspondent sent us this:
“all his moves and attacks are in this manner, being dirty, and stupid (i guess his stupidity and the willingness of the press to play along is really what bothers me) and then hiding behind high-minded rhetoric is the CLASSIC bush move – and it IS NOT that the deomcrats went along, as obama says and dirties the well for his own party. it’s the media that really fell for it, and created a political climate in which it was very hard to oppose bush, because doing so would get you hammered in the press. If the democrats were tougher from the begining, yes they might have been able to stop that, but you need massive organizational, coordinated strenght like the republicans have wielded in the past 20 years to push things in the other direction. And when Obama comes out and attacks the democrats it’s just a form of sabotage – shows that this guy cares nothing but for himself – ofcourse he actually believes progressive ideas, but when you are so self-obsessed with yourself, and dastardly as he is, the actual result is counterproductive to the overall progressive effort. He has gotten so caught up in his own abilities, that he is sacrificing everything he thinks he believes in. That’s the other reason Im pissed- it’s hubris in the most classical greek sense, his story really is the backbone of greek tragedy, because everything he does is self-inflicted. Anyway, just a real lowlife all around, not taking a shot at the media, because as we discussed he really craves these peoples respect, not realizing they deserve nothing but contempt”
Sounds about right to us. Obama’s models appear to be his cousin Cheney, Romney and Rove.