Politico's Ben Smith almost WON THE DAY with nice little scoop—the video of Barack Obama calling Kanye West a "jackass" during pre-interview banter with CNBC's John Harwood. But someone made him take it down. Why in the world?
How strange: Smith posted the video, which shows a smiling Obama surrounded by giggling aides as he makes clear that the remark was intended as off the record, at about 2 p.m. today. But within an hour or so, he took it down with this note by way of explanation:
UPDATE: Not so much: Wiser heads than mine at POLITICO made the call to take down the video of the "jackass" moment. Sorry about the tease if you missed it.
CNN didn't miss it. They grabbed the video and began airing it, complete with the Politico watermark.
Why would the heavies at Politico force Smith to take down a video that everyone wanted to see? Smith's commenters, as well as Business Insider and Mediaite, accused the site of "kissing up" to the White House, but that's unlikely given the fact that Politico's business model is based on enabling the ongoing—and now literal—demonization of the president. It's all very queer. We asked Smith for an explanation, and he responded, "You'd better ask those who made the call." He referred us to Politico's flack.
UPDATE: Smith has forwarded a response from Politico's managing editor, Bill Nichols:
We just felt upon reflection that it was more respectful to a fellow news-gathering operation to take it down. We had no complaints from ABC, CNBC, the White House or anyone else.
Nice to know that an online upstart like Politico has officially joined the Washington good ol' boy culture! And that they willfully acknowledge membership, apparently without realizing that it makes them look like snobbish insiders who would rather be in the good graces of their "fellow newsgathering operations" than publish shit that their audience cares about! Someone should tell their media reporter Michael Calderone, the guy they hired to report (respectfully?) on those fellow newsgathering operations.
While the disappearance of the video may have initially been a mystery, Smith's original take on its significance is not. As per standard Politico positioning, it was bracing blast of narrow-minded and defensive self-justification:
And here's that video, which shows, above all else, the president as a normal person — and moreover, a normal pol, utterly immersed in the cable-news frivolity he affects to disdain.
Affects to disdain? Barack Obama thinks something Kanye West did on TV makes him a jackass, ergo Barack Obama secretly loves everything on every cable channel and his sustained years-long critique of the mouth-breathing cable-news idiocy that Politico trades in is a lie and he really loves Ben Smith and he's just like everybody else and One of Us! One of Us! One of Us!
Why couldn't he take that sentence down, instead?