Politico’s Maggie Haberman rebuts Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton kicked up a fuss last month when he threw an elbow at media outlets funneling resources toward a possible Hillary Rodham Clinton assault on the presidency in 2016. In an interview with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos, the former president said of his wife, “She believes and I believe that the four-year campaign mania is a big mistake. This country has serious problems. Our region, our world has serious problems…You know, we have newspapers that have people devoted to doing nothing but covering a campaign that doesn’t exist.”

Technically true: Hillary Rodham Clinton hasn’t yet launched a campaign for the presidency.

Yet what if there are a lot of 2016-oriented meetings taking place? What if Hillary Clinton loyalist groups are on a collision course? What if ex-Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin received an alarming phone call about that possible collision? What if a full-on shadow campaign has arisen in the past year or so? What if there’s a lot of news out there regarding Hillary Clinton and 2016?

Well, there’s all of that, as Politico’s Maggie Haberman reports in a monster “special report” atop Politico’s homepage. If Bill Clinton doesn’t want major media outlets snooping around about 2016, then Hillary Clinton would have been well advised not to have held a meeting early last summer “with a handful of aides for a detailed presentation on preparing for a 2016 presidential campaign” — a session that served as the lede for Haberman’s piece. The story also goes deep on the tensions between two groups that favor a Hillary Clinton run: Priorities USA, the super PAC that assisted Obama, and the more grassrootsy Ready for Hillary. A division of labor, reports Haberman, was ultimately worked out for the two organizations: “Ready for Hillary would focus on collecting and analyzing voter data, accepting donations up to $25,000. Priorities would be the super PAC for mega-donors, working solely on paid advertising,” notes the story.

No question that Bill Clinton has a point. The country’s problems require some suspension in partisan political activities, but there are forces behind Hillary Clinton that won’t obey any such imperatives. Various motivated Democrats are lining up behind her and, in the process, they’re making news. The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza sees an industry behind all the activity:

 

Though Haberman’s piece is exhaustive and detailed, it leaves open the possibility that a great deal of wrangling, brainstorming and proto-preparations are well underway in ClintonWorld and haven’t yet appeared on the radar screens of reporters assigned to the Hillary Clinton beat. Contra Bill Clinton, maybe this beat is being undercovered.

Whatever the appropriate level of coverage, it’s clear that Clinton associates are committed to making reporters hustle to cement their sourcing for every last contention about the former secretary of state.

For her reporting on that meeting last summer, Haberman relies on “people familiar with the nearly hourlong gathering.”
For her reporting on the campaign-in-waiting, Haberman relies on “[m]ore than two dozen people in her orbit.”
For her reporting on the call to Abedin, Haberman relies on “several people familiar with the conversation.”
For her reporting on the role of a key operative, Haberman relies on “two people familiar with the deliberations.”

And so on. Such attributions in political stories often signal reportorial weaknesses and not-very-well-hidden agendas. Somehow this piece doesn’t bear that scent. Since it dropped last night, it has triggered little apparent refutation. Perhaps a counterpoint to the disrepute of anonymous sources?

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.
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Erik Wemple | January 6