Friday, December 14, 2007

Attacks On Obama, Romney Probably Not Accidents

Everything I learned in years of political reporting would seem to indicate that the religious and moral attacks that have occurred in the last week against the Obama and Romney candidacies were probably not from subordinates going off free lancing on their own, but from the top of the campaigns against them.

This is certainly true of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has personally questioned former Gov. Mitt Romney's Mormon religion. And it is very likely true of Sen. Hillary Clinton, who has had three campaign subordinates suggesting that Sen. Barack Obama either was a drug peddler or a Muslim.

Even though Huckabee has apologized for his anti-Mormon remarks about Romney, and even though Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign has seemingly forced the resignation of the subordinates who suggested Sen. Barack Obama is a Muslim or may have peddled cocaine more than just smoking it, it does not mean that Huckabee and Clinton can escape responsibility.

At the very moment that a top Clinton campaign staffer was telling about the co-chairman of Clinton's New Hampshire primary campaign, Bill Shaheen, brother of the state's former Democratic governor, resigning his position for raising drug questions against Obama, that staffer freely used the word "cocaine," to discuss Obama, as reporters covering the news conference noted. This amounts to throwing manure into the air and then complaining there is an odor of it.

Also, I am highly suspicious that the use by Clinton supporter Bob Kerrey of Obama's middle name, Hussein, is not accidental.

The fact is that as polls have indicated the Obama campaign surging in both the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, the Clinton campaign has gotten dirty. Clinton herself has raised questions about Obama's integrity. Now, at least three subordinates have stirred up dirt with false accusations or suggestions. They are throwing manure into the air, and Clinton's campaign is, it seems, protesting too much, spreading the allegations while criticizing them.

As Huckabee, a man prone in the past to make extreme remarks about both AIDS victims and homosexuals, has advanced in the polls against Romney, he has grown nastier. Romney, I think, is correct to complain that Huckabee's remark that Mormons might believe Jesus and Satan are brothers was certainly meant as a religious attack, and that it had no place in the campaign. To put it in context, we don't hear others saying that because another candidate is Christian, he believes Jesus rose from the dead or was a rabble rouser against the Romans.

All this talk about religion and drugs comes about clearly, I believe, because the Huckabee and Clinton campaigns are trying to sow doubts about Romney and Obama in races that are tight. It is reminiscent of Mayor Sam Yorty's suggestion in the 1969 Los Angeles mayoralty campaign that his challenger, Tom Bradley, was tied to black militants.

These are smears and nothing less. They tell us more about Huckabee and Clinton than they do about Romney and Obama.

Both Romney and Obama are candidates of change, and traditionally the way to oppose such candidates is to suggest that the change advocates are radicals who would completely upset the system.

In these cases, it is all baloney, and one can only hope that the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire are sophisticated enough to see the attacks for what they are.

We have less than three weeks now before Iowa is the first to vote, in the caucuses, and there have been quite a few stories this week suggesting that the Clinton camp is panicking. I believe it is, and it tells us once again that Clinton may be a brittle candidate, unready for the really big time of presidential campaigning or for leading the country from the White House.

Obama has acknowledged using cocaine and marijuana as a teenager, just as Bill Clinton acknowledged using marijuana and George W. Bush acknowledged excessive drinking, when they were young men. It doesn't mean that any of them are either drug addicts and alcoholics as grown men.

Similarly, Romney is a Mormon. There is nothing to suggest to serious individuals that this disqualifies him for the presidency.

As the mud flies, it is certainly appropriate to ask just where it is coming from. And the answer is clear, it is coming from Huckabee and the Clinton campaign.

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