Third Party & Independents Archives

Rumor Machinations: Who gains from it?

It appears that the John Kerry affair story is growing legs, albeit slowly, after a giant explosion on the blogosphere thanks to the alert from Drudge. I’m not one to gloat over scooping this news from the man who broke the Lewinski story, instead I’ll say thanks to everyone who linked to the original. However, Jonah Goldberg from National Review Online must have noticed an interesting link at the bottom of the site: “© 2003 - Cameron Barrett”. He then either clicked that link or knew Cam was an Internet star and knew that he had been working for the Clark campaign. He seemed to conjecture that Cam was vetting through WatchBlog on behalf of Clark in order to defame Kerry. Armed with this, and the juicy Drudge quote from Clark: “Kerry will implode over an intern issue”, a conspiracy was born.

Except there's a snag in the equation, I'm not Cameron Barrett, I didn't get my tip from him or anyone else with the Clark campaign, and aside from the initial week's launch of WatchBlog, he's never written anything for the site. David Remer was given the reins and title of Editor-in-Chief in October 2003 when Cam went to work on the blog strategy for Clark. In addition, based on some of the internal e-mails I've received, he has had a very hard time of communicating with Cam regarding moving the site to it's own server and instituting a real advertising system (so the site can pay for the bandwidth created by such stories as this).

If Clark was hoping to torpedo the Kerry campaign, why did he wait until after he was on the brink of defeat and forced to concede to drop the bombshell (off the record, according to Drudge)? And if his intention was to sink Kerry in scandal, why would he quickly come to backing Kerry after the story broke? There's a disconnect there that doesn't make sense unless you look back at the context Drudge gave on Clark's quote: "In an off-the-record conversation with a dozen reporters earlier this week, General Wesley Clark plainly stated: 'Kerry will implode over an intern issue.' [Three reporters in attendance confirm Clark made the startling comments.]".

"Earlier this week". Let that sink in for a minute, then remember who owns WatchBlog and may actually read it from time to time: Cameron Barrett, part of the Clark campaign. I think the theorists have it backwards, instead of Clark having this information when it could have been useful (two weeks ago even, when the news could have catapulted him past Kerry), he got it from his own staffer and was unwilling to state it on the record because of it's suspect nature. So why would he have waited until his campaign is out of the running to drop this news?

To clear up my own source of information on the Kerry affair, I was told that Time magazine was going to be running a piece about Kerry having an affair with a 20-year-old up to the time he announced his candidacy. This was an insider on Capitol Hill who noted that this was not something that was news to the higher Democrat eschelons (which I found the most appalling).

I've always subscribed to a simple formula when dissecting political machinations: Who gains from it? In my earlier article, I noted that some people such as Karl Rove, love rumors like this, and made an argument concerning push polling. Now I want to back up and also point at the other Democratic candidates, because at this stage they have just as much to gain. Dean announced that he would not be giving up, even if he lost Wisconsin, so it appears that he may have gotten wind of a Kerry shortcoming in time to steer his campaign away from the reef and over Kerry should he falter. Notably, there has been dead silence on the subject from the Dean camp, no denunciations or finger wagging in the face of alleged impropriety. Perhaps they read WatchBlog last week in time to stop Dean from throwing in the towel as well, but I doubt it.

As for Rove, it's possible that he's too busy diffusing the media's attention on the Bush AWOL story to have schemed such a story, although I'm certain that it's seen as a great windfall for them and will likely play a role should Kerry limp along and still get the Democratic nomination. Rolling out a prognostication on push polling was probably a bit premature considering how early in the elections things still are. It could still play a role later on though.

But the question of "Who gains from it?" still lingers. Did someone in the the right-wing throw this at Drudge, as I suspected many Democrats would claim? This scenario hopes for a Kerry implosion and a "YEAAARGH" Dean against Bush, with Bush shown to win. Or perhaps someone in the Dean camp, after suffering defeat after defeat in primaries and caucuses, wanted to sink Kerry, but again polls point to a Bush win. Did Kerry's own former campaign manager, Chris Lehane, decide to take out his anger after being fired by Kerry and then losing as Clark's press secretary? Maybe a vindictive journalist wrote an investigative piece on Kerry that was killed by an editor?

"Who gains from it?" is still unclear. We do know who's losing from it: John Kerry.

Update: I also want to know why the mainstream media is not touching this story? Granted, it's a Drudge starter, but it's been giving ammo to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who continues to lay down arrogant jabs at the "liberal media" and pointing to intense questioning regarding Bush's "non-story" AWOL story while ignoring a juicy scandal. There does seem to be some hipocrisy here.

Update 2: The New Republic is also curious about the perceived double standard. Can anyone point out some liberal-leaning news sites that are asking this same question? It's starting to look like this is the new angle of this story if the media continues to ignore it, turning this into a liberal bias issue.

Update 3: I almost forgot:
**World Exclusive**
**Must Credit WATCHBLOG**
There, now all I have to do is write really disjointed... and quote!... like this...

Posted by SoL at February 14, 2004 12:53 AM