There was no way the political media was going to get through the final weeks before the election without trying to create an "Obama stumbles" or "Romney surges" narrative, and Politico really, really wants the startling new video of a public speech Barack Obama gave in 2007 to be just such a moment. The problem for Politico is that few think this video is newsworthy, let alone scandalous, outside the acknowledged right-wing media. The solution? Politico is creating its own buzz chamber to breathlessly report all the sides of this non-story.
Just hours after Tucker Carlson unveiled the tape, Politico's Dylan Byers reported that the hype fell flat and even Allen West and Newt Gingrich thought it was basically a non-story. But that didn't stop Mike Allen from, hours later, listing the video as a component in a possible Romney rebound. Allen's speculation about what might happen was then used by Politico's Bobby Cervantes as one of the pieces of schmevidance in a piece speculating further about how if Mitt Romney can totally dominate in the debate, and anyone who isn't already a dedicated Obama opponent gives a damn the 2007 video, making the right's wet dreams come true, and a whole bunch of other stuff, then Romney might be able to come back.
Having reporting and out-your-ass punditry that gave very different ideas of the import of the story wasn't enough, though, so Politico forged ahead with a tale of how "In the political blogosphere, commentators on the left and right clashed" over the tape. But the story itself reveals that it wasn't so much a clash as a frantic attempt by the right to whip up outrage while the left alternated between mocking and patient debunking. So the Republicans quoted in the article are all screeching about Obama being a lying racist and the progressive media quoted are restricted to two TPM writers making factual points also addressed by many in the traditional media, Greg Sargent calling it "ridiculous," and Steve Benen saying it "just reeked of desperation."
This is not a clash. It's also terribly unfair to progressive bloggers, many of whom produced quality mockery that Politico's Katie Glueck has to ignore because it doesn't fit the clash narrative. Wonkette's Rebecca Schoenkopf describes the dynamic much more accurately:
Boyle and Carlson and Twitchy and the crew have convinced themselves that the vile left is wetting its pants in terror over these revelations; this seems belied by the fact that out of the couple dozens of vile leftist tweets Twitchy posts, only two are earnestly outraged and the rest are just cold laughing their asses off.But the far right screaming and yelling about something that everyone else either shrugs off or laughs at does not produce enough horserace drama for Politico, so Politico using Politico as a source and "the left and right clashed" it is.
1:19 PM PT: Oh my word. Politico keeps churning 'em out, with at least eight stories so far devoted to this non-story.
Most recently you've got a piece that took the combined reporting firepower of Glenn Thrush, Reid Epstein, and Alexander Burns: Video potential worry for Obama campaign. The problem with the story? They couldn't find anyone on the Obama campaign to say they were worried, even anonymously. The story opens:
Obama’s aides and top Democratic officials projected an air of nonchalance and nothing-to-see-here Tuesday night as Fox News and Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller promoted the 2007 speech at Hampton University as a racial rant with the capacity to change the game. But the reelection campaign is concerned especially by the possibility of re-litigating Wright’s role in Obama’s life — a storyline long seen in Obamaland as among the most damaging to the president.But it goes on to say that a "top Democrat" sees the tape as "gift from our enemies" and that the campaign hasn't even bothered to distribute talking points on the video. If three Politico reporters can't get an anonymous source to directly say that the Obama campaign is worried about this, that's a real good sign of a manufactured story.