Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Maybe I'm being hypersensitive, and almost certainly I'm being naive, but this item from Politico's Ben Smith, about David Plouffe's book on the Obama campaign, ticks me off:

...Obama's campaign had a particularly capable opposition research shop, a source of tips to many reporters, not all of them on policy. And Plouffe, in passing, outs the campaign as the source of a brief item I did in April 2007 off an Edwards campaign expenditure....

"We did much less of this [opposition research] than other campaigns did," Plouffe writes a bit self-servingly, "but there were times we indulged -- it was our researchers who found John Edwards's infamous $400 hair cut expenditures."

It's maddening when people assume political reporting is driven by opposition research when you've actually dug up something yourself, but in this case, I'm in no position to contradict Plouffe's account....

Opposition research is a necessary evil in politics, and I'm certainly not going to defend John Edwards these days. But this isn't just an embarrassing item about a rival -- it's an item that played into two stereotypes that have dogged Democrats for years, and continue to dog them: Democrats as snooty elitists and Democratic males as girly-men. Did Obama's campaign really have to go there?

Edwards was, of course, the third Democrat tarred as an effete priss because of a haircut, after Clinton and Kerry. The Edwards story clung to him so relentlessly that it was being brought up nearly six months later in debates; it became the only fact worth discussing about Edwards, according to Maureen Dowd.

Would a Republican presidential aspirant's campaign attack a GOP rival using information that plays into negative stereotypes of right-wingers? Say, an association with a truly embarrassing preacher like John Hagee? Republicans attack one another, but don't they usually try to avoid handing our side material we'd be especially pleased to use if the target of the attack wins the nomination?

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