Smear 'Em if You Got 'Em

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Thank Yahweh for Mike Huckabee, or else this attack by Clinton surrogate Bill Shaheen would be the most boneheaded smear of the election.

"The Republicans are not going to give up without a fight … and one of the things they're certainly going to jump on is his drug use," said Shaheen, the husband of former N.H. governor Jeanne Shaheen, who is planning to run for the Senate next year. Billy Shaheen contrasted Obama's openness about his past drug use—which Obama mentioned again at a recent campaign appearance in New Hampshire—with the approach taken by George W. Bush in 1999 and 2000, when he ruled out questions about his behavior when he was "young and irresponsible."

Shaheen said Obama's candor on the subject would "open the door" to further questions. "It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'" Shaheen said. "There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome."

Oh, the gormlessness, the pretense of hypothetical attacks, the veneer of worry: It was beautiful. Sadly, Shaheen apologized immediately afterward, although he remained careful to leave the insult hanging in the air. He clearly thinks—or wants primary voters to think—that being open about one's drug use is worse than covering it up or lying about it. Apply that logic to the mountain of Clinton stories that will percolate if she's the nominee (Ron Burkle, donors to the Clinton global initiative, laundered campaign donations) and you understand why Democrats are cooling on her.

In related news, Robert Novak noted that Clinton attack on Obama's PAC from about a week ago. I said it was a stupid attack; Novak and his sources agree.

NEXT: The Third Coming of Alan Keyes

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  1. This guy is the Dan T. of political operatives.

  2. I don’t think drug use as a teenager matters at all in politics anymore.

    But Obama sure does have the Clinton people worried. He’s a point up in New Hampshire – not Iowa, but Clinton’s firewall New Hampshire – in a CNN poll today.

  3. I called this…yesterday. Who was it who thought that Hillary was insufficiently politically tone-deaf to make attacks like this? This isn’t the regular dirt. This is the *special* dirt.

  4. This is special dirt?

    You have a very low pain threshold, Elemonope.

    Bill Clinton was accused of rape, murder, and drug trafficking. John Kerry was accused of cowardice in battle and treason.

    Is this your first election? Put on your seatbelt. This is kindergarten.

  5. John Kerry was accused of cowardice in battle and treason.

    Plus I heard he flip-floped a lot.

    Everyone together now…

    FLIP!
    FLOP!
    FLIP!
    FLOP!

  6. Algore had fuzzy math!

  7. And earth tones!

  8. Example A of “Now the fun starts.”

  9. I have had a revelation. Not all attacks on politicians are strictly motivated by political interest. Although politicians are notoriously good at speaking and motivating audiences (some better than others, and not so much with more sophisticated people), they usually come across personally as opportunistic, self-interested jerks, once you see below the public persona. So if some guys who knew Kerry or Clinton or Bush before they were major figures just seem dedicated to trashing their images, don’t discount the possibility that they just don’t like the politician. Obviously, the parties will run with such things, but I’m sure that this motivation is far more important than we think it is.

    This doesn’t address the truthfulness of any claims, of course.

    I know several politicians personally, and I’ve seen the transformation. It isn’t pretty. I had one (who is now in Congress) treat me less than well on a couple of occasions–I couldn’t advance the career, you see. Bah.

  10. Remember the anonymous calls about John McCain’s inter-racial baby? That, my dear, is down-and-dirty mudslinging.

  11. Adams said Jefferson had an inter-racial baby too. Is the mudslinging when its true?

  12. No, joe. This is the special dirt. Remember that outside the Reason bubble, most people still (perplexingly) give a damn what substances people chose to put in their bodies a few decades ago. Cocaine is *teh supre evillll* in many parents’ minds, *especially* women, *double especially* black women. This is quite dirty, and made even more so by the fact that it isn’t a closet skeleton; she’s making hay about something he revealed several years ago of his own volition.

    And I wouldn’t compare it to the Bill Clinton attacks, as those were clumsy and never had much traction (they sounded so conspiratorial even dittoheads were shaken…but perhaps that’s just because they got confused by the complexity) and were aimed at an audience already very predisposed to hate Hippie Clinton.

    No, it’s not as dirty as the crypto-Muslim stuff, but that level of disgusting is reserved for those who can use it…let’s see, a party heavily reliant upon nativist principles and latent white Christian resentment…NOT the Democrats!

  13. Im not saying McCain has an interracial baby, Im just saying we may need to wait 200 years to find out for sure.

  14. robc,

    McCain DID have an inter-ractial baby. He and his wife adopted a “dust child” from Vietnam.

    So, yes, it can still be mudslinging if it’s based on true events.

  15. p.s. Joe, it is no news that Republicans have been wallowing in the dirty-is-better attack-ad mentality for a very long time…their machinery is disgustingly vicious. McCain got politically violated in a most gruesome way, and you will never get any argument from me that that, too, was the *special* dirt.

    What would be news is the Democrats (in this case Hillary) turning such tactics on their own in a primary.

  16. “Remember that outside the Reason bubble, most people still (perplexingly) give a damn what substances people chose to put in their bodies a few decades ago.”

    I doubt it. Most people overlook it, unless the drug use is by the other party’s candidate (see Clinton, Bush).

  17. Remember that outside the Reason bubble, most people still (perplexingly) give a damn what substances people chose to put in their bodies a few decades ago.

    You mean like PRESIDENT Bush? You mean like PRESIDENT Clinton?

    Anyway, it isn’t the efficacy of an attack that defines its lowness, but it’s nastiness.

    No, it’s not as dirty as the crypto-Muslim stuff No, it’s not. It’s not within 1000 miles.

