(Im)plausible deniability

HRC apologizes to Obama for a smear against him by her New Hampshire co-chair. Mark Penn then goes on TV and says “cocaine,” just in case anyone had forgotten the substance of the smear.

I’m glad to see that Hillary Clinton has dumped Bill Shaheen as co-chair of her New Hampshire campaign, and apologized to Barack Obama for Shaheen’s references to Obama’s drug use from college days.

Now all she needs to do is fire Mark Penn, who in discussing the issue on TV after HRC’s apology made sure to use the word “cocaine.”

Apologies From the Heart (of Darkness?)

By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton apologized personally to Senator Barack Obama on Thursday for a top adviser’s public suggestion that Republicans would go after Mr. Obama for his youthful drug use.

This came a day after Mike Huckabee apologized to Mitt Romney, a Mormon, for remarks that suggested Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers.

But in the aftermath of the apologies, both the Clinton and Huckabee campaigns kept the original slurs alive through a series of interviews, raising questions about the sincerity of their apologies, especially in the heat of a wide-open campaign with the first voting less than three weeks away.

[snip]

On Thursday afternoon, Mrs. Clinton’s top adviser, Mark Penn, appeared on MSNBC with Mr. Obama’s top adviser, David Axelrod, and John Edwards’s top adviser, Joe Trippi. They argued with one another, and it was there that Mr. Penn dropped the word “cocaine,” saying that the Clinton campaign had not raised the issue of “cocaine use.”

That seemed to infuriate the others. “This guy just said ‘cocaine’ again,” Mr. Trippi said.

Anyone who is fooled by HRC’s assertion that there was no central decision to spread slime about Obama must want to be fooled. A fish rots from the head.

Update Wait! It gets worse.

Obama’s ‘surprises’?

Clinton didn’t mention specifics in the taping of an interview on “Iowa Press” this morning, but drew a contrast with unnamed rivals that echoes Bill Shaheen’s now-notorious claim that unexplored elements of Obama’s candidacy will make him an easy Republican target.

“I’ve been tested, I’ve been vetted,” she said. “There are no surprises. There’s not going to be anybody saying, ‘I didn’t think of that, my goodness, what’s that going to mean?'”

This appears to be the emerging core of the electability case against Obama: that elements of his public record and — unspoken — his private past, could scuttle what should be a Democratic sure thing, and that he is untested by real partisan combat.

“Whoever we nominate will be subjected to the full force of the Republican attack machine, and I know that they know I know that and I have no illusions about what this race will entail,” she said.

UPDATE: Asked to elaborate on what she’s suggesting about Obama, Clinton has an answer ready: “I’m only talking about myself.”

I repeat: from the head.

Second update Speaking of going negative … err, “comparative” … Paul Loeb has some comparisons between the conduct of Obama’s “Leadership PaC,” for which HRC has criticized him, and her own conduct. Bottom line: if Hillary hadn’t been such a money hog, spending $40 million to run virtually unopposed and transferring $12 million to her Presidential campaign &#8212 if, that is, she’d acted like Edwards and Obama, who raised money for and gave money to other campaigns nationwide &#8212 Democrats could have picked up a bunch of extra seats in the House and at least one in the Senate.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com