Friday, June 11, 2010


Glenn Greenwald wrote this today about the anonymous leak in which someone at the White House anonymously told the unions who supported Bill Halter in the Arkansas U.S. Senate race were wasting their members' money:

I suppose this shouldn't be particularly surprising. Washington is a culture of cowardice. It's filled with people who systematically suppress (or never develop) genuine convictions for the sake of career advancement, who continuously advocate wars which only other people fight and against countries which cannot defend themselves, who are secrecy-obsessed and whose most significant acts take place in the dark in order to avoid consequences and accountability. Still, the long-standing propensity of White House officials to cower behind anonymity even to spit the most trivial insults ... stands out as particularly weak and pathetic. There are obviously times when anonymity is justified and necessary -- when someone powerless is risking something substantial to reveal serious wrongdoing by those who wield power -- but these cases are the opposite. Just ponder the character of the "senior White House official" who was so angry about what labor leaders did in Arkansas that s/he just had to call Ben Smith in order to stoke divisions between unions and their members by criticizing their actions, but then pleaded: "don't use my name when you publish my comments." That's what Washington is filled with, and it's why Washington is what it is.

Don't forget about Beltway cowardice

I certainly agree, this was cowardly. What's worse, it was utterly stupid.

I never believed the idea that Obama and his people play "eleven dimensional chess", or anything else that requires thinking many moves ahead. I'm sure that they've sometimes made smart moves. They outmaneuvered Hillary Clinton and John Edwards during the presidential primaries. Every once in a while, it's clear they've taken a long view of things. But, like J.J. Abrams when he's writing television scripts, or most people who are really busy, I assumed they were doing much of it on the fly and justifying their decisions later with some imaginative rationalizations.

This, though, is pure bush league amateurism. There's no gain in publicly insulting potential supporters. It just makes them that much more motivated to find a way to defeat you, or let you swing when you're in trouble. It also makes it harder for them to work with you in the future, because they will look weak. This is plainly obvious. Yet the White House did this anyway.

And make no mistake, this was the White House talking. Robert Gibbs admitted as much the next day, not that he needed to in order to show that was so. No one was fired for doing this, which is exactly what would have happened if that anonymous official had not been speaking on behalf of the Obama Administration.

At least, no sensible Administration would have let that statement stand.

I have to conclude from this that, in addition to having little courage and no moral center, someone at the center of this White House doesn't have the sense Nature gave a rabid opossum.

That really is troubling.

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