Forgive me, but I’m not prepared to join this walk down Great Umbrage Street just yet. Yes, it’s ugly out there. But is this worse than four years ago, when Obama was accused by the GOP vice presidential nominee of “palling around with terrorists”? Or eight years ago, when Democratic nominee John Kerry was accused of falsifying his Vietnam War record? – Dana Milbank
WHAT’S DIFFERENT about the 2012 general election is that Barack Obama and his team aren’t weak, apologizing invertebrates, something Republicans haven’t seen since the bad old Bill Clinton days. Some supporters of former Pres. Bill Clinton, people who lived through the Reagan years and saw him slip through the impeachment knot on Iran-Contra, didn’t always agree with his policies, but the fighting spirit he showed hadn’t been seen since the 1960s. Pres. Obama is a chip off the Clinton block and even those of us who aren’t enamored with his Blue Dog Republicanism can appreciate that much, especially since the last three years the Republican Party has mainstreamed birtherism.
Now what’s happening is that with the pick of Paul Ryan the Republicans are double-teaming the Democrats, not only hitting Pres. Obama, but using one of the right’s economic young guns, Paul Ryan, to go after Joe.
From Jonathan Martin, who’s following the Vice President on the campaign trail, reports landed today that Biden’s team has gotten overzealous in their efforts to rein in Obama’s partner by editing pool reports, which is just wrong.
A pool report is written by an assigned news organization and distributed widely to journalists and others. Myself and anyone else receiving them rely on pool reports to accurately depict and report, not editorialize with partisan white-washing, what’s going on in real time.
His staff’s response is effectively to try to save Biden from himself. During the Virginia trip reporters were hustled out of retail campaign stops in diners and other intimate settings, aides tried to edit media pool reports for any potential landmines that could be seized on by Republicans and even hovered at close range to eavesdrop on journalists’ conversations with attendees at Biden rallies.
This is a real issue for Mr. Biden, but also for the Obama campaign:
Yet it’s the response to that remark that is so telling about their leash-tightening instincts when Biden has one of his moments. And the staff restrictiveness seems contagious. By mid-day Wednesday, following a rally on the Virginia Tech campus, a press aide for the Virginia campaign was eavesdropping as a reporter attempted to interview attendees who had spoken with the vice president on the rope line. The snooping happened with one attendee on one side of the gym and with another on the opposite end.
Yet what the campaign doesn’t seem to realize is that Biden is at his best when he’s not being minded.
“The thing that people really like about Joe Biden is he says what he thinks,” explained former Sen. Ted Kaufman, the Delaware Democrat who once served as Biden’s chief of staff and replaced him in the Senate..
Take Biden’s natural bluntness away and what you’ve got is the Democratic Chris Christie turned into Mitt Romney, someone who doesn’t connect and is wooden and painfully stiff. Let Joe be Joe.
Paul Ryan presents an opportunity for Joe Biden, but the pitfalls are real, because Ryan is in his prime and a practiced politician with real gifts and a mind that can regurgitate factoids wrapped in a quip.
The media is already whining that it’s getting too ugly. It’s utter nonsense. This has been the way of American politics going back to Jefferson and Adams:
Things got ugly fast. Jefferson’s camp accused President Adams of having a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”
In return, Adams’ men called Vice President Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”
The difference is people weren’t barraged with what was going on 24/7 and in 140 characters, delivered wherever you are and all of it landing in real time sequences that amount to a contagion of competing information to digest and analyze instantaneously before the next incoming email hits your smartphone inbox.
Paul Ryan’s entrance into the race has enlivened Mitt Romney and revved up of the general election and given Barack Obama and Joe Biden something they didn’t have in 2008. Two people on the other side with a real competitive vision for the country and the ability to drive that message to the people.
Covering developments is exhausting and exhilarating for reporters, political analysts and writers, even if it’s choking the public to tune out.