It’s an emerging meme (trend, argument, narrative) being pushed in part by the Obama campaign: Hillary’s folks are behind the sustained focus on Barack’s fiery former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and others who supposedly advise him.
This line of argument makes a lot of sense – who else benefits from the problematic preacher who wished God would damn America?
The only problem is – as far as we in this little Jewish corner of the media can tell – it just isn’t true.
It’s something I alluded to last week, reporting on a photo the Obama campaign was circulating of Wright and Clinton in 1998.
Clinton’s campaign said the ploy was “pathetic,” and this is what I reported:
The Obama campaign countered, ‘After their top surrogates pushed this story line and Senator Clinton’s campaign outlined this as a central strategy in her plan to overturn the will of Democratic voters, I can see why they wouldn’t want a photo out there that shows the kind of hypocrisy we’ve all come to expect from their campaign.’ It’s hard to say who is peddling the Wright narrative at any given time, but those pushing the story to JTA, at least, are not part of the Clinton campaign.
I can’t speak for the entire media, of course, but if the Clintons wanted media to focus harder on Wright, who among other habits likes to place Israel inside quotation marks, JTA would be high on the must-call list. Yet, this stuff just isn’t coming from them. The same is true of the material connecting Israel critics to the campaign we’re not getting it from the Clintons.
Now, influential Atlantic.com bloggers Andrew Sullivan and Marc Ambinder are peddling the meme, saying that the latest Israel-related broadside against Obama, concerning top adviser Tony McPeak, is being peddled by the Clintons.
Again, at least in JTA’s case, it just ain’t true. And this time, it’s not a problem for me to reveal who IS pushing McPeak’s 2003 interview, in which he seems to blame Jewish voters for failures in Middle East policy.
It’s Robert Goldberg, a writer for the conservative American Spectator magazine who uncovered the Oregonian interview and highlighted it in an op-ed this week. Like many another enterprising writer he made sure a lot of interested people (myself included) knew of his discovery.
And it’s a legitimate story. Unlike earlier targets Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert Malley, McPeak does play an active, senior role in the campaign. And unlike their writings, McPeak’s ramblings cross over from Israel criticism into blame-the-Jewsism.
The truth is I’m hearing – off the record – from Clinton folks in the Jewish community who are getting steamed about the lashing Obama is getting over his pro-Israel credentials: They don’t think it’s fair.
Of course, this isn’t a political utopia, so these Clintonites aren’t taking any significant steps to defend Obama. The other day, someone deep inside the Clinton campaign told me the strategy with Wright is not to encourage the story, but not to discourage it either. That approach was borne out yesterday when Clinton said she would not have stayed in a church in which Wright was a pastor - but only after she was asked about it directly.
You can think this sit-on-your-hands approach is kind of icky. But it doesn’t put her name in the “from” line when the e-mails come in.
And even if in some cases the Clinton camp is forwarding on some this stuff, the Obama folks might want to pay closer attention to who is actually originating this material. If he wins the nomination, the real sources are not going away.
P.S. For the counter view … check out this Newsweek article citing some alleged examples of Clinton people peddling GOP/conservative criticisms of Obama. (Clinton adviser Ann Lewis says that at least in her case Newsweek was off the mark.)