Vague Unspecified Allegationgate

The weekend’s big item—the skirmish fueled by Robert Novak’s column claiming that “agents” of the Clinton campaign have unspecified dirt on Obama—has inspired a few different theories. TNR ’s Noam Schieber thinks the rumor is “a little too convenient” for the Clinton campaign to deny any knowledge, especially now that they’re “trying to take credit for not disseminating ” the rumor. An admittedly paranoid Andrew Sullivan suspects this flap may be a “dummy run” for the Clinton campaign to test the media waters in case a Bill story eventually leaks out.

But don’t both candidates look bad here? Sure, Obama gets a chance to show off his tough new rapid-response policy. And yes, Clinton benefits from not being the first to deal with vague allegations. But the cons for both dwarf the pros. Obama now faces insinuations that, like the Muslim thing , the pin thing , and the flag thing , are likely to persist throughout the primaries. Hillary gets equally muddy by issuing the “Who, me?” response. (In Nevada on Saturday, Clinton spokesman Jay Carson laughed about it with reporters: “So you have no secret info about Barack Obama?” “No.” “Why not?” “This is ridiculous.”) The smearing is more likely to drag both campaigns down than leave one standing. Novak supposedly has solid sources in Hillaryland, but if there’s a logical perpetrator, or at least one acting in his or her own interest, it’s someone from neither camp.