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Tracking Michael Steele's Afghan Gaffe

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, July 6 2010

It lacks, perhaps, the gut-punching clarity and ad hominem poignance of George Allen's "macaca" moment. But Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele's recorded comments about ownership of the war in Afghanistan are a pretty good piece of evidence in favor of the idea that equipping a staffer or volunteer with a video camera and setting him or her out to record the competition isn't such a bad use of resources. The Hartford Courant Daniela Altimari reports:

That now infamous snippet of video that's causing RNC Chairman Michael Steele so much grief was shot by a tracker for the state Democratic party.

Just how did a Democratic operative with a video camera (or cell phone) find a way into a GOP fundraiser at a Noank restaurant that was supposedly closed to the press?

State Democrats wouldn't discuss the matter on the record but they say the video was shot from a public part of the restaurant, behind a rope line (visible in the clip) and not in the area that was cordoned off for Republican dignitaries.

The incident illustrates the increasingly important role trackers play in modern, high-stakes political campaigns. Steele's comments on the war in Afghanistan are exactly the type of gotcha! trackers are primed to catch.

Also in the news this week is a report that Meg Whitman's gubernatorial campaign in California live-streamed a news conference held by the powerful California Nurses Association, sending the feed back to Whitman HQ so that her campaign could respond to the event in near real time.

The Sacramento Bee headline writer branded that bit of campaign-craft "spying," despite the fact that this is a news conference we're talking about here. And in the Steele case, the Courant wonders how a Democratic staffer (or "operative" -- the proper term of art whenever anyone in politics does anything half-way strategic) could have gotten access to an event held outside. It's a funny response. So, for that matter, is the Courant reporter calling Steele's remarks a "gotcha!" moment when the man went on for several sentences. Seems like the sensible modern political staffer should probably assume that anything not conducted inside the White House Situation Room is capable of being infiltrated.

Related: DNC Wants Many Eyes on the GOP