Watch out, advisers to President Obama: The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd is alleging that Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton are sucking all the “oxygen” out of Washington, leaving little for the sitting president. Titled “42 and 45 Overpower 44,” the column starts with this flashy lede:
The First Family is all over the news, discussing the management of the economy, income inequality, raising the minimum wage, the vicissitudes of press coverage and the benefits of healthy eating.
Everywhere you look, the Clintons rule.
It then lists the ways in which everyone’s allegedly fixating on the Clintons instead of the Obama presidency. Here’s one such example:
Hillary’s Apache dance with the press is detailed in the new issue of Politico Magazine, a piece that got a lot more buzz than the news the White House was excited about on Friday: a sharp drop in the unemployment rate.
“Buzz,” here, is a handy word for Dowd, owing to its fuzziness. Since there’s no agreed-upon metric for “buzz,” the columnist can just toss it out there without firm refutation. And sure, the deeply reported Politico Magazine story on Hillary Clinton’s history with the media by Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman received plenty of pass-around. A Google News search of “Hillary Clinton media Politico Magazine” turned up more than 140 articles.
A Google News search of “unemployment rate 6.3” turned up nearly 900 articles.
Even if you accept the soundings of Dowd’s buzzmeter, recognize its shallowness. The importance of the unemployment report isn’t that employers added 288,000 jobs in April; or that the gains came across various sectors; or that a significant population gave up looking for work over the past month. The important thing is whether the coverage of all those considerations buzzed around the Beltway.
To advance her thesis, Dowd quotes “top Democrat” proclaiming that the Clintons have Obama “totally at their mercy” because they “take the oxygen out of the room.”
“Oxygen” is another fuzzy Beltway chemical element. Its deployment here is premised on the idea that Washington and the country have enough bandwidth for only so many stories, so many political figures — that we can’t quite juggle a story line about the Clintons and a story line about the Obamas at the same time. Even though we’ve been doing just that for about seven years now.