The flurry of charges and demands for apologies between the two camps leaves me with one question: why doesn' t this sort of thing happen more often? Political consultants are famously mercenary, jumping from one team to another with the constancy of a left-handeded reliever or utility infielder. Why don't we hear of more instances of consultants picking up damaging information about a candidate they're working for one year and then using it, years later, when they happen to be working in the camp of a candidate in opposition to the former employer? Do they do so often but manage to be discreet about it? Or is there in fact an honor among thieves that generally constrains such behavior?I've done some work on career paths of campaign professionals that's marginally relevant here, so I'll take a crack at it. I can think of three reasons:
1. I suspect the issue comes up less often than you would think. While some of these folks (media experts, pollsters) work for many candidates, a lot of consultants and campaign professionals work for one candidate per cycle, so they're not really walking around with inside information about all that many candidates -- and they're not all that likely to flip and oppose their old boss all that often. Remember, it takes a contested primary in the first place -- a contested primary with at least two candidates who are well enough funded to hire staff and consultants, with at least one of them a candidate who has hired such people in at least one previous campaign. Then you also need in that contested primary a situation in which for some reason a consultant and her old boss don't want to keep working together, and then the same consultant signing on with a different candidate. I don't know how often that whole thing comes together, but it must not be all that often. The most likely place to find it, I'd guess, would be US Senate and gubernatorial primaries, but even those are not all that frequent, at least not contested ones.
2. MacGillis speculates about "honor among thieves", but I'd put it a bit different. It's certainly the case that reputation, including reputation for long-term loyalty, is a major selling point for campaign professionals. Would you hire a consultant who was blabbing the deepest secrets of his old boss? What's that consultant likely to do to you in the future?
3. And anyway: it's also really easy to exaggerate the number of skeletons that politicians have in their closets, at least the ones that their staff know about. Very few pols, I'm sure, have a backstory that includes multiple sexual harassment settlements! Now, presumably quite a few pols have slept with people they shouldn't have slept with, or wouldn't survive a very close examination of their old company's books and taxes...but they aren't telling their campaign staff about it.
So add that all up, and I'd guess that it explains most of why a former staffer or consultant harming her old boss that way is rare.
I work in politics (granted at a much lower level) but #2 is a big deal. I've know politicians to ask mildly probing open-ended questions about past jobs in interviews just to see how discreet the interviewee will be in talking about them.ReplyDelete
Oh I'm certain all of this sorta information gets passed around, it's just a matter of whether a campaign chooses to make use of it, and whether the ancien media chooses to run with it.ReplyDelete
For example, in 2004 the Swiftboat guys were out there making appearances, selling a book and putting commercials on television, and getting tons of new media play. And it was hitting Kerry hard, with his numbers starting to drop, but the ancien media wouldn't touch the story. I mean they didn't TOUCH it, and for a long time. And Bush refused to endorse any of it.
On the other hand, when Dan Rather got ahold of an alleged 30 year old document which turns out to have been typed using MS-Word, the ancien media chose to run with it instantly, even though that backfired.
So it's really all dependent on the candidates and the old media. The new media will just do what it does, I suppose.
And yeah, the campaign sharks who are making their living at campaigning can't really be seen as getting behind hit jobs. They have to have plausible deniability, as their careers depend on it. Sure, they can release some stuff off the record, as seems to be the case here with the Cain story, but to really make a political hit stick, you have to have faces and people attached to the attack. That's why the Swiftboat guys drew blood, and Rathergate didn't.
And if somebody manages to put some woman in front of a camera confirming Cain's sexually harassed her, it's definitely gonna leave a mark.
On the other hand, when Dan Rather got ahold of an alleged 30 year old document which turns out to have been typed using MS-Word, the ancien media chose to run with it instantly, even though that backfired.ReplyDelete
You must not have been around back then. The people who "ran with it instantly" were conservative blogs, which started disputing the authenticity of the documents within hours of when the segment ran.
I would also lean toward No. 2, Axelrod's "shadow of the future."ReplyDelete
That Dan Rather story is an interesting case because the same secretary who said she did not type that paper also said the contents were basically true. While I'm not sure that Bush's lackadaisical attitude toward his responsibilities was really news, it's curious that the fact that the paper wasn't original became the whole story after that.
Given TN's comment, is it possible that Rather was set up?ReplyDelete
I think it's likely that someone high up on the WH political staff or the GOP knew about the documents beforehand, and was ready to get the minions working as soon as the piece aired. That doesn't mean, though, that that same person was involved in creating the documents; they could have been tipped off by the person who made the documents, or merely by someone who had become aware of them through the reporting for the story (for instance, someone who had been asked for comment on them by CBS News).ReplyDelete
You must not have been around back then. The people who "ran with it instantly" were conservative blogs, which started disputing the authenticity of the documents within hours of when the segment ran.ReplyDelete
No, I was around back then, that's how I know the ancien media (in the form of CBS) picked up on the "fake but accurate" document instantly, as opposed to the Kerry story, which had real faces and stories attached to it, hundreds of them, in fact. And the ancien media didn't speak of it for weeks and weeks.
Now yeah, the new media picked up on the story, as they have now with Solyndra and Fast and Furious, which the ancien media are pretty much ignoring, once again.
That's how the game is played.