  18. What would be news is the Democrats (in this case Hillary) turning such tactics on their own in a primary.

    Agreed. Remember the “negative campaigning” Al Gore did against Bill Bradley?

    “You retired from Congress when the Republicans won, you BASTARD!”

  19. I’ve seen nasty Democratic primaries. I think people forget primaries too quickly. It wasn’t so long ago that the Reaganite view of not trashing other GOPers still held sway, and the Democrats were the fractured, argumentative club. What’s odd about politics here is how much behaviors (and even positions) switch sides. Huh.

  20. Gormlessness? Jeez, I had to look it up to see if it was a real word. H&R once again proves to be educational.

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  22. “You retired from Congress when the Republicans won, you BASTARD!”

    LOL! Exactly. Joe, I have always respected the modern Democratic party much more than the GOP on their basic congeniality towards one another in the primaries. It’s almost like they are trying to reach back to a faint memory when politicians were statesmen, and….

    So, here’s the rub; the crypto-Muslim slur as well as the cocaine stuff would be far more effective from a GOP point-of-view post-nomination (if Obama were to be the nominee) rather than in the thick of the pre-Iowa positioning. It makes no tactical sense for a republican to use it now…so I wonder whether the Democrats are picking up bad habits from their pachydermic brethren. If so, it makes me sad.

    I guess my only thing is I think HRC is the only one on that side of the field who is ambitious enough and tone-deaf enough to use those tactics, and considering her suddenly desperate situation, the most reasonable beneficiary. And since she is quite familiar with being on the receiving end of those same attacks, to her perhaps her sense of what is acceptable in politics has been blunted by her past experiences.

  23. Oh, sonofabitch! Embarassing open tag.

  24. Well, Hilary never actually had to run much of a campaign for her senate seat in NY. In the last election, most nobody even knew who the Republican running against her was.

  25. “Well, Hilary never actually had to run much of a campaign for her senate seat in NY. In the last election, most nobody even knew who the Republican running against her was.”

    Remember how Guiliani’s extramarital affair came up during the senate race in 2000? I wouldn’t doubt that Hillary’s people brought that up.

  26. LMNOP,
    Maybe it’s best for Obama that it comes out now. If the info is public knowledge, by the time of the general, it may be a yawner.

    This assumes, he makes it to the general.

  27. I wonder if leading campaigns offer a quid pro quo to lesser campaigns – you go after so and so, and you’ll be my VP (or get this cabinet post or whatever) when I get the nomination. They can keep their hands clean, but still sully the opposition. Given Edwards’ attacks on HRC, it would be interesting to see if he gets anything from the Obama campaign.

  28. …assuming Obama gets the nomination.

  29. Oh, the gormlessness, the pretense of hypothetical attacks, the veneer of worry

    Yeah, I had a flashback to those Red bloggers who so worried about that Ron Paul is so extreme or vulnerable to public misunderstandings about things that he could hurt the public image of libertarianism.

    (I mean, being bloggers, they don’t have to practice keeping a straight face while saying things like that, but how do they expect anyone reading their stuff to do so?)

    Sadly, the rah-rah-drug-war-never-say-die stuff is so mainstream and accepted that it’s much easier for folks like Shaheen to keep a straight face …

  30. “Shaheen apologized immediately afterward, although he remained careful to leave the insult hanging in the air.”

    During a particularly close race early in Lyndon Johnson’s congressional career, he suggested during a staff head-press that his campaign should leak information of his opponent’s carnal knowledge of barnyard animals. A horrified aide exclaimed, “Lyndon! We can’t get away with calling him a pig-fucker!”

    “Maybe,” Johnson said, “But we can sure as hell make the sonofabitch deny it.”

    Some things never go out of style.

  31. So, does Obama back off on the WOD because of his past drug use, or is it the tired old “don’t act like I used to, or we’ll pack you off to jail, because what I did was wrong, from the perspective of someone for whom the statute of limitations has expired more mature.”

  32. I agree with joe on this one — this isn’t the nastiness we can expect as the campaign heats up. This is just the opening salvo. And, the gloves might stay on a bit here, since HRC and Obama have to be thinking about running together, and any really biting attacks could come back to haunt them.

    The gloves really come off in the general election.

  33. So, does Obama back off on the WOD because of his past drug use, or is it the tired old “don’t act like I used to, or we’ll pack you off to jail, because what I did was wrong, from the perspective of someone for whom the statute of limitations has expired more mature.

    I would hope so on option one, but the topic is an especially complex one in the Black community. There, because of the damage done by drugs, they have little love for the WoD *or* for the drugs themselves, and many are conflicted about how to parcel out the responsibility among the two for the damage that drugs do. This schizophrenia makes ending the WoD in that community have at best a mixed reception polling-wise (though they are still apparently very happy to hear a white politician say it on occasion, as RP did at Howard a few months back).

    This is the issue of Obama’s that he has spoken least about (WoD), and what he *has* said underwhelms me. But, as he is walking, talking proof that people who experiment with drugs can be come Chicago law professors and national political leaders, perhaps he’ll shape up on this one.

  34. prolefeed,

    Obama sponsored the bill that made pharmacists put Pseudofed behind the counter, in order to make it harder for people to cook up meth.

    Not an auspicious start.

  35. Gone to the White House, Ha Ha Ha!

  36. Re: Jefferson
    I forgot who orginially linked it, and I can’t get to Youtube here, but there is an excellent Anti-Jefferson Negative Ad out there that some did recently whose voiceover is reading from actual pamplets of the 1796 or 1800 elections.

    So there is absolutely nothing new under the sun, especially viz a viz rough & tumble american politics.

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