(AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Jeb Bush's "big campaign shake-up": Inside 2016's most tiresome genre of campaign journalism

Have you heard? Two Jeb staffers changed titles! This changes EVERYTHING!


Jim Newell
June 10, 2015 9:27PM (UTC)

One campaign story this week has earned an extraordinary amount of attention from 2016 reporters for its great importance to the lives of American working men and women. It is a development on par with President Nixon's resignation or the election of Barack Obama. When this story broke, wind gusts swept through the hollers of Kentucky, the cornfields of the Heartland, across the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, and the illegal trash fires of New Jersey, so "game-changing" was the development and what it portends for the human condition for the remainder of the century -- nay, the millennium.

You already know what it was, reader: Jeb Bush was gonna have one guy be his campaign manager, but now some other guy is gonna be his campaign manager, and the guy who was gonna be his campaign manager is gonna be his chief strategist instead.

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Yeah, that's it.

Campaign personnel stories can be interesting. It was interesting when much of John McCain's staff up and quit in the summer of 2007. It was interesting when most of Newt Gingrich's team up walked off "en masse," as everyone described it at the time, in 2011, and it was genuinely hilarious when one of Gingrich's few remaining staffers sent reporters an insane epic poem valorizing Gingrich. (Also great: how most of those staffers who quit went to work for Rick Perry, who ended up getting trounced by Gingrich in the primaries.) In each case we learned that the staff had given up on their candidates -- a bit prematurely in both cases, it turned out.

Maybe it's just me, but a "shuffle" between two top aides for a campaign that hasn't even officially begun does not seem like a very significant political news development. Worth noting, though not necessarily worth analyzing for days on end. The whole genre of reporting on campaign staff seems to have gone into overdrive this cycle. "SCOOP: RUBIO HIRES DEPUTY IOWA FIELD DIRECTOR WHO WORKED FOR ROMNEY IN '12" is the sort of completely uninteresting story that's not really a story because no one knows who this person is or what it "means" for anything. And yet thousands of pages of Internet-ink are spilled on these personnel changes each and every day.

Why? It's not because the readers demand it, that much is certain. It's more for reporters and operatives to show off their contacts and how well connected they are.

Consider this Jeb Bush situation. The news is that Danny Diaz, a 39-year-old operative, will be campaign manager instead of "expected" campaign manager David Kochel, who will now serve as chief strategist with a focus on the early states. They each sound like pretty good gigs to me, but apparently David Kochel was given the shiv and there is a certain "Jeb Whisperer" in the mix.

When Diaz's hire was announced, though, my Twitter feed exploded with some sort of inside joke intended, I guess, to signal a certain familiarity  collegiality with Danny Diaz. The joke was this: "$". Reporters and operatives would retweet the news about Diaz's hire and append a "$," or "$$," or "$$$," or sometimes even "$$$$$" as commentary. The dollar sign is the avatar on Danny Diaz's Twitter profile. I don't really want to know. But if I had to guess, I'd say that Danny Diaz goes by the nickname "money" or "dollars." Here, to me, is the only thing that might make his new employment newsworthy: that Jeb Bush has tapped a total tool to run his presidential campaign. Then again, most political operatives being of a certain type, that's not really news at all.

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The Washington Post's "The Fix" blogger Chris Cillizza thinks the Bush campaign shuffle is all sorts of important and that the hiring of Big Money Dollars Diaz is of vital interest to the everyday news consumer. Here he lays out his reasons "why you should care" about the hiring. First: "Diaz is a rapid-response/opposition research maestro.... The Diaz move signals that Jeb understands the pace at which news moves these days -- and the importance of staying on top of and, ideally, ahead of it." So, Jeb Bush understands that a basic function of a presidential campaign exists. Next: "The idea of Jeb playing heavily in Iowa looks unlikely.... My guess is that Jeb won't entirely skip Iowa -- too much bad publicity on a process story for his taste -- but will downplay it in the grand tradition of John McCain in 2008." No shit. Next: "Diaz is Hispanic." This means that Jeb is apparently serious in his desire to woo Latino voters and pass immigration reform.

Ehh, still doesn't seem all that important.


Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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