Two recent articles in The Politico have become the basis for Republican attacks against Democrats: a February 5 piece by chief political correspondent Mike Allen, in which he baselessly claimed that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) "has a bubble around him," and a February 14 piece [posted to its website February 15] by Politico congressional bureau chief John Bresnahan that used the charged label "slow-bleed" to characterize the Democrats' strategy in dealing with the administration on Iraq.
Allen reported that Obama held a February 2 reception for members of the Democratic National Committee to which the press was not admitted, and that Obama refused to answer Allen's questions following the reception. Citing no other evidence, Allen claimed that Obama "already has a bubble around him that is tighter than the one that surrounded Texas Gov. George W. Bush" during the 2000 campaign. Obama has since made several press appearances, and he gave an interview to Roger Simon, The Politico's chief political columnist.
On February 9, the Republican National Committee issued a news release titled "The Dem Dodger," which alleged: "Obama Bubble Tightens As Candidate Dodges First Primary Forum." The RNC's sole source for alleging Obama's "bubble" was Allen's February 5 article.
In his February 14 article, Bresnahan wrote:
Top House Democrats, working in concert with anti-war groups, have decided against using congressional power to force a quick end to U.S. involvement in Iraq, and instead will pursue a slow-bleed strategy designed to gradually limit the administration's options.
Bresnahan did not attribute the term "slow-bleed" to anyone and did not use quotation marks, suggesting that it was his own formulation.
On the same day, however, the RNC issued a letter from chairman Mike Duncan that cited Bresnahan's article in falsely claiming that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) call the Democrats' strategy "their 'slow-bleed' plan":
The Democrat [sic] strategy on Iraq is finally clear.
We've known all along that they want to cut and run before the job is done. But they've been afraid to confront President Bush directly. Today, Democrat [sic] Rep. John Murtha let slip what he and Nancy Pelosi really intend to do, and it is genuinely frightening.
They call it their 'slow-bleed' plan. Instead of supporting the troops in Iraq, or simply bringing them home, the Democrats intend to gradually make it harder and harder for them to do their jobs.
'Slow-bleed' is exactly the right name for this incredibly irresponsible and dangerous strategy. Cutting and running is bad enough. But the Murtha-Pelosi 'slow-bleed' plan is far worse. It is a cynical and dangerous erosion of our ability to fight the terrorists while we still have men and women on the ground in Iraq. It will put their lives in far greater danger, as resources slowly dry up. How can our troops operate without bases? How can they fight without backup?
'Slow-bleed' cannot become law. Luckily, we have an opportunity to stop it. The Murtha plan depended on stealth. Now, however, the press has broken the story. And now we can act.
Bresnahan's article was the only source cited for the RNC's claims, though Ryan Lizza, senior editor of The New Republic, was apparently the first to use the "slow-bleed" construction to characterize the reported strategy of the House Democratic leadership.
From Lizza's appearance on the February 13 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:
LIZZA: And look, they're reading the same polls that we're all reading, and they realize that the American public doesn't quite -- there's not a big majority for defunding the troops, so it doesn't look like the Democratic leadership is going to go there. Instead, what you're going to have is a strategy led by Murtha, which is going to be to limit the number of troops available to President Bush by putting some restrictions on what troops will be allowed to be brought over to Iraq.
So that's the strategy that the -- that's the sort of two-part strategy: first, this non-binding resolution, and then restricting what troops Bush can use. So, it's a sort of -- a slow bleeding of our ability to do much more in Iraq.
Conservative bloggers also latched onto The Politico's "slow-bleed" characterization. For instance, a February 14 entry on Michelle Malkin's Hot Air weblog stated: "If they do what they're apparently planning to do, 'slow bleed' will be a very apt description. Those doing the bleeding, slowly, will be US troops."*
In a February 15 article, The Washington Post reported that the Democrats' plan "is to slowly choke off the war." The Post did not attribute to anyone the phrase "slowly choke."