Did AP and Rugaber, Obsessed With Managing Economic Expectations, Spin Carl Quintanilla on 'Today'?

Yesterday was sort of "Pick on Christopher Rugaber at the Associated Press Day." So when I came across a particularly reprehensible report he filed last night whining about the difficulty the economy may face in meeting heightened expectations -- with yet another reference to the wire service's obsession with its relevance to President Obama's approval ratings and reelection -- I let it go.

That changed when I learned about and then read Kyle Drennen's NewsBusters post today about CNBC's Carl Quintanilla, Friday's fill-in Today show host. Carl Q spoke of how "...we're in a situation where we're sort of managing expectations, especially for the White House." "We" are "managing expectations ... especially for the White House"? What Carl Q said seems to have been influenced by what Rugaber wrote yesterday. Especially note the last excerpted paragraph (bolds are mine):


Stronger US economy may strain to top expectations

The U.S. economy has been outrunning everyone's expectations.

Factory output has surprisingly surged. Housing, left for dead, is inching back. Most crucially, companies are hiring faster than many envisioned.

Funny thing about expectations, though: Each time you exceed them, it gets harder to do so next time. On Friday, economists expect the government to report a 200,000-plus job gain for a third straight month.

The previous two months, job growth topped expectations, and unemployment sank from 8.7 percent to 8.3 percent. Consumer confidence has since risen. So have President Barack Obama's approval ratings.

This time? Another strong jobs report would be a welcome sign that the economy is further strengthening. But unless it exceeds expectations, it may not ignite a celebration.

"There's a new threshold for what's seen as a good report," said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight. "Our expectations are higher."

That's why the Obama administration hopes to dispel any assumption that the job market is destined to keep improving at the same pace before the November election.

Awwww, the poor babies. The American people are still waiting for the kind of rebound seen after the last deep recession ended in 1982, and we're still not getting it, or anything acceptably close. Team Obama, through virtual spokesperson Rugaber, is betraying the fact that they're not very confident that the economy can maintain even its slow-motion recovery through Election Day, and are worried about what any kind of hiccup will do to their prospects.

It's hard not to see what Rugaber wrote as a clue to Carl Q and others in the broadcast press who rely on AP content to get this expectations management thing on the table this morning -- and he did so, either clumsily or factually, depending on whether you believe that his "we" was accidental, or accidentally revealing.

There's another interesting point about Carl Q, Rugaber, and economy. Yesterday, Rugaber's dispatch shortly after the release of the latest report on initial claims was headlined "Applications Hover Near Low Levels." The fact is that claims increased by 8,000 over the previous week, and were 10,000 or so higher than expected, and that claims increased for the third straight week, the first time that's happened in over 18 months.

In light of that, did Carl Q independently come up with the following opening question he asked Jim Cramer this morning ...

"Let's talk first about another number we got this week, jobless claims for unemployment awfully close to a three-year low. Do you think the good news is going to continue today?"

... or did he again take dictation from the Administration's Press?

You should know better than to take the AP's word on anything, Carl.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.