It was my turn to interview Barack Obama today, and ask something that’s been on my mind: He talks about changing the culture in Washington, and running a positive campaign, and while his public statements and ads have taken the high road, his campaign staff has consistently urged reporters to write negative stories about Clinton and sent releases about things like her “legacy of misleading voters.” I asked if that’s consistent with his principles.Obama began nodding his head halfway through my question. His response:
“This is a tension that we have at this stage in the campaign. Once Senator Clinton employed what her own staff called her kitchen sink strategy, they were having a morning call, every morning, in which they were driving the media to negative stories, and at a certain point I think my staff felt concerned that if that’s all everybody was hearing every morning, we weren’t going to be able to get our message out. As you said, what I’ve tried to do is be consistent in terms of my statements and television commercials, and I don’t think that we have crossed the line, but I think that there’s no doubt that I prefer to have a debate about policy.”
“When your staff saw the need to do that, did you personally say, go ahead?” I asked.
Obama shook his head and waved his hand. “Look, I think that national politics, as a I was aware of, and discovered even more, can be a contact sport. We’ve definitely been absorbing a lot more blows than we’ve been giving. We’ve shown great restraint during the course of this campaign. So much so that as you will recall, there were constant cries from columnists and pundits all across the country suggesting that, you know, I might be too nice to be able to win this. So we try to strike that balance. My criteria is making sure that whatever it is that say is truthful and honest and is related to policy.”