Don't Hit a Gadfly With a Sledgehammer

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Jan 13, 2007 5:25 PM

If there’s one thing political strategists learned from Bill Clinton, it’s to attack the attacker. Do you remember what James Carville said about Paula Jones? “Drag a hundred dollar bill through a trailer park and there's no telling what you'll get."

In short, the Clinton team taught a generation of consultants that the way to avoid an attack is to attack the credibility of the attacker.

The most recent campaign to utilize this tactic is the Mitt Romney exploratory committee.

Here’s the background: In an AP story on Friday morning, Brian Camenker, a man the AP described as a “conservative gadfly” criticized Gov. Romney’s past positions on gay marriage and other social issues.

By Friday afternoon, Romney was attacking Camenker’s credibility on his own exploratory committee site. Camenker and his friends responded with a letter signed by several conservative activists – including respected conservative leader Paul Weyrich.

Now, I don’t know Mr. Camenker. And for all I know, he is, in fact, a gadfly. I have no reason to doubt Townhall’s own Dean Barnett, who describes Camenker as being, “obsessed with gay issues.” My goal isn’t to defend Camenker – it’s to make the point that a frontrunner (such as Gov. Romney) has nothing to gain by attacking a conservative activist – especially if he is a gadfly.

If Camenker is so irrelevant, then why is Romney trying to take him down? Why not let someone else take down Camenker (heck, the AP is already doing the dirty work by calling him a gadfly)? Get a surrogate, for crying out loud, Gov. Romney, but don’t dirty your hands on this man ...

As a source close to one of Romney's potential rivals told me, "This is the dumbest stunt by a tier one presidential candidate since George Romney claimed he had been brainwashed by the generals and diplomats."

This race is going to get ugly, folks.