On factual grounds, the tweet above from CNN’s S.E. Cupp has no problems. A March 3 column that Cupp wrote for the New York Daily News carries the title, “Hillary Clinton: Too big to fail.” Just like the banks that Clinton herself has courted, argues Cupp, “she has become too big to fail, and the political apparatus around her will do anything to prop her up so that she doesn’t.”
It’s the part where Cupp appears to be asserting ownership — “#ThanksButAttribution” — of this coinage that bears scrutiny. If Cupp is really such a stickler about ensuring proper credit for Clinton-too-big-to-fail, perhaps she should direct her Twitter followers to the work of journalist Jonathan Alter. On page 209 of his 2010 book “The Promise: President Obama, Year One,” Alter wrote, “During the 2008 primaries, Hillary Clinton thought she was too big to fail — and Barack Obama too untested to succeed.”
According to the New York Times, the term “too big to fail” dates to the 1980s, when Rep. Stewart B. McKinney used it to describe a class of banks spawned by the government. “The phrase returned and stuck,” notes the Times.
And stuck and stuck and stuck. These days, if you’re looking to criticize something that has become a political, financial or cultural force, well, there’s a cliche at the ready. Right now, for example, South by Southwest is roaring in Austin. TBTF! Brian Williams, TBTF! Bill O’Reilly, TBTF! Russia, TBTF! China, TBTF! NFL, TBTF! World Cup, TBTF!
The point: If Cupp really wants people citing her genius, she’s going to have to do more than connect one of the most trite phrases of our time — one that’s excessively large to falter — to a prominent U.S. politician. As for Alter, “I’m ‘too small to credit,’ ” he claims in an e-mail to the Erik Wemple Blog.