Team Obama Perfects the “Death Hug”

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OK, we need a name for this. As the next election season draws near and the White House eyes the proto-presidential machinations of Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, they are increasingly engaging in a certain devious form of political sabotage. It’s premature to launch outright attacks, but the White House is clearly having a lot of fun heaping praise on parts of the Romney and Huntsman resumes. Here’s Chief of Staff Bill Daley yesterday on “Meet the Press”:

MR. GREGORY: Are you concerned with Ambassador Huntsman making moves toward running for president? Have you given him a talking to as a member of the administration in courting the presidency?

MR. DALEY: Well, I think there’s been a lot of speculation of–about him. He’s of—he’s said he’s going to resign the end of April. But we’re–he’s, he’s done an excellent job on behalf of the Obama administration and we think that he is–his…

MR. GREGORY: Are you upset that he’s still there talking about the presidency?

MR. DALEY: I have not heard or seen any direct quotes from Ambassador Huntsman, which obviously would be inappropriate. But his support of the Obama administration, his support of the president, the things he did on behalf of this administration and the closeness in which he worked with the president is most appreciated. And I’m sure he’ll talk about that in the primaries.

They do it with Romney too (albeit slightly differently.) Obama went out of his way to acknowledge Romney in a recent speech to governors at the White House. “I know that many of you have asked for flexibility for your states under this law,” he said. “In fact, I agree with Mitt Romney, who recently said he’s proud of what he accomplished on health care by giving states the power to determine their own health care solutions. He’s right.”

These aren’t exactly backhanded compliments because, well, they’re not insults. Our friends over at CNN are calling it “unrequited love,” but I’m not sure that’s right either. It’s gleefully impish, a naked attempt to undermine the relationship between candidate and base, all done with a wink and a nod. The tighter they embrace the candidate, the worse it gets. As it’s going to be happening a lot, I’d like to have a succinct way to refer to it. I’m open to to better ideas, but for now let’s call it the Death Hug.