Here's New York magazine on Hillary Clinton last week:
[S]he has turned herself into Obama's greatest asset, on Capitol Hill as much as around the world, in fashioning a national-security policy ...
On the inside, Clinton has steadily accumulated power while expending hardly any political capital. For one thing, she has stirred an effective mix of politicos and diplomats into the top tiers of the State Department. ... Lew helped Hillary secure a 10 percent increase in the State Department's budget from Obama while Tim Geithner was still figuring out how to turn the lights on in his office.
Further, Clinton hasn't made mistakes. ...
Meanwhile, nobody else has developed an alternative foreign-policy power center within the administration. Obama likes Biden, but the vice-president is no match for Hillary in mano-a-mano bureaucratic combat. For example, Clinton favored sending 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, while Biden opposed the move. The result: "She crushed him," according to Republican Mark Kirk of Ilinois. At the same time, National Security Adviser Jim Jones has been an utter cipher; when Time's Mark Halperin graded the Obama administration, he gave Hillary an A- ("significant, powerful, worldly, respected"), but had to give Jones an "incomplete." And Obama's presidential envoys, such as Richard Holbrooke in Afghanistan and Dennis Ross in Iran, are mostly old Clinton hands who aren't about to usurp any authority from Hillary.
And so on.
And Politico's Ben Smith, today:
It is an arrangement that, by all appearances, seems to suit Clinton and the Obama White House just fine, even as it has contributed to increasing chatter in foreign policy circles about her clout.
Some close observers think she has not done enough to preserve her department's influence, in part because several key issues-the Mideast peace process, Iran and Afghanistan - are steered by high-level envoys who work directly with the White House, albeit with coordination by State.
"You've got the empire of envoys that she acquiesced in, which sent into motion these little fiefdoms," said Aaron David Miller, a former longtime Middle East negotiator. "The general proposition is that in diplomacy and strategy, all power seems to be flowing away from the State Department.
And so on.
Those two reports aren't just inconsistent; they are nearly mirror-images of each other. Which is right? Are either? I don't know. But it's a useful reminder to take these types of stories with a grain of salt.
Media outlets have uncritically reported Gov. Bobby Jindal's misrepresentation of a quote from President Obama. The outlets reported that according to excerpts of Jindal's response to Obama's address to Congress, Jindal would say: "A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said 'we may not be able to reverse.' Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover -- or that America's best days are behind her." In fact, Obama stated that if his economic recovery plan were not passed, "we may not be able to reverse" the current economic crisis.
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed asserted in a column that she "hears rumbles President-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is reportedly on 21 different taped conversations by the feds -- dealing with his boss' vacant Senate seat!" Sneed added: "A lot of chit-chat? Hot air? Or trouble? To date, Rahm's been mum. Stay tuned." Despite the complete absence of sourcing, many in the media have run with Sneed's assertion, in some cases simply quoting Sneed, in others, paraphrasing the assertion, and in still others, actually expanding on it.
Disregarding U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's warning to "not cast aspersions on people for being named or being discussed" in the criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, several in the media have used the scandal as an opportunity to engage in suggestions of guilt-by-association against President-elect Barack Obama, by rehashing Obama's purportedly "questionable associations," or suggesting that Obama is a product of corrupt "Chicago politics."
Politico's Ben Smith contrasted President-elect Barack Obama and President George W. Bush's church attendance in the weeks after their elections, but Smith failed to note numerous reports of Bush's infrequent church attendance over the past eight years, as well as Bush's reported lack of membership in a Washington, D.C., congregation. Smith cited another Politico article that also ignored reports about Bush's church attendance.
Politico's Ben Smith and Craig Gordon repeated the falsehood that Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet, writing, "Al Gore took a lot of grief for saying he invented the Internet, but Google's Vinton Cerf can come as close as anyone alive to making that boast with a straight face." In fact, Gore did not claim that he "invented the Internet." Rather, in a 1999 interview on CNN, Gore said, "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet."
Since initial reporting that President-elect Barack Obama was considering naming Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, many in the media have raised the specter of personal and political "drama" -- which they claim follows Hillary and Bill Clinton wherever they go -- negatively affecting the Obama administration. The Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page acknowledged that the media are hoping for "drama" resulting from a Clinton appointment; Page responded to the question of how Obama is "going to keep the drama at bay" by saying: "Well, do we want that? We're journalists."
The Politico's Ben Smith uncritically reported Sen. John McCain's false claim during the third presidential debate that Sen. Joe Biden has proposed "dividing Iraq into three countries.' " In fact, Biden introduced a plan to "[m]aintain a unified Iraq by decentralizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis breathing room in their own regions."
In repeating a claim by a campaign adviser to Sen. John McCain that "McCain would continue to criticize Obama for voting against a bill that included funding for troops," Politico reporters Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin didn't note that McCain himself has voted against legislation to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as Obama pointed out during their September 26 presidential debate.
Politico's Ben Smith and Time's Mark Halperin uncritically reported Rush Limbaugh's baseless assertion that Sen. Barack Obama "got all kinds of sweetheart deals with [convicted Chicago businessman Antoin] Rezko" and that "[Sen. John McCain] and his wife did not get a sweetheart deal from a fraud embezzler like Tony Rezko to buy their houses." Smith and Halperin did not note that the sellers of the house Obama bought reportedly said they did not cut their asking price because Rezko bought the adjacent lot, even though they had each previously reported it.
Politico writers Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin reported a claim by Tucker Bounds, McCain campaign spokesman, that "Barack Obama wants more taxes from 21 million small businesses," without noting that it is false. In fact, Obama has proposed rolling back President Bush's tax cuts only on "people who are making 250,000 dollars a year or more," and according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, 481,000 small businesses fall into the tax brackets that would be affected by those increases.
The Politico's Ben Smith reported that Sen. Barack Obama "has complained that [Sen. John] McCain said he couldn't control attack ads from outside groups -- though the only outside attack ads to run this cycle have been financed by Obama allies and directed at McCain." In fact, the Vets for Freedom political action committee launched two Internet ads in May attacking Obama over issues related to the Iraq war, and the independent group Freedom's Watch ran television ads attacking Obama and two Democratic congressional candidates.
The Politico's Ben Smith falsely suggested that Sen. Hillary Clinton criticized Sen. Barack Obama's proposal to address the solvency of Social Security, which includes raising the payroll tax on workers earning more than $250,000 per year. In fact, while Clinton said in November 2007 that she opposes "lift[ing] the cap completely," she has not said that she opposes raising the cap on payroll taxes if the plan to do so includes a so-called "doughnut hole" exempting those earning less than $250,000 from a tax increase, as Obama has proposed.
A CNN online poll asked: "Does [Sen.] Barack Obama show the proper patriotism for someone who wants to be president of the United States?" The Politico's Ben Smith wrote: "[I]t's odd to see the mainstream media drive a largely whispered question that none of his main, named critics -- Hillary, McCain or the RNC -- will touch."
On MSNBC Live, anchor Kevin Corke falsely asserted that Sen. Barack Obama "said he doesn't have the, quote, 'experience to run a bureaucracy.' " Corke was apparently referring to a Reno Gazette-Journal article that reported, "Obama freely admits he doesn't have the experience to run a bureaucracy"; however, the newspaper did not quote Obama saying he lacks the "experience to run a bureaucracy."