Are the Lehane Departure and Imminent Clark Candidacy Linked?
Today’s NY Times puts forward the party-line story about Chris Lehane’s departure from the Kerry campaign, that Lehane left because of a philosophical clash with Bob Shrum and Kerry’s brother Cam over how aggressively to engage Howard Dean.
Mr. Lehane, who was known as a master of the instant and clever response while working for Mr. Gore, declined to offer a reason for his departure. But a person familiar with his involvement with the Kerry staff suggested a variety of possibilities, including a difference of opinion over how Mr. Kerry should engage Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, who has provided much of the excitement in the early months of the presidential campaign.
This person said Mr. Lehane had argued for a more pugnacious approach that would have had Mr. Kerry battling Dr. Dean more forcefully over the summer to tamp down any momentum he was gaining into the fall. The same person also said Mr. Lehane had favored a more expansive message for Mr. Kerry on the campaign trail, conveying something beyond the theme of a Vietnam veteran taking on Mr. Bush's war strategies in Iraq.
Other Kerry strategists, including his brother, Cam, a lawyer, and Bob Shrum, a senior adviser, preferred a more measured approach, as a way for Mr. Kerry to appear more presidential.
Interestingly, the story being put out by this piece is that campaign manager Jim Jordan also wanted a more aggressive campaign during the summer.
Mr. Jordan, whose preference for a more aggressive campaign approach is not unlike Mr. Lehane's, said "people might read too much" into Mr. Lehane's departure, suggesting that his reasons for departing had, perhaps, less to do with the philosophical than with the practical.
So if Lehane left, how far behind will be Jordan, if he shared Lehane’s desire to engage Dean directly? And if Kerry’s brother, Bob Shrum, and the Massachusetts brain trust of John Sasso/Mike Whouley etc. all preferred a stay-above-the-fray approach and know the risks of falling behind from taking such an approach, then why seemingly panic now about Dean’s front-runner status? Either you act presidential and take the risks from inaction and wait for Dean to return to the pack, or you chuck the cautious approach totally.
Or this truly is nothing at all other than Lehane leaving to go back and mind the business so that his partner Mark Fabiani and the rest of the Clinton/Gore braintrust ramp up to launch the Wesley Clark effort this week? And if it is nothing more than this, why would someone put out the spin about Lehane's desire to be more aggressive than others?