Peter Daou's Email
Former freelance progressive blogger and current Internet Director for Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign - Peter Daou - sent out a personal email of sorts earlier today to some pro-Clinton, pro-Obama and neutral bloggers about the issue of "negative" attacks in this primary. I have a lot of respect for Peter - he was originally in the John Kerry campaign in 2004 and he has a very good understanding of how the right-wing machine works.
Peter's full email is below, but let me say something first. We are still in the middle of the Democratic primary campaign. There are two good candidates in the race - Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton. For various reasons, I believe that Sen. Clinton is the better candidate of the two while others (including some thoughtful commenters here) believe that Sen. Obama is the better candidate of the two. There's nothing troubling about that or about the fact that people tend to have strong opinions about candidates and may sometimes disagree - and sometimes strongly so. Moreover, I have said many times that I will support the eventual Democratic nominee and nothing has changed my view on that either. However, one aspect that in my view, has gotten less coverage than it deserves within the "progressive" blogosphere - especially in the past two months - is that there are The Clinton Rules and The Obama Rules. One of the ways in which these rules manifest themselves is in the perpetuation of outrageous smears against Sen. Clinton - for example, see "The Fine Art of Clinton Derangement" and "The Art of Swift-Baiting". Another manifestation of the rules is the peddling of deeply offensive and utterly fraudulent myths like 'Obama has never gone negative' - see "Campaign Fairy Tales" (also see Avedon Carol on this point). Some of the top "progressive" bloggers have either been wilfully blind to the campaign tactics of Sen. Obama or given him a pass while going after Sen. Clinton in a very ugly and mendacious manner (also see: "Post-Parsing and The Great Convergence" by Turkana). And I won't even get into the issues of overt or borderline sexism. I fully expect some of you will disagree with my views here, but I'm calling it as I've seen it play out in the past couple of months. What I've seen has not diminshed my intention to support Sen. Obama if he is the eventual nominee, but it has certainly made me question my involvement with some segments of the "progressive" movement.
With that context, here's the full text of Peter's email (bold text is my emphasis):
I'm writing this to a group of bloggers. Some of you are Hillary supporters, some not, some neutral.
I want to address a pervasive misconception, namely, that Senator Obama hasn't run a negative campaign against Hillary. I think it's time to put that misconception to rest.
Continued below the fold.
The truth is that for months, the Obama campaign has been attacking Hillary, impugning her character and calling into question her lifetime of public service. And now the Chicago Tribune reports that Senator Obama is preparing a "full assault" on her "over ethics and transparency." To those who contend that Senator Obama is the clear frontrunner, I ask, to what end this "full assault" on Hillary?
On CNN last Tuesday, Senator Obama said, "Well, look, Wolf, I think if you watch how we have conducted our campaign, we've been very measured in terms of how we talk about Senator Clinton. ... I have been careful to say, that I think that Senator Clinton is a capable person and that should she win the nomination, obviously, I would support her. You know, I'm not sure that we have been getting that same approach from the Clinton campaign."
The facts of this election stand in stark contrast to that statement. Senator Obama and his senior campaign officials have engaged in a systematic effort to question Hillary's integrity, credibility, and character. They have portrayed her as someone who would put her personal gain ahead of the lives of our troops, someone who would say or do anything to win an election, someone who is dishonest, divisive and disingenuous. They have adopted shop-worn anti-Clinton talking points, dusted them off and unleashed a torrent of unfounded character attacks against her. Among other things, they have described Hillary - and her campaign - as:
To top it off, they have blanketed big states with false radio ads and negative mailers -- ads and mailers that experts have debunked time and time again. They have distributed health care brochures using Republican framing. They have tried to draw a nexus between Hillary's votes and the death of her friend Benazir Bhutto. And one of Senator Obama's top advisers (who has since left the campaign) recently called Hillary "a monster."
This "full assault" on Hillary comes from the very top of the Obama campaign, not surrogates and supporters.
This "full assault" is being directed at someone I personally know to be a thoughtful, brilliant, principled, compassionate person, someone the world knows as a good Democrat, a trailblazer, a lifelong champion for children and families, a respected former first lady, a senator, a presidential candidate.
This "full assault" is targeting a staff of hundreds of hard-working, dedicated Democrats, who I've had the privilege of working with for the past 14 months.
This is a hard-fought campaign - as it should be. Like any candidate for elected office, Hillary has made clear why she thinks she would do a better job than her opponent. She has laid out comprehensive policy proposals, put forth her 35-year record of accomplishment, and spent countless days introducing herself to voters across the country. She has said that she is far better prepared to take on John McCain on national security. She has contended that she is the candidate with the experience to confront the GOP attack machine. She has argued that she is more electable. She has said that Senator Obama's words are not matched by actions. And she has challenged him to live up to core Democratic values and goals such as universal health care.
I recall indignation online at the suggestion that Senator Obama has not made the case that he is ready to be Commander in Chief -- the concern being that this would be terribly detrimental to him in a general election. As I blogged recently, and as many of you know, I spent 2004 in the Kerry-Edwards war room, and I understand full well that national security will be front and center in the general election. It's not a matter of choice. And the reality is that the public views Hillary as better prepared to take on Senator McCain when it comes to national security. Democrats must factor that in as they nominate a candidate to win in November.
If that suggestion is potentially harmful to Senator Obama in a general election, how exactly do the personal attacks against Hillary (which echo and reinforce rightwing talking points) help her in the event she wins the nomination? I recall no similar outrage at those harsh attacks on her character, many of which were directed at her when she was the clear frontrunner and seen as the likely nominee.
Both candidates are running a vigorous campaign. Both have had surrogates or supporters who have crossed the line and made offensive statements that they rejected. And these offensive statements are an unfortunate part of a long and close campaign. Those who make a habit of automatically assuming and ascribing to only one candidate the worst motives, ignoring more reasonable and benign explanations, who substitute conjecture for fact and then use those assumed 'facts' as a foundation on which to pile more conjecture about only one candidate's intentions, who express anger at negative campaigning and perceived dirty tricks but focus on only one candidate's words and actions, risk losing credibility. And those who conclude from that one-sided reasoning that Hillary ought to stop seeking victory, should ask themselves if quitting in the middle of a hard-fought – and winnable – contest is a desirable attribute in a future president.
Hillary has rightfully stated that as Democrats we should be proud of our field of candidates. And it is truly inspiring to see the level of enthusiasm among voters this cycle. We should encourage as many people as possible to become part of this process and to forcefully advocate for their candidate of choice. But there is a sharp line between supporting a candidate (and excusing their faults, which all supporters do to some degree) and conducting a "full assault" on an opponent's integrity and character. The Obama campaign's unabashed attacks on Hillary's honesty and trustworthiness should give every Democrat pause.
We are all entitled to support and oppose whomever we choose, but I challenge my online friends to call this "full assault" on Hillary's character for what it is.
May the discussion continue.