First There is a Quote, Then There is No Quote, Then There Is

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 17 2014 11:10 AM

First There Is a Quote, Then There Is No Quote, Then There Is

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Daydreaming about life and art.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

At the start of the month, Carrie Budoff Brown and Jennifer Epstein published a long and fascinating profile of a president who seems increasingly frustrated by "the sense of diminished possibilities" in Washington. One key anecdote recreated a reception for the president in Rome, where he got on marvelously with an architect and other intellectuals.

It was such an escape for Obama that the next morning he joked to aides that he was not so pleased to wake up to the reality of more mundane matters. The aides were briefing him for a “60 Minutes’’ interview about Ukraine and health care. One aide paraphrased Obama’s response: “Just last night I was talking about life and art, big interesting things, and now we’re back to the minuscule things on politics.’’

Two weeks later, the aide's paraphrase showed up wearing new clothes in Ed Luce's Financial Times column.

It is as if he is already winding down. “Just last night I was talking about life and art, big interesting things, and now we’re back to the minuscule things on politics,” Mr Obama complained after a dinner last month with Italian intellectuals in Rome. His cabin fever is tangible. On the plus side, there are only two-and-a-half years to go.
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The "quote" is loosely linked to Politico (in the previous graf, Luce mentioned the profile's scoop that Obama was considering moving to New York after the presidency), but the reader who didn't hunt around the Internet after finishing the column could fairly assume that Luce had a direct quote from a ridiculously distant-sounding Obama.

Luce had nothing on Matthew Continetti. The editor of the Washington Free Beacon spent part of a column on the Rome dinner speculating about the conversation at these soirees, and what they said about the "post-presidential presidency" of this loser. "Have you seen the latest essays by Ezra Klein and Michael Tomasky and Ta-Nehisi Coates, who cares what the media says, E.J. Dionne says you are doing A-OK, what’s it like to hold the nuclear football, have you been to Eric Ripert’s newest restaurant," and so on. Post-quote journalism! It gets the point across.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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