Sweet column: Clinton’s ‘shock and awe’ blitz. Obama’s hideout.

SHARE Sweet column: Clinton’s ‘shock and awe’ blitz. Obama’s hideout.
SHARE Sweet column: Clinton’s ‘shock and awe’ blitz. Obama’s hideout.

Before the serious stuff — an analysis of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s impressive ”shock and awe” White House launch and Barack Obama’s aggressive pushback to religious smear attacks — this revelation:

I discovered the secret location of Obama’s 2008 presidential exploratory campaign office in Washington.

When Obama jumped into the 2008 contest a week ago, I asked a routine question. Just where in Washington is the exploratory campaign based, since the legal papers used the address of his Washington lawyer. Obama’s team declined to say.

The only clue Obama’s team yielded was the name of a street in downtown Washington. That’s kind of like looking for an office with the only tip it’s on LaSalle Street in Chicago’s Loop.

But I guessed where it might be. Years in the business, you know.

I followed my hunch and just showed up. Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton materialized after I arrived, and we had a very pleasant chat.

When I e-mailed Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson, it took all of three minutes for him to reply with the answer. Clinton is starting her White House quest in the K Street offices in Washington housing her Friends of Hillary Committee and HILLPAC political action committee. On this match, point goes to Clinton for transparency.

When the two rivals take it, as expected, to the next level, Obama’s campaign will be headquartered in Chicago, and Clinton will plant her flag in the Washington area.

Clinton shock and awe

Based on body language when I watch Obama and Clinton in the Senate, it looks like a developing chill between the two. The genial backslapping Obama avoids getting into her zone, and she stays in her space.

To borrow a military phrase, Clinton rolled out a ”shock and awe” offensive when she said Saturday, ”I’m in. And I’m in to win.” Clinton’s blitz pushed Obama off the front pages for a few days. It was specifically designed to roll out all at once and win Clinton maximum coverage. The elaborate Web site, the three nights of innovative webcasts, targeted waves of e-mails, flurry of national television interviews, press releases, pollster and polling memos — all flooded the political zone as intended. Clinton created a new narrative.

The Clinton campaign was working up to the launch for weeks. The timing was not connected to Obama’s announcement. Clinton’s team realized that if she did not announce before the State of the Union, all she would be asked in interviews is if she was going to run. (Same would be true for Obama.) The Clinton camp assumed for weeks Obama was going to run, and her move was not conditioned on his. In any case, Clinton’s launch was too elaborate to be thrown together in a few days.

Obama fights back

Obama is not going to be ”swiftboated” by the right.

Robert Gibbs, the chief spokesman for Obama, issued a rare memo on Wednesday, to push back on the smear campaign started by Insight Magazine and picked up by Fox and other outlets: that Obama was educated at a radical Islamic school in Indonesia and that nameless researchers for Clinton dug up the dirt. Neither is true.

”People appreciate that we are fighting back,” Tommy Vietor, an Obama Senate spokesman, said.

It was an effort by conservative outlets to take down two 2008 presidential contenders at once and make Obama seem like a character on ”Sleeper Cell.”

Gibbs caught a break in that CNN had a definitive report from Jakarta that showed Obama’s school to be secular in nature.

Gibbs’ memo does not mention Clinton’s name. What’s interesting is that he is explicit for the first time I recall in saying that Obama ”has never been a Muslim.” That clears up a small point in the Obama biography. He’s now under a microscope as he starts a White House campaign.

Obama moved to Jakarta at age 6, returning to Hawaii four years later.

It should not matter, of course, if Obama or anyone was raised as a Muslim or any other faith.

Obama’s Senate aide who handles faith-based policy, Joshua Dubois, organized a letter signed by 12 religious leaders of different faiths deploring ”this despicable tactic. . . . We have had enough of the slash-and-burn politics calculated to divide us as Children of God.”

(For the full Gibbs memo and the letter from religious leaders, visit my blog: http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/)

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