Obama and Clinton Going Nose to Nose on Rumor Mill

18 11 2007

The chattering classes have been paying a lot of attention to the recent tiff between the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s campaigns inspired by a column by Robert Novak regarding a rumor making its way through Democratic circles. Novak claims its Clinton’s folks are the ones spreading it. But Novak, who is not noted for strong sources among Democrats, should not report on rumors, and he should be vehemently criticized for doing so.

In fact, unless there is somehow a way to substantiate the claims, the press in general should not report on rumors. Thats what people go to People Magazine for, not newspapers.

And they got nerve to say bloggers are the new yellow journalists.

By the same token, I do see some value in trying to understand how the campaign have tried to spin such gossip as they assume a tit for tat posture for political gain. At any rate, here is what 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 Obama campaign sensing this has the making of a swift boat campaign immediately swung back with a statement of their own “The cause of change in this country will not be deterred or sidetracked by the old ‘Swift boat’ politics. The cause of moving America forward demands that we defeat it.”

And then there was the Clinton response

This is how Republicans work. A Republican-leaning journalist runs a blind item designed to set Democrats against one another. Experienced Democrats see this for what it is. Others get distracted and thrown off their games. Voters should be concerned about the readiness of any Democrat inexperienced enough to fall for this. There is only one campaign in this race that has actually engaged in the very practice that Sen. Obama is decrying, and it’s his. We have no idea what Mr. Novak’s item is about and reject it totally. Instead of pointing fingers at us, Sen. Obama should get back to the issues and focus on what this election is really about.

And then there was more after that that you can read about here. In previous posts, I wondered out loud about Obama’s willingness to strike back when the opposition gets nasty, but in this instance I think he may be perceived as paranoid and hyper sensitive in some quarters. Of course, that’s the chance you take during the course of a campaign. Allowing attacks to linger, particularly if you know they are baseless will only embolden detractors to continue their onslaught.

On the other hand, it does seem as if the Obama camp is probably not that interested in whether or not the rumor originated with someone in the Clinton campaign. Perhaps, their response sounds principled on first glance, but the really they are trying to slow down Madame Inevitable by trying to engage her and make her respond.

He (Obama) called on Clinton to release the alleged information — or renounce the whole thing. He added: “She of all people, having complained so often about ‘the politics of personal destruction,’ should move quickly to either stand by or renounce these tactics.

If she publicly disavows such attacks, then the Obama campaign can somewhat neutralize future attacks from the Clinton campaign or at least imply that they are part of her “politics of personal destruction.” Of course, the Clintonistas will not take the bait of renouncing the attacks since they are eager to make the Obama camp look naive and desperate for attention.

I doubt either side will succeed at accomplishing anything in the near term and probably should just agree to a cease fire — at least on this issue. More than likely, this will all result in draw.

And just think its not even January yet.

(H/T: Think on these things.)

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