On Sen. Barack Obama's new pledge to run a more aggressive campaign against Sen. Hillary Clinton -- asking what her national security credentials are, pushing her to release her tax returns -- Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson just said on a conference call with reporters: "I for one do not find that imitating Ken Starr is a way to win a Democratic primary election for president."
UPDATE: I asked both campaigns for comment on Wolfson's remarks.
Wolfson said that by making attacks on Sen. Clinton's openness (or lack thereof), her failure to release her tax returns even after loaning her campaign $5 million, and Whitewater, the Obama campaign is employing Ken Starr-like tactics
The Clinton campaign's evidence includes:
1) An Obama campaign memo which noted that when the Clintons in the past didn't release tax returns, there was interesting material in the unreleased returns, per the Wall Street Journal editorial: "During the 1992 campaign, the Clintons claimed to be coming clean by releasing their tax returns from 1980 forward. But they steadfastly refused to release their returns for prior years, and only later did we learn that 1978 and 1979 were the tax years when Mrs. Clinton reported her 10,000% cattle-futures trading profit."
2) The same Obama memo pointing out that "here are eight pieces of information that could be learned from her tax returns, the accompanying schedules, and attachments:
"Effective tax rate – including whether or not any tax shelters were used to reduce it"Amount of income for spouses by source"Amount of stock gains and losses"Gross income for the couple"Amount earned from stock dividends"Amount of household employment taxes paid"Personal exemptions taken"Charitable contributions made."
3) Obama senior campaign strategist David Axelrod, appearing on This Week with George Stephanopoulos last Sunday, saying, "with all due respect, I would think that the Clinton campaign would be the last person to be wanting to characterize any real estate transaction as unusual," an oblique reference to Whitewater.
4) Axelrod pointing out that the Clintons have not released many materials from the Clinton library, as quoted in Time.
The Obama campaign, noting that Obama has released his tax returns, responded to the Clinton charge, spox Bill Burton saying, “It is absurd that after weeks of badgering the media to ‘vet’ Senator Obama, the Clinton campaign believes that they should be held to an entirely different standard. We don’t believe that expecting candidates for the presidency to disclose their tax returns somehow constitutes Ken Starr-tactics, but the kind of transparency and accountability that Americans are looking for and that’s been missing in Washington for far too long. And if Senator Clinton doesn’t think that the Republicans will ask these very same questions, then she’s not as ready to go toe-to-toe with John McCain as she claims."
Why the Clinton campaign would want to engage in this fight is a question -- Sen. Clinton and her allies have not disclosed a lot of information, that's just a fact.
A bigger question may be why Camp Clinton would want to invoke Ken Starr, conjuring forth memories of grand jury testimony and images of certain presidential mistresses. Will voters really think of Obama as part of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy? I'm not a well-paid political consultant, maybe there's an upside to this that I'm not immediately grasping.