Obama's a Mudder
1. "Barack Obama's presidential campaign 'scored a significant hit' against chief rival Hillary Rodham Clinton 'by helping to place' a story about tainted Democratic donor Norman Hsu, according to an article about Obama in the December issue of The Atlantic," Lynn Sweet reports.
"The story, titled 'Teacher and Apprentice' by associate editor Marc Ambinder, describes how Obama campaign staffers were 'frustrated' because the press was not covering Clinton 'in the way they expected it would.'
"'. . . And at a campaign event in Iowa, one of Obama's aides plopped down next to me and spoke even more bluntly. He wanted to know when reporters would begin to look into Bill Clinton's postpresidential sex life,' Ambinder writes.
"Hsu also was a donor to Obama's senate campaign and his HOPEFUND political action committee. If Obama's operatives had a hand in 'helping to place' the Hsu story, it would be counter to the claim that Obama was running a different and unconventional campaign."
Is that claim still operational?
"Asked for comment on whether the campaign had a hand in 'helping to place' the Hsu story, Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said 'We had no knowledge of Norman Hsu's past criminal activity, fugitive status or potential straw donor scheme until reading it in the newspaper.'"
Of course, this sort of thing would not be a departure for Obama, despite his rhetoric and especially considering the top aides he has chosen to run his campaign.
DAVID AXELROD: "Axelrod is known for operating in this gray area, part idealist, part hired muscle," the New York Times reported last spring. "It is difficult to discuss Axelrod in certain circles in Chicago without the matter of the Blair Hull divorce papers coming up. As the 2004 Senate primary neared, it was clear that it was a contest between two people: the millionaire liberal, Hull, who was leading in the polls, and Obama, who had built an impressive grass-roots campaign. About a month before the vote, The Chicago Tribune revealed, near the bottom of a long profile of Hull, that during a divorce proceeding, Hull's second wife filed for an order of protection. In the following few days, the matter erupted into a full-fledged scandal that ended up destroying the Hull campaign and handing Obama an easy primary victory. The Tribune reporter who wrote the original piece later acknowledged in print that the Obama camp had 'worked aggressively behind the scenes' to push the story. But there are those in Chicago who believe that Axelrod had an even more significant role - that he leaked the initial story. They note that before signing on with Obama, Axelrod interviewed with Hull. They also point out that Obama's TV ad campaign started at almost the same time. Axelrod swears up and down that 'we had nothing to do with it' and that the campaign's television ad schedule was long planned. 'An aura grows up around you, and people assume everything emanates from you,' he told me."
So Axelrod is calling the Tribune reporter a liar. Did he demand a correction?
ROBERT GIBBS: "Obama clearly dipped into the slimiest corners of DC to pluck out Gibbs," writes Kos. "[O]ne can't help but get a little cynical hearing Obama talk about 'changing the tone' and all that bullshit, while hiring a well-known smear-meister best known for his work trashing other Democrats."
Jerome Armstrong writes that while working for John Kerry in 2004, Gibbs "embraced" a primary ad in 2004 "that slowly moved in on a Time magazine cover featuring bin Laden, zooming in on a close-up of Osama's eyes, while saying that Howard Dean was an unqualified Democratic candidate because of his lack of military or foreign experience."
PETE ROUSE: "Pete Rouse is the Outsider's Insider, a fixer steeped in the ways of a Washington that Obama has been both eager to learn and quick to publicly condemn," the Washington Post reports.
"Sen. Barack Obama had hired Pete Rouse for just such a moment.
"It was the fall of 2005, and the celebrated young senator - still new to Capitol Hill but aware of his prospects for higher office - was thinking about voting to confirm John G. Roberts Jr. as chief justice. Talking with his aides, the Illinois Democrat expressed admiration for Roberts's intellect. Besides, Obama said, if he were president he wouldn't want his judicial nominees opposed simply on ideological grounds.
"And yet this is the Washington of 'cheap political points' and 'petty' partisanship that figures prominently in Obama's public speeches these days. 'I know I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington,' Obama tells his audiences. 'But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change.'"
"Obama had always opposed the Iraq war, one of the left's biggest issues, but in his first two years in the Senate, he did not make it his focus. He gave few speeches on the war and voted for funding it while opposing timetables for withdrawal - both stances that he has reversed since he started running for president.
"On an issue even more delicate on the Hill, Rouse warned Obama to be careful how he pursued congressional ethics legislation - a cause bound to irritate some other senators. Obama, pushed by Gibbs, went as far as voting against an ethics bill that most Senate Democrats supported last year, although under Rouse's guidance, he steered clear of publicly criticizing Democratic Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) for what he felt was a weak bill.
"When the Senate last month approved a bill that banned lawmakers from flying on corporate jets at discounted rates and required disclosure of the names of lobbyists who also serve as 'bundlers,' rounding up contributions for candidates, Obama touted his role in getting it passed."
"And Rouse continues to educate Obama on how to be an effective senator."
Maybe Obama should learn that before attempting to be president.
"There have been limits, though, to Rouse's success at forging close ties between Obama and his Senate colleagues. In the race for senators' endorsements, Obama has received just one: that of his fellow Illinois Democrat, Sen. Richard J. Durbin."
Still filled with hope?
Then: ""To some liberals, the proposal was a no-brainer: a ceiling of 30 percent on interest rates for credit cards and other consumer debt," the Tribune reported in June. "And as he left his office to vote on it, Obama planned to support the measure, which was being considered as an amendment to a major overhaul of the nation's bankruptcy laws.
"But when the amendment came up for a vote, Obama was standing next to Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), the senior Democrat on the banking committee and the leader of those opposing the landmark bill, which would make it harder for Americans to get rid of debt.
"'You know, this is probably not a smart amendment for us to vote for,' Obama recalled Sarbanes telling him. 'Thirty percent is sort of a random number.'
"Obama joined Sarbanes in voting against the amendment . . . There remains no federal ceiling on credit card interest rates."
5. "In contrast, in 2000 I had high hopes for President Bush," says Cass Sunstein, University of Chicago law professor and Obama friend and supporter. "I thought [Bush] could be a very good president."
(Also from Sunstein: "I think [Hillary] has been turned into a cartoon by people who dislike her, and the cartoon really does involve an information cascade. There are things said about her character, her conduct, her plans, which have no basis. Once they start circulating they start being widely believed. Even if the particular fact isn't believed, there's a kind of odor that its dissemination produces.")
6. "It's an all-out implosion by the Obama campaign," Kos writes. "This truly is indefensible."
"I honestly don't understand why it's even necessary to point this out, but [I've found that] it absolutely is. Saying something positive about a specific candidate does not mean that one: (a) is voting for that candidate; (b) is encouraging others to support that candidate; (c) believes the candidate espouses every correct view on every issue, (d) sees the candidate as flawless and god-like and the embodiment of political salvation, or (e) hates all the other candidates," Glenn Greenwald wrote recently in Salon.
Posted on November 9, 2007
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