Consider the following sequence of events: Mitt Romney announces a trip overseas that includes Israel, where the president has declined to go. The Obama team’s defensive media call only makes that issue bigger, and the “after not going to Israel, Obama promises to go to Israel in the second term” lands on the front page of a number of papers. It causes a big stir in the Jewish community.
Next, Obama is pummeled on his “you didn’t build that” remarks. He comes up with a “I don’t hate business” ad that generates guffaws. The public then hears the context for the ad, and yes, it’s just as bad.
Romney then gives a very tough speech at the VFW, catching the Obama team flat-footed on sequestration and especially on national security leaks. Stories featuring his remarks on the leaks get front-page coverage. David Axelrod makes a mess of the defense on MSNBC.
With all of that, you can understand why the president’s closest political adviser, Axelrod, would push on Twitter a British report on an unnamed Romney “adviser” using the term “Anglo-Saxon heritage.” And when that didn’t really get a rise out of the press, the campaign threw out the one guy with no concern about his reputation (he after all was the pol who called Obama “bright and clean” and mocked Indian 7-11 and Dunkin’ Donut workers) to repeat the British paper’s charge that no one, least of all Joe Biden, could confirm.
Alexander Burns of Politico (which elsewhere ran with the story) wrote:
Whether it’s Hilary Rosen and Bill Maher on the liberal side or Ted Nugent and Foster Friess on the conservative side, the campaigns would often rather target each others’ off-message supporters than go at each other directly.
An anonymous quotation in the notoriously troublemaking British press may be the most tangential target we’ve seen for this kind of tactic, so far. It’s not necessarily unfair by the standards of the 2012 campaign, but those are pretty low standards.
Incidentally, harkening back to my days editing POLITICO44, I can’t help recalling this comment from from Robert Gibbs in 2009: “If I wanted to read a write-up today of how Manchester United fared last night in the Champion’s League Cup, I might open up a British newspaper. If I was looking for something that bordered on truthful news, I’m not entirely sure it’d be in the first pack of clips I’d pick up.”
But the Obama team “went there,” apparently so anxious to create a stir. Now if the Obama team is not pulling out its hair to rebut the “you didn’t build that,” escape coverage of the screwy response ad that made it worse and get away from the security leaks story, would they have thrown the vice president of the United States out to flog the story? (And remember the day began with the Obama team trying desperately to get the press to write about the “Anglo-Saxon heritage” line.)
I’m not sure what precisely has the Obama team so hysterical. Has their money dried up? Their focus groups turned up their noses at the president’s serial attacks? Did they poll the popularity of small business in swing states? Maybe all of these. But no confident campaign that is on track is going to behave as the Obama campaign has conducted itself this week.
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