Missteps By Campaign Advisers Has Long History

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This election season has seen numerous instances of top campaign advisers saying something ill-advised. Phil Gramm, Samantha Power and Geraldine Ferraro all made statements that ended up doing harm to their principals. But the phenomenon is not new.


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DANIEL SCHORR: Former Senator Phil Gramm of Texas is an example, surely not the first of a peculiar phenomenon in political campaign strife, the dedicated supporter who ends up doing harm to his principal.

SMITH: NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: Now vice-chairman of a big Swiss bank, Gramm was the chief economic adviser and campaign co-chairman for his good friend Senator John McCain. As most of America knows by now, Gramm told the Washington Times in an interview that economic fears were exaggerated. We have sort of become a nation of whiners, he said, and for good measure, he blamed the press for part of the problem, saying misery sells newspapers. It was a little like President Jimmy Carter blaming Americans for their malaise. As a way of winning votes, it leaves something to be desired. Gramm resigned, of course.

Then, there is Samantha Power, the brilliant Pulitzer-Prize-winning professor. She was a top adviser to Senator Obama. In a Scottish newspaper interview, she was promoting a book in Britain. She called Obama's rival, Senator Hillary Clinton, a monster. In the storm of criticism, she was forced to resign from the Obama campaign. She said, I care passionately, obviously too passionately, about the Obama campaign.

But that leaves the question, how could a super intelligent person makes such a booboo in the first place? And what about Geraldine Ferraro, the one time candidate for vice-president who was a member of Senator Clinton's campaign committee. She suggested that Obama got where he is because he is black. Boom! The house falls in. Ms. Ferraro resigns. She says she resigned to limit the harm to her principal.

Going back a bit, in 1995, there was Edward Rollins, adviser to the Bob Dole presidential campaign. He referred to two Jewish congressmen as hymie boys. Bye-bye, Rollins. And then in 1987, two aides for Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Dukakis tried to undermine the competing campaign of Senator Joe Biden by leaking to reporters a videotape exposing Biden as having plagiarized part of his stump speech. Dukakis said the aide who did it committed a serious mistake. But why do smart and dedicated people do such dumb things? This is Daniel Schorr.

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