Jeff Smith: Do As I Say — A Political Advice Column

Jeff SmithQ: Here’s my problem: I’m secretly dating someone who works on an opposing campaign. I know what you’re thinking: This is like something out of a movie, or like James Carville and Mary Matalin. But we’re just two people who really like each other and don’t want to let the campaign get in the way of a blossoming relationship. Is this too scandalous? Should we take a break, or do you think we can survive it?
—Juliet (obviously not my real name!)

Yes, “Juliet,” something about your question suggested that might not be your real name, though I appreciate the clarification. As for you and your star-crossed lover, your situation does sound a bit like a movie—the dreadful 1992 Michael Keaton vehicle Speechless.

Forgive my tone, Juliet, but, really, chill. By today’s standards, what you’re doing isn’t very scandalous, unless of course you’re leaking poll numbers and television ad scripts. In fact, someone else on your campaign is probably hooking up with someone on an opposing campaign as well. Politics is a small and horny world. So go ahead and date—quietly for now if you prefer, but openly if you like. Assuming that your boyfriend on the other campaign isn’t a 15 year-old intern, I’d suggest that this cycle’s candidates have rendered your love life rather quaint.

Q: Did you see the Washington Post article about the longtime Hillary Clinton aide getting mixed up in shenanigans during the 2008 campaign where she appears to have coordinated a so-called independent expenditure on behalf of the campaign? It reminds me of what you got in trouble for. What’s the difference, and what do you think will happen to her?
—M.E, Washington, D.C.

Well, one big difference is about $600,000 (the expenditure in question was nearly $609,000, whereas the expenditure during my 2004 race was approximately $10,000). A second difference is that—at least according to the Post article—the Clinton aide in question, unfortunately, allegedly put some things in writing, unlike my campaign aides who met with an outside consultant. But the biggest apparent difference is that none of her closest friends wore a wire and got her to talk, so it may be possible for her to explain away alleged emails that strongly suggest illegal coordination but leave some ambiguity. “I was merely providing Sen. Clinton’s campaign schedule for an old associate who wanted to invite friends to some events,” she might say; or “I provided information about our field operations to an associate who said he knew some willing campaign helpers, but I had no idea he was planning any sort of independent expenditure.” I should stress that I’m not accusing anyone of a crime here but speculating about possible defenses. Given the woman’s status as a longtime Clinton aide and the high stakes as Hillary contemplates 2016, I’d expect she’s receiving top-flight legal advice. The outcome is difficult to predict without seeing the actual emails, but it will sure be interesting to watch it unfold.

Q: I work for a New York City agency as a political appointee. My top boss is a Bloomberg guy and supports Lhota; a lot of other people at work supported Quinn. As for me, I’m for whoever wins, because unlike my two bosses, (a) I’m not very political, and (b) I may not be able to find another job quickly and my savings are sparse. Should I try to reach out to someone in de Blasio’s camp now, banking on his likely win and hoping to get in early, or do you think that one of my supervisors could find out and fire me before the next administration even begins?
—Do Not Use My Initials, New York City

There’s some missing info in your question that makes an answer somewhat difficult: (1) I don’t know if you’re a discreet person and if you’re capable of making inquiries without it hurting you at work; (2) I don’t know how intensely political and/or how vindictive your supervisors are; and (3) I don’t know how much de Blasio’s team is thinking about filling third-tier agency jobs at this point, but I’m guessing the answer is… not much. This seems like one of those situations where the risks of acting outweigh the upside that could come from acting, given uncertainty about the former and the low odds of the latter. Accordingly, I’d suggest keeping your powder dry for now.

Q: Hey, Jeff, now that the campaign’s over, do you think Huma will finally dump Weiner?
—G.C., Glen Ridge, N.J.

You really never know what’s going on in somebody else’s marriage. Some signs point to yes: She didn’t accompany him to vote, skipped his watch party, and was not thanked in his speech, despite having spoken at an excruciatingly difficult press conference after the most recent round of sexting revelations. But it might be that this was merely strategic: Both of them realized that the whole ordeal had damaged Huma’s image, and given her future role in Hillary’s Clinton’s orbit, it may be that the couple agreed to insulate her from any further shrapnel by completely walling her off from all public association with her husband’s campaign. In truth, the latter would’ve been a wise decision: The last thing Huma needed was to somehow end up in a watch party picture with Sydney Leathers’ newly augmented bosom.

(Cross-posted, with permission of the author, from


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