Sunday, August 10, 2008

Timing Edwards's Repentance

Okay, since apparently not discussing Edwards isn't in the cards ...

I'm interested in Edwards's choice to come clean (or as clean as he thought he had to) on the Friday that the Olympics began. That looks like the classic strategy to minimize coverage, and maybe that's what it is. But it's not quite the classic execution: rather than a 4 pm Friday press release, he actually did the TV interview himself, allowing the networks and the net to run clips all weekend, giving the MSM time to gear up for coverage, and giving the Sunday talking heads time to sharpen their knives. Edwards is in some ways maximizing his coverage right now, rather than minimizing it. So why confess now?

Because Barack Obama is going on vacation.

I'm sure Obama didn't personally direct Edwards to do anything. But it's fairly clear from the press coverage that some combination of the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party told Edwards that he couldn't speak at the convention unless he took steps to deal with the scandal. It's unthinkable that Senator Obama didn't sign off, somehow, on that decision, and even more unthinkable that he couldn't overturn it if he chose. Edwards confessed not because the American mainstream media forced him; they were clearly refusing to cover the story. Edwards confessed because that's how Senator Obama wanted it, and Senator Obama is the boss.

(Parenthetically: Is this confession bad for Obama? Of course it is. That's why he ordered it.)

Now, Obama's vacation has fairly obviously been timed to coincide with the Olympics as well, because the coming week will make it harder for Obama to attract coverage on the trail and harder for McCain to take advantage of the break. (McCain, playing catch-up, has to campaign through the headwind of Olympics coverage.) But the management of the Edwards scandal fits into Obama's schedule, perfectly.

If Edwards was inevitably going to generate a week of scandal coverage, it's best for that week to happen while Obama is off the trail. Obama doesn't have to answer reporter's questions about some other Deomcrat's marriage at every campaign event, and more importantly, Obama doesn't have to put in a full week of barnstorming effort without being able to get the media's attention. Meanwhile, McCain has to plug away in an environment where he can't get any oxygen at all, and can't land effective attacks on Obama because everyone is busy hating on that other Democrat (who isn't running).

Edwards is also, helpfully, attracting the full gossipy attention of media clowns such as Maureen Dowd, who has already filed her first ad hominem thumbsucker about the former senator. Since pundits gravitate toward groundless takedowns of the "Is Obama Too Thin?" variety when they can't see anything substantive to write about, a week off the campaign trail is an invitation for idle mischief by the pundit set. (I'm sure that Dowd was more than ready to free-associate on Hawaiian beaches and fitness to serve.) But now those idlers have a "big" story to keep them occupied. I can't say I'm entirely unhappy about that.

The boss has gone to Hawaii for the week. He wants this whole mess sorted out before he gets back. You don't want him having to deal with this nonsense when he gets back to Chicago.

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