Obama camp was source for Edwards haircut story

An infamous report about a rival's $400 style came from Obama campaign opposition research

Published November 10, 2009 10:20PM (EST)

"It's easy to get caught up in the distractions and the silliness and the tit-for-tat that consumes our politics; the bickering that none of us are immune to, and that trivializes the profound issues -- two wars, an economy in recession, a planet in peril," then-Sen. Barack Obama said last April, on the night he lost Pennsylvania's Democratic presidential primary to Hillary Clinton.

That sort of thing has been a consistent theme from Obama, both on the trail and while he's been in the White House, the message being that people should stop focusing on the small, silly things that characterize so much of politics, preventing actual substance from being part of the discussion.

In some ways, Obama and his team have tried to live up to that. In others, well, they're just as guilty as everyone else.

One of the sillier, more trivial stories from the presidential campaign, and perhaps the one that got people on the left most consistently riled, was what started out as a pretty short blog post by Politico's Ben Smith, who reported that John Edwards had been getting $400 haircuts. Though other scandals have since overshadowed memories of Edwards' 2008 campaign, it was a big deal at the time, and it stuck around for quite a while. 

Well, now we know who was responsible for the distraction and the silliness that emanated from that story: Obama's campaign. Campaign Manager David Plouffe revealed the truth in his new book, writing, "We did much less of this [opposition research] than other campaigns did, but there were times we indulged -- it was our researchers who found John Edwards's infamous $400 hair cut expenditures."

Smith has posted the quote on his blog, and has acknowledged that the Obama campaign was the source of his information.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

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2008 Elections Barack Obama John Edwards War Room