Benefit of the doubt
Sorry, Dan, but I’m completely with Obama on this one. One of the things I hated most about the past two Democratic campaigns was the constant drumbeat of stories quoting “Democratic strategists” telling the campaign what it should be doing. It’s not that they were wrong — both campaigns were horribly run — but that this type of “management by anonymous committee” only served to reinforce just how inept the campaigns were. And when the candidates did finally take the advice, it felt like they had been pushed into it. Remember Gore’s second debate performance, or his public agonizing over whether to allow Clinton to campaign for him? I know crowdsourcing is all the rage these days, but when applied to a campaign it makes everything seem rote and telegraphed.
For the most part, we’ve seen a welcome reversal of roles this year. The papers have been full of anonymous Republican sniping over McCain’s strategy, while the Dems have largely remained silent. I hope it stays that way.
But the main reason I hate to see this kind of armchair quarterbacking of the Obama campaign is because I think they’ve done more than enough to earn our trust. I certainly wouldn’t argue that Obama’s run a perfect campaign, but I can’t think of a single big strategic mistake he’s made, and whenever it seemed to me like he was floundering — late ’07, before the SC primary, during the Wright kerfuffle — he managed to not only assuage my doubts, but to demonstrate that he knew what he was doing the entire time (or at least fool me into believing that). That confidence is the exact opposite of how I felt with the Gore and Kerry campaigns.
So yes, I would like to see the Obama campaign doing more to control the media narrative. And yes, I think they should have done more with the Gramm gaffe. Then again, I wasn’t going around a year ago saying the way to win the Democratic primary was to raise lots of money online, mobilize new voters and run up huge delegate margins in the caucus states. And I think the people who were saying that have proven they’re better political strategists than I am, so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they know what they’re doing.
P.S. If we are going to see these types of articles, I hope the campaign responds exactly the way Burton did here. Because even if Obama ends up taking these people’s advice, it’s to his advantage to not appear to be doing so.