It’s largely unnecessary, but I appreciate it anyway.

Today’s amusing little not-ready-for-prime-time comes to us via Ben Smith of Politico, who got forwarded to him – by a reporter who went to reporter school, and everything! – some helpful suggestions by the Obama campaign:

Reporters traveling overseas with Sen. Barack Obama were thrown a bit of curve last week when the campaign emailed a “dress code” for Israel and Jordan. Aides had passed along as a courtesy the list that they had distributed to their staff to follow.

But some of the tips raised a few eyebrows, particularly among the female reporters.

“Do not wear green.” (Explained later as the color of Hamas)

“Do not wear nail polish.”

“Women should only wear a limited amount of jewelry.”

“Shoulders and arms must be fully covered (no strapless tops, no tank tops, no short sleeve shirts.)”

“Closed-toe shoes, women should also wear stockings.”

At historical and religious sites, a suit or slacks should be worn, shoulders and arms must be covered (“no strapless tops, no tanks tops no short sleeve shirts”), shoes might need to be removed, and women may be asked to cover their heads and “should be prepared with a scarf/pashmina,” the email stated.

See also Hot Air. Discussion about what this is and isn’t after the fold.First off, let’s stop the inevitable objection in its tracks: yes, as originally designed this memo was actually necessary. Thanks to the nature of the Best Democratic Primary EVER, the Obama campaign is top-heavy with people not drawn from the “not completely as dumb as posts about foreign policy” wing of their Party. This means that a prudent campaign staffer cannot safely assume that the various minions are capable of going far foreign without a keeper; we are, after all, talking about people who generally think that the most potent anti-terrorism defense is sewing a Canadian flag badge on their knapsacks. So, yes, by all means, give ’em a dress code, and hope that they at least don’t wear thongs and bright green bikini tops to the Wailing Wall*.

The problem here is that while the campaign may have needed to be told this, the reporters following along, well, didn’t. They also have their own travel departments that are perfectly capable of passing along travel advisories; in fact, they have experienced foreign news correspondents that would be able to informally pass along whatever information would be deemed necessary. And yet the Obama campaign provided dress code information – as a “courtesy” – anyway. Why?

I’m going to guess coupled institutional arrogance and insecurity, myself. The first is well-known: Obama’s on this trip, after all – which seems to be mostly about him getting some of that tasty William H Seward adulation{} abroad before his triumphal coronation at the convention, and very little about getting some actual foreign experience under his belt. The second is a little bit more obscure, although it’s getting more obvious. You’ve no doubt seen by now that WaPo article discussing how the campaign’s shut out foreign press almost completely for the election, not to mention this trip. Mind you, if I was running a Democrat for President – particularly *this Democrat – so would I. You can’t report on a flaw that you can’t see, after all.

And that pretty much sums up this whole thing. Taken by itself, the story’s simply an amusing look at a minor pettiness of the Obama campaign: micro-managing is a venal enough sin. Looking at the long-term trend… different story. This isn’t self-confidence; this isn’t even really hubris. This is bravado. The campaign’s gotten past the point where it can push the envelope, and is now in the uncomfortable position of needing to push the envelope if it wants to sustain its current momentum. Hence the heavy hand.

Speaking for the VRWC, I can only say: thanks!

Moe Lane

*Apropos of nothing, starting in about three years we’re probably going to be inundated with bittersweet, wistful books – fiction and nonfiction – about the magic that was The World Obama Tour. You know the kind: all chock full of romanticized pap about how hopeandchange the world was, and how close that we were to realizing the dream… until us nasty Republicans showed up and stamped all over it with our fascist jackboots.

Something to look forward to while we try to figure out how to get McCain re-elected.

{*}Actually, that’s unfair – to Seward: I’m given to understand that he was well-received by European rulers. The current crop is a bit more skeptical.