Well, no one else seems to be coming to Obama’s defense on this one, so I guess I’m gonna have to be the guy.

Obama’s offense was the implication that he made that Hillary and Bill have been plotting their almost back-to-back presidencies for years, an offense that was confirmed when a campaign staffer subsequently spoke of the twenty year scheme to install Mrs. Clinton as the president.

It’s a relatively innocuous statement intended, I think, to point out the dangers of the Bush-Clinton oligarchy (a concept, might I add, that I think is a very relevant argument). And okay, sure, maybe it was a little beneath Obama to also use the statement to probably help build up the image of Clinton as a triangulator.

But the phrase “twenty years” is enough to have TPM Election Central’s Greg Sargent tilting at windmills. His argument is that because a few hacks tried to do a hatchet job a while back on Hillary using similar language, Obama and his campaign must OBVIOUSLY be cribbing from them.

But then, that’s it… Twenty years. Minus a campaign staffer saying “20 years” there’s nothing here but an observation, sure, maybe a slightly pointed one, but a simple observation none the less. This might be one of the reasons why I’ve backed off the TPM brand a great deal.

This is much like the flap over a Bob Novak column that claims Hillary is calculatingly holding some mysterious bit of dirt over Obama’s head, and I think Marc Ambinder has it about dead on:

One caveat: “The Clinton Universe” is so big that there are bound to be free agents operating without sanction. When one of those advisers, for example, made fun of John McCain’s experience in a Vietnamese prison cell last year, Hillary Clinton, and not McCain, was embarassed and forced to apologize on behalf of someone who claimed to be close to her.

Past scandals have been generated by campaigns. Who tipped off reporters to allegations of Gary Hart’s indelity? To Joe Biden’s plagiarism of a British politician’s speech?

But these days, with the profusion of voices and outlets, rumors don’t need official channels to spread, and often, campaigns caught spreading them risk the ultimate penalty.

So if campaigns don’t traffic in these rumors, who does?

Supporters do — it’s true that reporters in Iowa and New Hampshire are accosted by Democrats who don’t like Hillary Clinton and wonder why the press doesn’t ask her about her husband’s fidelity.

Donors do — think of Gossip Girl set in a Georgetown salon.

Opposition parties do — everyone tends to assume that negative stuff against Hillary Clinton is being sent around by her Democratic opponents. Not always true.

And reporters do — we can’t help it.

In other words, this is all under the flap stuff that is getting far too much prominence due to the nature of the political media from the MSM to the amateur ranks.

Let’s get one thing clear though; just because Obama does not sing the praises of his opponents constantly does not mean that he has given up the “politics of hope.” There’s nothing in his political philosophy that precludes him from going on the offensive once in a while. He may not be great at it, and in fact there has been talk that in the debates you can tell he is visibly not comfortable with issuing attacks even if they are purely substantive in nature.

But the politics of hope are centered around not slinging mud. I don’t mean this in the Hillary Clinton definition that defines mud slinging as anything that doesn’t paint her as the ascendant candidate. I mean real mud slinging like saying that she touches little boys, or hangs out in public restrooms tapping her feet. Now that would be real mudslinging.

Mentioning that she has been planning her presidential bid for twenty years? Come on.

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