Bob Franken

Staff Infections

March 10, 2008
Staff Infections (Bob Franken)
@ 9:54 am

What’s with all these staff meltdowns? For weeks, we’ve all been having fun and games ridiculing Hillary Clinton’s staff. After all, how can anyone resist dumping on all the inept, arrogant nastiness that screams out from behind the HillaryLand bunkers?

Now we’re witnessing some out-of-control behavior at high levels of Barack Obama’s organization.

What possessed top foreign policy adviser Samantha Power to call Clinton “a monster”? And during a newspaper interview! How dumb was that?

How could it be that Power, with long experience in journalism, could have lapsed into such naiveté about what she says to a reporter and what’s fair game? Did her time in the Harvard ivory tower so dull her perceptions of life outside the cocoon that she didn’t realize her careless “monster” remark would be public, and just might be a teensy weensy bit controversial? Or damaging?

Is Barack Obama’s campaign suddenly so scattered that no one keeps track of who is speaking to whom? Has anyone there been exposed to the concept of “talking points”?

True, when the Clinton camp jumped all over this, Power was ordered to resign and presumably go into exile in Cambridge. But this was not the first example of leadership gone wild. It’s arguable that University of Chicago Professor Austan Goolsbee cost Obama the primary election in Ohio, after he was caught leaving the impression with Canadian officials that the candidate’s harsh NAFTA criticism was only politics and not to be taken seriously?

Again, Goolsbee is a professor, so we need to factor in the usual academic befuddlement, but even so, isn’t it fair to ask whether this is the kind of message-management we’d expect from a President Obama?

To be an equal-opportunity disser, let me take a short trip down memory lane to a few months back. That’s when John McCain’s feuding advisers almost shredded his candidacy as they ripped each other apart. In that case, McCain purged the ranks and proceeded to make such a recovery that he went from rock bottom to top of the heap.

Clinton and Obama should take a page from his book. Far too many in the political world have become successful when their only real talent is self-promotion.

These people are great networkers, so they hire each other and attach themselves to campaigns. They often make big bucks as they drag down their candidates.

What seems to be shaping up between Clinton’s and Obama’s staffs is a battle not over which one will win elections, but which one will lose. Shouldn’t we expect more than that?

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