Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Audacity Of Dopes

As a Hillary partisan, I was surely subjected to my fair share of hubristic shpiel by Obombers. Sometimes it got very personal, but I've got a thick skin.

And I don't write a column that's read by thousands of people or even millions of people a week. I'm lucky if I hit four figures in seven days.

But the New Republic sees some troubling signs on the Obama campaign bus:
Around midnight on July 16, New York Times chief political correspondent Adam Nagourney received a terse e-mail from Barack Obama's press office. The campaign was irked by the Times' latest poll and Nagourney and Megan Thee's accompanying front-page piece titled "Poll Finds Obama Isn't Closing Divide on Race," which was running in the morning's paper. Nagourney answered the query, the substance of which he says was minor, and went to bed, thinking the matter resolved.

But, the next morning, Nagourney awoke to an e-mail from Talking Points Memo writer Greg Sargent asking him to comment on an eight-point rebuttal trashing his piece that the Obama campaign had released to reporters and bloggers like The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder and Politico's Ben Smith. Nagourney had not heard the complaints from the Obama camp and had no idea they were so steamed. "I'm looking at this thing, and I'm like, 'What the hell is this?' " Nagourney recently recalled. "I really flipped out."

Later that afternoon, Nagourney got permission from Times editors to e-mail Sargent a response to the Obama memo. But the episode still grates. "I've never had an experience like this, with this campaign or others," Nagourney tells me. "I thought they crossed the line. If you have a problem with a story I write, call me first. I'm a big boy. I can handle it. But they never called. They attacked me like I'm a political opponent."
I'm guessing there was some operative in Obama's campaign who got a little overenthusiastic.

Obama's press liaison, Robert Gibbs, has built a particularly large reservoir of ill will. David Mendell, who covered Obama's Senate campaign for the Chicago Tribune and authored the 2007 Obama book From Promise to Power, wrote about Gibbs as "the anti-Obama" and described him as "Obama's hired gun, skillfully trained to shoot at reporters whose coverage was deemed unfair. Mendell tells me, "if [Gibbs] feels you're necessary to achieve a campaign goal, he will give you access and allow you in. But, if he feels you're not going to be of help, he can just ignore you." Mendell has his own specific gripe: Apparently, the Obama team was less than pleased with his biography, on which they cooperated, and Gibbs has since refused to help with the second edition.

One reporter sniffs that Gibbs, a native Alabaman and veteran of John Kerry's 2004 campaign, is the "communications director who doesn't communicate." "If you're getting an interview, and they say ten minutes, it's ten minutes," adds Time's Karen Tumulty, who scored an interview with Obama in June. "Robert Gibbs will cut it off."
Now, as the article points out, this could just be the stress and strain of a long campaign with reporters jockeying for stories. What concerned me was this bit:
Still, the campaign hasn't helped itself, approaching reporters with a sense of entitlement. "They're an arrogant operation. Young and arrogant," one reporter covering the campaign says. "They don't believe in transparency with their own campaign," another says.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, yes, young and arrogant. Almost hubristic.

That's a trope I'm very familiar with from the Obombers, as is anyone who has spoken even faint praise of Hillary Clinton before June.

The problem is, if you piss off someone who buys ink by the barrell (I think that one was Harry Truman's), you tend to pay for it large time in the end. The press had given much of Obama's life story a miss during the primary, since it was clear a) it would ruin a good story to find out Obama was not who he claimed he was, and b) Hillary was going to be the whipping boy girl of the primaries.

During the early part of the primaries, Obama gave good press: good access, full interviews, lots of face time in the press plane/bus/room.

Later, he contracted that.

Now, he practically doles out press time as if it was precious gold. Or oil.

That's not a real bright strategy this early in the campaign.