A story by Politico‘s media reporter Dylan Byers has divided his readers almost right down the middle in terms of praise and dismissals.
“Former White House communicators enjoy communicating; use newfangled social medias,” Greg Greene, a Democratic operative, tweeted sarcastically with a link to Byers’ piece and a “stop the presses” hashtag. On the other hand, Rick Wilson, a Republican media strategist, called the story “terrific.”
The thing with Byers’ piece — a look at the Twitter activity of former Obama administration officials and aides — is that it doesn’t contain any news. It doesn’t even draw any conclusions. The selling point seems to be that the headline labels the gang of Democrats as “trash-talkers.” And that this trash talking takes place in public via Twitter.
The story notes former Obama adviser David Plouffe who “frequently attacks Karl Rove” on Twitter. Attacking Rove isn’t exactly new. Even Fox News has done that.
And who doesn’t air out criticism on Twitter? And in what way is partisan trash-talking new? It’s not. President Obama‘s team has always talked this way, even before they left the White House or the campaign trail. And they didn’t need Twitter to do it. It’s otherwise known as “campaign politics,” which takes place on TV, radio and at rallies. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney‘s surrogates did it as well (Republican New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu is unforgettable).
The story seems to observe this supposedly new phenomenon where the campaign never ends. “There’s no break between elections any more,” NYT‘s Peter Baker is quoted in the story as saying. But why is that? When was it ever the case that Democrats stopped being Democrats and stopped supporting Democratic policies once a campaign ended? Same goes for Republicans.
What would be new is if former Obama officials tweeted anti-Obama things. Not things that bolster Obama, as they did when they worked for him.
“Shut. Down. EVERYTHING,” tweeted digital strategist Nick Catalano. “Politico‘s Dylan Byers reports that former Obama staffers Are. On. Twitter.”
“Somebody at Politico didn’t get a scoop with Team Obama,” mused Sharon Khnemui of the American Enterprise Institute.
But then there was Zeke Miller of TIME, who called the story “great.” Commentary‘s John Podhoretz called it “fantastic.” And Hyper Vocal Editor-in-Chief Slade Sohmer said it was a “good piece.”
Then there’s Jesse Berney, a self-described comedian and progressive political consultant: “This is the Politicoest Politico story ever,” he said on Twitter.
If nothing else, Byers’ zesty “trash-talkers” headline got his story a link on the Drudge Report home page and it was talked about on the cable news channels. And that’s something.