Saturday, September 6, 2008

Deception, Disinformation, and Obama's "New Politics"

In a blog post at The Atlantic, Marc Ambinder suggests that there were efforts within the Obama campaign to seed the political discourse with tales that GOP strategists were growing nervous about John McCain's pick of Sarah Palin as his VP, and were quietly cooking up ways to drop her from the ticket, rather like George McGovern in 1972 had done with his running mate, Thomas Eagleton.

In memos, e-mails and phone calls this week, Obama campaign officials have urged surrogates and allies to mention Republicans who are "nervous" about the Palin pick and to link those worries to George McGovern's aborted vice presidential pick of Thomas Eagleton in 1972, according to three Democratic surrogates.

That year, McGovern rescinded the pick after learning that Eagleton had been treated for depression. Questions about the thoroughness of the Palin vet have been raised, particularly about how and when Palin disclosed the news that her teenage daughter is pregnant and whether Palin's political resume had been thoroughly scrubbed.

On Wednesday, the campaign's chief surrogate wranglers distributed a three page compilation of quotes from Republicans concerned about the Palin pick. (See the text after the jump.) One surrogate said he had been urged to bring up the example of Eagleton in order to seed the idea that McCain might consider dropping him [sic] from the ticket.

Naturally, elements in the Republican party and commentariat were unnerved by the selection of Palin. It was, if one may say, an audacious move on John McCain's part, which could have gone terribly wrong (and still might). However, this is very different from the idea that anyone was seriously suggesting the calamitous move of dropping her so soon after selection.

The juxtaposition of these very legitimate worries (though you'll note that all of the articles in the Obama campaign's packet were dated before Palin's breakaway speech at the RNC...) with the specter of 1972 was a subtle and eminently deniable bit of innuendo. I had encountered the meme in some unexpected places on several occasions, and had I not been the sort to delve into such things I might very well have been left with the trepidation that the McCain campaign might actually commit such a suicidal move.

Were I an Obama supporter, I would have found such "news" to be quite encouraging. Were I an undecided voter, I might be inclined to shy away from a candidate who would make such a rash and foolish decision. See how it works?

Really a clever bit of politics, that.

But hardly the behavior of a campaign which possesses even a scintilla of the moral rectitude and post-partisan purity which The One so tediously affects.

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