In a political party or campaign, one has to have surrogates but one must choose those surrogates wisely. An effective surrogate can say things that you, as the campaign, can’t say, and can advance story lines around the edges to force your opponent to respond and even get off their game. But a bad surrogate can end up getting in the way of your message, even embarrass you and knock you off your game.
And then there are the surrogates you didn’t deputize, but who step up to speak for you anyway as if you did. Those tend to be the most counterproductive. Ironically, they tend to think they’re the most effective. They step up to help, but mostly hurt.
Sen. Harry Reid, as the Democrats’ leader in the Senate, is probably a deputized Obama campaign surrogate. He’s too high profile to be left out of the loop. But that doesn’t mean he’s good, persuasive or even particularly effective and it doesn’t mean he runs the campaign’s playbook effectively. Lately Reid is looking like the non-deputized, shoot-off-his-mouth type of surrogate, accusing Mitt Romney of not paying any taxes for 10 years because some guy Reid can’t name swears that it’s true.
Given the chance to clean up the mess he’d made, Reid made more of a mess, doubling down on the accusation and then lamely insisting that Romney prove that it isn’t true. That’s not how things work.
Is Reid acting on his own, or on orders from the Obama campaign? Well, on more than one occasion now the Obama campaign has advanced the “felon” nonsense against Romney, so Reid’s character assault fits with the campaign’s overt tactics. Coming from the campaign of a man who has admitted to committing multiple felonies — Obama’s past hard drug use, specifically — that’s an unwise move. For one thing, it opens the Obama camp to questions of his own past and character. Some particularly aggressive GOP surrogate could swear that they know a guy who used to get his blow from Barry Obama, and using the Reid standard, it’s up to Obama to prove the anonymous allegation false.
But Reid’s tax gambit has forced the Obama campaign to admit, on television, that they “don’t have any proof” of anything they’re flinging against Romney after Stephanie Cutter promised to provide proof in mid July. That’s embarrassing, though it’s debatable whether Stephanie Cutter is even capable of feeling shame or knowing when she looks like a fool. She has never worked outside a political campaign and evidently does not know the meaning of the word “credible.” Or “sane.”
The Obama team, Reid and Cutter etc, have no proof that Mitt Romney has done a thing wrong. But there is proof that Obama was a hard drug user, and there is proof that his economic plans are a total failure.
And there’s proof that for all his noise and bluster, Harry Reid is among a group of top Democrats who haven’t released their own tax returns. The obvious thing to infer, using Reid’s own standard, is that he hasn’t released his tax returns because he hasn’t been paying any taxes or has something else to hide. Reid used the tax return issue to insist that Romney isn’t fit to hold office at all. Well, Harry, right back atcha. Ditto for Nancy Pelosi and DNC chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, neither of whom have released their own tax returns. Romney can now say “You show me yours and I’ll show you mine” and effectively shut the Democrat leadership up. Harry Reid took the Obama campaign’s ball and sprinted all the way to a touchdown. Too bad he ran the wrong way.
The upshot of all of this is that the Democrats look dishonest, creepy, desperate and hypocritical. It’s obvious that they’re creating all this hubbub to get away from having to admit that they don’t have a clue how to improve the economy and have nothing positive to run on. As an Obama surrogate, Harry Reid was supposed to put Mitt Romney on the defensive, but has instead focused negative attention back on the entire Democrat leadership. Oopsie.
Update: Reid scored so big for the Dems that Jon Stewart mocks him and the “Sideboob Gazette” aka Huffington Post.