Anonogeddon: Bill Daley Edition

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

Anonogeddon: Bill Daley Edition

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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.

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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.