Politico is in the business of writing stories that Matt Drudge "NEEDS and WANTS" and that their reporters' mothers would read. Today they turned a couple of chuckles on 60 Minutes into a "developing..." story.
Politico's stated aim is to "explain how Washington really works." This is how Washington really works: Find something, anything, that can be packaged into fodder to serve the interests of somebody with a megaphone. Obama just laughed on TV! The laughter, on its own terms, wouldn't really cut it with Drudge or the evening cable news chatter.
So Obama didn't just laugh: He laughed in a way that could be seen as amplifying the sense that he is cool and detached. Which fits into a narrative! That Matt Drudge wants to advance! And which Politico has been gathering string on going back to the campaign! And also which, because Matt Drudge wants to advance it, cable new producers will create segments about tonight. After the 2010 mid-term elections, exit pollsters will ask voters whether Obama is too cool and detached, and this is why.
Obama laughed a couple times last night in Steve Kroft's interview, prompting Kroft to ask the president if he is "punch drunk." Drudge promoted the exchange late last night, but he didn't point readers to the 60 Minutes web site, where readers could find an account of the interview and watch the actual video. He linked to a Politico story warning that the "awkward laughter highlighted an issue Obama has faced dating back to the campaign, a sense that he sometimes is too 'cool' and detached to fully grasp the public anxiety over mounting job losses and economic worries."
Coolness and detachment are a potentially serious political problem for Obama, according to Politico: In January they reported that "the cool and detached Obama enters the White House at a time of considerable economic anxiety," and back during the campaign they noted that he was "known for a cool and occasionally detached delivery."
None of this has anything even remotely to do with what, if anything, it means that Obama laughed during his 60 Minutes interview. Obama himself chalked it up to gallows humor. It's about finding a way to feed a huge constituency of media franchises who—either because they have partisan agendas or because they desperately need things to talk about on TV—are looking for prepackaged narratives that will "pop." Politico is basically doing the same thing that writers for Ellen do—scanning headlines for stories that DeGeneres can riff on. It's just that their doing it for Drudge and Chris Matthews and Bill O'Reilly and Wolf Blitzer, and they're doing it for free.
Which is why you get stories about Barack Obama's secret code language for black people, his crippling teleprompter addiction, his barely restrained rage for Politico reporters who ask him questions during a friendly visit to the White House press corps' offices, and how he's in thrall to fat-cat academics. Politico's crack political team simply has their antennae set to "things Drudge could conceivably link to" and they keep coming up with hits. Good for them. We all need hits these days.