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August 13, 2014 9:43 AM The Self-Licking August Ice Cream Cone

By Ed Kilgore

So now that Hillary Clinton has been forced, as I expected, to make a conciliatory gesture towards the president in the wake of sorta kinda dissing his foreign policy in a garbled segment of a single interview, it’s time for the post-mortems of Stuffgate 2014. And where better to go for the perpetuation of a predetermined meme than Politico, right?

Sure enough, Maggie Haberman and Carrie Budoff Brown are there to argue with most of their sources in order to insist this was and is a really, really big deal:

The Obama and Clinton camps tried to mend their differences Tuesday, but certain dynamics won’t be as easy to overcome in the months ahead as Clinton mulls a White House bid: Some advisers around both politicians have a hard time letting bygones be bygones. The press is determined to continue to dissect the relationship [no kidding!]. And Obama and Clinton have genuinely different interests and instincts on some big questions facing the country.

But they can’t much get anyone connected with Obama or Clinton to admit this “story” is huge, which they seem to take as a sign it may be even bigger than they thought.

The best description of Stuffgate ‘14, however, is right there in the story, nestled among all the speculation about how this is but the first of many clashes between the two Democrats:

“To me, this story is a classic August self-licking ice cream cone,” said Tommy Vietor, a former Obama aide who assisted Clinton with the rollout of her recent memoir, “Hard Choices.”

Now back in the day, when journalists and pols alike took vacations (often in the same places) in August, there wasn’t much of an inclination even to pretend there was much political news going on. But now the cycle never stops, every week still has five business mornings to “win,” and there’s no more perennial journalistic crowd-pleaser than “Democrats in Disarray.” So it’s no suprise Stuffgate ‘14 took off like a wild fantasy. It’s even possible the whole thing was a planned Hillaryland stunt based on a shrewd understanding of how little you’d have to do to get five hundred “Clinton distancing herself from Obama” pieces written and uttered. But more likely, Vietor is right, this is a nothingburger, and idle hands will now have to come up with some fresh August furor.

UPDATE: My prediction Clinton would be attacked for “flip-flopping” by “making up” with Obama was richly validated today by Ron Fournier’s furious reaction. Ron’s beside himself about Clinton failing to “admit” Stuffgate was a giant slap at the president Fournier seems to hate, and he’s calling her out as a groveling insult to her gender. Seriously. This usefully shows how much wishful thinking (along with the August news slough) went into the immediate media inflation of Stuffgate into a Definitive Split Between the Feckless President and His Possible Successor.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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