Posted by Adam @ 1:46 pm on April 29th 2008

Paul campaign footnote

I was reading this account by Tommy Christopher of the threat Paul and his minions pose to John McCain (overstated, I think, not because they can’t hurt him but because if he gets to a position where the Paulites deny him the Presidency, he’ll have done a hell of a job pulling himself into contention and he’s right to focus on those other, bigger, obstacles in his path) and I followed the author’s link to another (somewhat profane) story about his doomed attempts to get an interview with the Paulster.

Now, I have no real opinion about Paul’s campaign team — Brad has had contact with them and can comment (as he has) on their competence, preparedness and strategic decisions — but Benton’s email is pretty ill-considered (as is, incidentally, Mr Christopher’s response). I have no reason to assume that Benton’s email is characteristic of him, let alone the Paul campaign staff, but I thought that some of the Paulite readers might be interested in the article.

5 Comments »

  1. Quite a bit of dumb there from both directions.

    I wonder if it was ever possible to turn the Paul campaign into a fully professional operation, or whether the zeitgeist that made it possible to start with would have overwhelmed any serious attempt to do so.

    Comment by Rojas — 4/29/2008 @ 2:05 pm

  2. Jesse’s one of the guys, for whatever it’s worth, that a lot of Ron Paul supporters had “issues” with. Bear in mind that for most all of them, but the younger crew especially, this was the first time any of them had really been involved at a high level in a campaign, and when it all started, I don’t think anybody figured it would be much more than some debate performances and Marriott appearances. I do think that Jesse and others, in some ways, found themselves in over their heads a bit, especially early. They’re only human. Benton’s a good guy, from what little interactions I’ve had with him. Whether I’d hire him as my communications director is another matter.

    As far as that specific piece, I’m with Rojas. Sounds like two guys vaguely being douchebags. Which is, by the way, very easy to do over email, particularly when you’re handling a lot of requests and one of them strikes you as annoyingly needy, or pressured, or entitled. I found myself reacting similarly sometimes (and I answered mostly internal requests/queries from volunteers or people working with volunteers), and only after a day or so do I realize that I was being an asshole for no good reason.

    Rojas: Good question. At one point I would have said yes, but in retrospect, I’m not so sure. I think in a lot of ways the tidal nature of it is both what allowed it to become something and prevented it from being “fully professional”. In a weird way, I think it being not professional enough was a glass ceiling, but I also think it being too professional would have killed it in its cradle (and, for the record, when it did go out of its way to run itself as a “professional” campaign, it just as often as not caught hell for it from supporters).

    In short though, on the Benton—AOL-guy thing, yeah Benton was being an asshole, but I sympathize.

    Comment by Brad — 4/29/2008 @ 4:04 pm

  3. Brad,
    you’re entitled to your opinion, sure, but let me tell ya, I’ve gotten universal agreement from Paul supporters on Benton.
    There’s no equivalence here. Maybe I didn’t make it clear enough in the article, because I wrote it for free in addition to the 60 articles I wrote for AOL this month, so I didn’t spend the time I could have on it, but I contacted them at reasonable intervals for weeks, and was repeatedly promised a call back, even just to say “no, fuck off.”
    When I finally did get them, knowing that I was one of the few allies they had in the mainstream press, they still demanded to see my questions ahead of time, and dragged their heels in responding to that.
    Benton didn’t reply to me until the Sunday before Super Tuesday, hardly enough time to do any good.
    And to threaten me? How is there any equivalence there? How is that your first move?
    Now, if I was really a douche, I’d have written about it then, and done it on AOL where millions of people could see it.
    As for my response, I was trying to convey to them the fact that a large number of their supporters were eagerly awaiting the interview, which I had talked a lot about, and I didn’t want to air our laundry, which would make them look bad. I also didn’t want to just say nothing, as this might have had negative inferences for Dr. Paul.

    Nope, they wouldn’t hear it. My desire to be fair to Dr Paul was such that I did nothing, never explained it to my readers, until months latr in an out-of-the-way place.

    Coincidentally, I called them yestrday about this story, let’s see if they can put professionalism above personality.
    http://news.aol.com/political-machine/2008/04/29/dittoheads-for-hillary-meet-dems-for-ron-paul/

    Comment by tommychristopher — 4/30/2008 @ 6:41 am

  4. Brad will speak for himself, I’m sure, but he has posted here about the amateurishness of elements of the Paul campaign.

    In my opinion, incidentally, the threat from Benton was the really unacceptable thing (I should have said that in my post) regarding his behaviour. For my part, I just thought that you took, nevertheless, somewhat too much umbrage. I would, however, probably have posted it at the time, myself (but then, I’m a meany and wasn’t a Paul supporter). It might have given Paul an additional small incentive to control his campaign staff a little more.

    I’m not close to important enough to even get a threatening email from the amateurish campaign staff of a minor candidate, though. :(

    Comment by Adam — 4/30/2008 @ 7:51 am

  5. I’ll be more clear: you’re right. He was very unnecessarily being a douchebag, to no purpose but off-putting a potential ally and shooting his own campaign on the foot because of whatever bug crawled up his ass. I’ll also be more forthcoming: I think Jesse Benton is the weak link of Dr. Paul’s campaign staff (which is not a very strong chain to begin with). It was pretty clear from pretty early on that he was in way over his head. It’s not even inexperience, he’s just unsuited for the job and wasn’t every good at it. I think an open call would have produced a better candidate, and while I understand that the Paul people have grown close to him and that, when you’re a candidate like Dr. Paul, you value the people you’ve had since the beginning, even when he was passable he never did any favors to the campaign. More often then not, he created situations as you found yourself in. I’d have dumped him.

    My only other point, and I speak from somebody whose done both sides of it, being in the Ron Paul staff circle and being a freelance journalist in my regular life, that you’re taking it way too personally. From Jesse’s perspective, it’s a real high impact high stress job, and I know from my own experience that there were certainly days when some email or another, probably for no good reason, would just rub me the wrong way. There were even a few times when I let that get in the way of a professional reply, and ended up creating problems for myself because I was too snippy or flat-out rude with somebody, who then pitched a fit, and I ended up having to eat shit and apologize for waking up on the wrong side of the bed (which I’m able to do; some people seem characteristically unable). It happens, is what I’m saying, which doesn’t make it any less shitty when you’re on the wrong end of it, but I’m just saying I sympathize.

    From the journalistic end, what you do when that happens is shrug your shoulder, say “Well fuck him”, and either move on to another story, or go over the guy’s head (or around, or under). Don’t get me wrong I think you’d have been justified in doing either (including a negative piece about the irresponsible Keystone Cop nature of the PR staff in the campaign), and I think you’re a bigger man for not. But either way, it’s not something to take personally. You’re always going to run into assholes, and you’re always going to run into people not willing to give you a fair shake or who seem to go out of their way to give you an unfair shake. It’s not worth personalizing and letting get under your skin.

    Comment by Brad — 4/30/2008 @ 11:32 pm

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