Is All Fair in Attacks on the Attacker?
Hillary Clinton's campaign was determined to respond to Barack Obama's insistence that, unlike some candidates, he had not been planning to run for president for years.
So the Clinton camp dug up a series of reported statements in which Obama had expressed interest in the White House. And it went way back--to the point that it invited ridicule. To wit:
"In third grade, Sen. Obama wrote an essay titled 'I Want To Be a President.' "
And: "In kindergarten, Sen. Obama wrote an essay titled 'I Want to Become President.' "
"Our mistake was putting the early examples in, because they undermined the bottom line," Clinton communications chief Howard Wolfson told me. "He's been attacking her for being ambitious when his ambitions are far better documented." Clinton strategists were also miffed that Obama was alluding to what they consider a bogus report that Hillary and Bill had a 20-year plan to share the presidency.
When a candidate goes on the attack, the media reaction can go one of two ways. Either reporters seize on the criticism and demand a response from the target of the assault, or they raise questions about whether the attacker has gone too far.
In Hillary's case, it's definitely been the latter. And the Clinton camp thinks that's unfair.
"For months," Wolfson said, "some of your colleagues were explicitly urging Senator Obama to attack Senator Clinton more directly. When he attacked her character, this was seen as a good thing. For some time, we did not respond in kind. But at some point, you need to set the record straight."
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