Note: It is with some trepidation and unhappiness that I write this. But I can't sit by and idly watch what is happening to Hillary Clinton and not speak out.
The incredibly rotten media coverage of this campaign reached a new low this weekend with the manufactured furor over Hillary Clinton's comments about the length of the primary campaign. I'm not interested in rehashing the tired smears that went ricocheting through the media and blogosphere.
What disturbs me the most, however, is not the behavior of the media, from whom I expect very little after their treatment of Al Gore and John Kerry. My main anger is directed, sadly, at Barack Obama and his campaign, and their deliberate complicity in promoting and perpetuating this scurrilous smear, all the while pretending to be above it.
Yesterday, in a recommended diary here, Obama was widely praised for saying that he accepted Clinton's statement that her remarks about RFK were intended only to talk about the length of the primary contest. In particular, he said this:
"I have learned that, when you are campaigning for as many months as Senator Clinton and I have been campaigning, sometimes you get careless in terms of the statements that you make, and I think that is what happened here. Senator Clinton says that she did not intend any offense by it, and I will take her at her word on that."
How very classy and gracious of him, compared with the evil Clinton. Except, as has happened before, he was beind dishonest. Or lying. Or being a hypocrite. Strong words, I know, but true. His campaign had already helped promote the story the day before--it had issued a statement saying "Sen. Clinton's statement before the Argus Leader editorial board was unfortunate and has no place in this campaign.". In the same 24 hours that Obama was claiming the high road, it turns out.
In addition, the Obama campaign sent the entire political press corps the transcript of a searing commentary about Mrs. Clinton by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC.
There's no getting around this. While Obama was pretending to be above it all, his campaign was actively pushing the appalling notion that Hillary Clinton is waiting around for him to be assassinated.
This would be low enough were it the first time. But it's not. Before the Pennsylvania primary, Obama was doing it again, this time about the notorious Tuzla issue, saying in a debate that we all make mistakes, but then pushing the story afterwards. As Slate's John Dickerson wrote:
At the next train stop, I'm going to stand behind Senator Obama when he speaks. When he's decrying the trivial distractions in politics, I think he may be crossing his fingers behind his back.
As the Senator's campaign train wound from one speech where he denounced tit-for-tat politics to the next speech where he denounced tit-for-tat politics, his campaign hosted a conference call to engage in the practice the candidate was busy denouncing. I suppose it would have been an even greater act of chutzpah for the Obama campaign to host the conference call while Sen. Obama was denouncing that kind of behavior, but not much more of one.
Obama campaign aides scheduled the call to talk about Hillary Clinton's fantastical story about her breakneck race to shelter under sniper fire during a visit to Bosnia. You might think this would be the last story the Obama campaign would be pushing, because in Wednesday's debate the Senator mistakenly suggested his campaign had only discussed the issue because reporters had brought it up, not because they were trying to take advantage of Clinton's extended work of fiction. To push the story again now would make Obama look even more insincere about that claim.
While the candidate was denouncing the distractions, his aides were promoting them. Three veterans of the Bosnia conflict joined for a conference call to explain just how crucial this particular distraction was, and why we should ignore Senator Obama's guidance and get obsessed with this issue.
Add this to Obama's claim that his campaign wasn't pushing the reprehensible notion that Hillary Clinton was race-baiting while his staffers were writing and distributing long memos about it, and we have a pattern.
It's one thing when these are about little things, but Obama's campaign has done this with some nuclear topics--accusing Clinton of appealing to racism, or saying that virtually unspeakable notion that she's waiting around for his death. These are hugely serious issues, and for me, close to unforgivable. If he wants my support in November, and those of many other Clinton voters, he'd better do something pretty extraordinary to make up for it.