Anonogeddon: Bill Daley Edition

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 16 2011 3:26 PM

Anonogeddon: Bill Daley Edition

Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

It's Dump on Bill Daley Day, when the weather becomes crisper, and every news outlet runs a story on how Obama's third chief of staff isn't cutting it. This is the perfect hook for an occasional feature I will call Anongeddon: A one-man-jury's verdict on who gets a better story with fewer anonymous quotes.

This week's competitors: HuffPo and Politico. Both stories have the same thrust, which is that Democrats in Congress think Bill Daley is blowing it.


For the Huffington Post, Jennifer Bendery reports that Daley has cheesed off one senior Democratic aide ("It's gotten really bad"), a senior House Democratic aide ("I don't get the sense that … he’s a really strong chief of staff"), one House Republican aide ("He constantly feels the need to tell [House Speaker John] Boehner and Cantor that he agrees with us on regulations"), a House Democratic leadership aide ("I don't know what ally they were expecting out of the chief of staff"), a House GOP leadership aide ("an improvement from last Congress"), a White House official ("The reality is the president of the United States, he doesn’t have the option of blaming somebody"), a senior administration official ("I think after Rahm left, Rahm became much more beloved on the Hill than he was when he was here"), and a former Senate aide who worked closely with Emanuel ("Rahm couldn't have picked a better successor"). The most amusing on-the-record details: Emmanuel Cleaver musing about how well Daley understands African-Americans. Big on the record get: Stephanie Cutter. Also on the record: Dem cassandra Rep. Pete DeFazio.

The triple-bylined Politico stunner gives us a person close to Obama who spoke on condition of anonymity ("Daley is much more of an executive and former member of the cabinet"), a senior administration official ("Sometimes people take out their frustrations on POTUS. Sometimes — hopefully — they take it out on the chief of staff instead"), a former White House staffer ("He's not a fan favorite"), a former Obama staffer ("He’s a bit cold and unapproachable and people have taken notice"), and a senior Democratic aide ("Daley “has no understanding of the [congressional] process). Most of the anonymous details, which are rich, are free of quotes. Daley drops into a meeting with Reid and misunderstands him on trade deals; his door is closed, while Emanuel's was open. On the record are David Plouffe, Dick Durbin, and James Carville.

The winner: Politico! With only five anonymous quotes, the paper pulls off a telling portrait of a whiny Congress that probably has a point about Daley. HuffPo uses eight anonymous quotes, some of which have great details, but why are they quotes? Why give House Republican Aide a quote about Daley's amusing habit of high-fiving GOP leaders about regulations? Make it an anecdote!

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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