Friday, June 6, 2008

Still Handy with the Knife

Rob Andrews, the lonely rebel who challenged his fellow Democrat Sen. Frank Lautenberg, advertises a little dirt on the Clinton campaign (a campaign he supported):

"There have been signals coming out of the Clinton campaign that have racial overtones that indeed disturb me," Andrews said at his campaign headquarters in Cherry Hill Tuesday night after he lost his bid for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination.

"Frankly, I had a private conversation with a high-ranking person in the campaign ... that used a racial line of argument that I found very disconcerting. It was extremely disconcerting given the rank of this person. It was very disturbing."

Andrews said the phone call came after he angered the Clinton camp by making some positive comments about Obama. He would not disclose the caller's name because of the private nature of the conversation.

That elicited this blast of venom from the Arlington headquarters:

"Comments like these, coming so soon after Congressman Andrews' crushing defeat, are sad and divisive," said Clinton's chief national spokesman, Phil Singer.

It's a non-denial denial, which is provocative in itself. But, jeez, that is just vindictive. There aren't many Democrats who would suffer their spokesmen to be so publicly vicious.

I'm of two minds about what ought to be done about the substance of Andrews' claims, which I will regard as likely true until the Clinton campaign sees fit to deny them. The conduct Andrews describes is despicable and ought to carry a stigma. Still, to pursue the story would presumably do serious harm to party unity. On the other hand, to ignore the story amounts to granting a license for the Republicans to pursue the same strategy in their downticket races (and, of course, the historical record of this contest should be as accurate as possible).

In a way, it's all academic. If the Rob Andrews of the world choose to name names, then it will be a story and the unity of the party be damned. If they keep their silence, then we'll never know much more than the current cloud of rumor.

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