Sid Blumenthal In The Conservatory With A Filmmaker?
Let’s review a few basic facts here, folks.
1. John Edwards has no realistic prospect of winning the 2008 Democratic nomination. Hillary Clinton has 20+ point leads in numerous polls, and if by some chance she should stumble irreparably, Barack Obama would take her place.
2. Edwards is also unlikely to run again for public office. In other words, other than the sheer joy of taking down the smug poseur, Republicans have basically no motive to expend energy digging up dirt for a hit job on Edwards, much less one that could blow up in their faces.
3. The GOP presidential campaigns do have their hands full right now with each other, as both Fred and Rudy have serious chances to win the nomination, Romney has an outside shot, and the other campaigns are battling to stay relevant. If a Republican did have personal dirt on Edwards, now would not be a useful time to unload it.
4. Edwards is, however, importantly positioned in one respect: in Iowa, the first Democratic primary/caucus and the only one where Hillary lacks a large lead, he has around 20-25% of the vote, nearly even with Hillary and Obama, as a result of having campaigned there pretty much continuously for five years. Obama’s wife has conceded that if Hillary wins Iowa, the race is effectively over; if Obama wins, that could force Hillary into a much tougher primary campaign and potentially drain her war chest and alienate key constituencies. Thus, both candidates have a motive to want Edwards out of the way so they can go after the voters who have been long committed to Edwards.
Why do I bring all this up? Because there is a particularly nasty piece of work being floated around about Edwards – and there is every reason to believe that it is being driven by the Clinton or Obama camps. And given that this bears all the hallmarks of Clinton politics (recall that a similar hit job was perpetrated by Clinton ally Wes Clark during the 2004 primaries), my money would be on the Hillary folks. The media should be sure to press both campaigns to go on the record as to their involvement.
Here’s the deal: the National Enquirer is retailing a story of Edwards supposedly cheating on his cancer-stricken wife with a filmmaker who was paid a lot of money by the Edwards campaign for work that never saw the light of day. The Huffington Post is likewise pushing the filmmaker angle as a “questions are being raised” story without explicitly mentioning the alleged affair. As with the Kerry story in 2004, the tale is plausible enough that it is of course possible that it is true, but the nature of the disclosures so far – and their sourcing – are more suggestive of a political hit piece that can’t be verified but also can’t be denied by Edwards without giving the whole ball of mud some credence.
So if it’s a politically motivated hit job, and the people who logically stand to benefit are Hillary and Obama, that’s where the media should be looking for the cuprits (Mickey Kaus seems to agree). In fact, a story of marital infidelity would play to Hillary’s strong suit, the wave of sympathy for her as the wronged woman that was crucial to her initial election to the Senate in 2000. A look at the people holding the knife may be in order – Kaus has been arguing for months that the Enquirer may be motivated to make nice with Clinton ally Ron Burkle, still mentioned as recently as July as a potential purchaser of the tabloid. And the HuffPo, being the HuffPo, presumably isn’t getting its information from right-wingers. At a guess, other than the absence of a Josh Marshall post, this has all the hallmarks of a Sid Blumenthal operation.
The Clinton camp being as skilled as it is at this type of politics, we will probably never get to the bottom of who is behind this story. But it would be nice if the media actually tried to find out.