At Plum Line, I noted that reporters and pundits are overhyping each new economic report, and tried to provide a bit of context for how to take new economic reports seriously without overdoing it. And over at Post Partisan, I took a shot at Politico and at Dave Weigel for overhyping possible revelations-to-come about Barack Obama's background.
It seems to me that this latter sort of mistake happens all the time. For example, in 2004 the real message about stories about George W. Bush's National Guard service was that by 2004, absolutely no one cared any more. Well, that's not quite right; lots of liberals wanted to finally, once and for all, prove that Bush was a shirker, or whatever it was that they were proving. And if we're interested in Bush's biography, sure, that's of interest. But as a voting point in 2004? No way. People were going to vote based on the recovery from his early-term recession, and from his reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11, and Iraq, and whatever issues people generally vote on. I'm very skeptical whether an incumbent president's (apparent, perceived, broadcast) personality matters very much at all, but to the extent it does everyone was already heavily invested in whatever they thought of the guy, and while events might change that, it's highly unlikely that revelations about his early life would. Same, of course, with Bill Clinton and the various pre-presidential scandals Republicans cared about in 1996.
I suspect that the dynamic that matters here is repeated each time: the out-party just can't believe that anyone would actually like this guy, and if only we can turn up one more piece of information, that will finally open their eyes about him. It's not true, of course, but I guess I can understand why it seems that it might be. For partisans, that is; there's really no reason for the press to fall for it.