As much as we are gritting our teeth for the aftermath of today's Iowa daucus - which will feature the pundits gnashing out which handful of Iowa delegates means what to whoever, even as fourth-place finishers stand in front of the cameras explaining how the spanking they've just received is actually a tremendous victory - the fact that we have reached the zero hour is a great relief, if only because the media is running out of things to say. That's the only explanation for the up-tick in stories that seem to be written for the benefit of those who were born yesterday and subsequently failed to stay up late enough to get up to speed.
Yesterday, for example, the Washington Post ran a pair of front-page articles by Jonathan Weisman. Their major breakthroughs? Democrats are about "change." Republicans are concerned with illegal immigration. It's nothing you didn't know before. In fact, these articles contain some content that you shouldn't know. Take this paragraph from the latter article:
Giuliani, Huckabee and Romney have all used illegal immigration to try to prove to voters that they are the toughest and most conservative candidates in the field. And they have used it with brutal consistency in an attempt to marginalize Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), whose vocal support for legislation to clamp down on border security while offering illegal immigrants a path to citizenship helped cost him his front-runner status.
Obviously, the "brutal consistency" part is spot on, but the days of McCain's squandered front-runner status may be over. In fact, the Arizona senator has been surging back into contention, and the "brutal" attacks coming from his rivals are more an attempt to blunt his comeback than to keep him marginalized.
In the former article, Weisman reports on yet another poll that has been saying what polls have been saying since time began: "When asked to choose, likely caucusgoers are more apt to desire change than an impeccable resume. Obama has the edge on change and Clinton holds a large advantage on experience." But when Weisman turns a critical eye to Biden, "whose own attempt to present himself as the most experienced Democratic candidate in the race has had little success," he passes on a chance to offer some new analysis.
"John doesn't have a record in the Senate. John's only passed four bills. They're all about post offices. I mean, literally," said Biden, elected in 1972 and the longest-serving member of Congress running for president this year. "Most freshmen senators don't get much done. Don't get much passed. Barack Obama hasn't passed any. There's not a major bill I know with Hillary's name on it."
The fundamentally intriguing point that Weisman misses is that Biden's rivals' lack of long Senate records are probably a great advantage. Four years ago, didn't the GOP tangle John Kerry up in knots over his lengthy record in the Senate, branding him a "flip-flopper?" There's a perfectly good reason why career Senators have a hard time making it to the White House. Elsewhere, Rep. Paul Hodes notes, "The past has hooks." But Weisman fails to make a trenchant connection.
Still, as oddly timed as the Post's pair of articles are, nothing beats today's The Page for pure kindergarten-level news analysis. Mark Halperin awoke at the crack of dawn this morning to remind us that "In a close race, spin matters as much as the results." And, because this is The Page, he published it in red font. So it can, really sink in. But the real hilarity is Halperin's "Page Exclusive" for today: "Both campaigns stress the strengths of their Iowa organizations. But, fittingly, Clinton leads with 'tested, ready to lead,' while Obama leads with 'change.' Also, Clinton's campaign hedges with answer to 'What happens if Hillary doesn't do well tonight?,' while Obama's campaign claims the 'most momentum.'"
Uhm...that's an exclusive? Oh, well! Darkness will fall across the country tonight as the sun sets in the west! This is a Huffington Post exclusive! Must credit the Huffington Post!