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Presidential Campaigning Involves Politics



So the latest appallingly stupid NothingBurger to come out of the Wikileaks dump appears courtesy of Lee Fang:

Shadowproof connects the dots:

The campaign pushed out content with the #ImSoEstablishment hashtag through Clinton, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and a “diverse array of bloggers and progressive people out in the world.” Shonda Rhimes, Ricky Martin, and Julianne Moore, each considered “non-political surrogates,” were enlisted to respond.

More remarkably, the campaign coordinated with bloggers and columnists to create the perception that Sanders’s comments were racist or detrimental to women. As Peterson put it, they were asked to “write about this from a racial justice and reproductive rights perspective, including a few people who joined us on a call to talk about the “Bernie Backlash” that was unfolding even before his remarks last night.”

Peterson named Sady Doyle, Gabe Ortiz, Elianne Ramos, Jamil Smith, and Aminatou Sow, as writers who were urged to publish pieces that would be helpful to the campaign. Jessica Valenti, according to Peterson, already was in the process of writing a column on the matter.

As several of the bloggers mentioned above are party to one or more of the endless, dreary, pointless twitter feuds that emerged around the 2016 Democratic primary campaign, the remnants of the Bernie Brigade went predictably ballistic:

So, a story.

As I have noted a couple of times, earlier this year I briefly served in an informal capacity as a foreign policy advisor to the Sanders campaign.  My role was extraordinarily small, largely because of mutual disinterest, but in the context of the above “news” it’s worth relating one anecdote.

In the process of agreeing to advise the campaign, I was asked about my willingness to be identified as a public advocate, or whether I would prefer an informal role.  I was happy to go public, but it turned out (I was told) that abolishing the Air Force was too spicy of an enchilada for Bernie to publicly associate himself with (revolutions ain’t what they used to be).

Not long after this (in late February), I received the following e-mail from an individual associated with the Sanders campaign (happy to release name if I receive permission, otherwise no):



I accepted the suggestion for the following reasons:

  1. I write two weekly columns, and always welcome new ideas.
  2. Although I often find myself on the more hawkish side of the left blogosphere, I had serious reservations about the role that Clinton played in the decision to intervene in Libya.
  3. I have long believed that the US political conversation needs sophisticated, robust voices on the left; not “liberals who like blowing stuff up,” but rather leftists who are knowledgeable of and engaged with the major debates on US national security. Working with Sanders generally, and writing the article specifically, supported this desire.

The person I worked with forwarded along several talking points to emphasize. I wrote the article, which I submitted to the National Interest (not generally regarded as a pro-Clinton outlet).  They never published; it’s possible that the article simply wasn’t very good, but NatInt was undergoing a bit of editorial turmoil at the time, and it’s possible the piece simply got lost in the shuffle.  I didn’t feel strongly, and so I didn’t push it.  I thought about publishing here at LGM, but had qualms about posting what amounted to an attack on the likely Democratic nominee. The “likely” was key here; if I had believed that Bernie Sanders had any chance at all of winning the nomination, I might well have pursued it further. I have no idea whether anyone else received similar e-mails.

Let me be utterly clear: THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH ANY OF THIS. It violated no meaningful norms or ethical standards, and invoke no specific moral qualms.  My reticence to engage came wholly and purely from concern that something I wrote would become a hit piece against the likely Democratic nominee. The Sanders campaign noted what it believed to be a key vulnerability of Hillary Clinton.  It reached out to writers who also believed that Clinton had made problematic decisions.  It suggested that these writers take advantage of a notable news story on the topic in question. In short, the Sanders campaign attempted to win an election by making an active effort to publicly highlight a difference between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. It took active steps to develop a narrative, and to push that narrative forward in the media.

This is called politics.  I do wish that folks weren’t so committed to pretending that Hillary Clinton invented politics, or that the practice of politics is somehow dirty.

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