The latest news in the campaign for the Democratic nomination comes down to a word: monster.
That is the word that an adviser to Barack Obama used to describe Hillary Clinton. In an interview with The Scotsman newspaper, Samantha Power is quoted this way:
She is a monster, too – that is off the record – she is stooping to anything.
Power apologized for the remark, and the Clinton campaign called for Obama to fire her. A few hours later, Power resigned. This may be be a typical tiff between campaigns, but it’s interesting to journalists in other ways.
First, note how Power attempted to edit herself. Few reporters, however, are going to let a source go off the record in the middle of a thought. And they shouldn’t. It appears that Power, whose job requires the ability to interact with the media, agreed to this interview and its ground rules. She cannot toggle between being on and off the record as she speaks, and she cannot do so unilaterally. (More back and forth on this issue here.)
Second, consider how “monster” has several meanings. Yes, it’s a big, scary creature. It can also be an “inhumanely cruel or wicked person.” It can also be anything that’s huge, such as a force that’s impossible to stop. Clinton could fit the latter definition and not the others. It’s hard to know which definition Power intended.
Third, take a look at The Scotsman’s headline on the story:
‘Hillary Clinton’s a monster’: Obama aide blurts out attack in Scotsman interview
The editors there are playing loose with Power’s quote in this headline. They put words in her mouth that are unnecessary. The second part of the headline comes off as self-promotional on the part of the paper. If “monster” is the angle to play up in the headline, try this:
Clinton is ‘a monster,’ Obama aide says
As for the political damage that the remark will inflict on the Obama campaign, I would be surprised if it has a major impact. Then again, perhaps we will see this cause-effect headline:
Clinton claims win in Wyoming caucus; ‘monster’ gaffe looms large for Obama
Let’s hope not.