Foggy Bottom, Top

Ewen MacAskill, the Washington bureau chief for The Guardian, said in an interview that he stood by his story. His source said he could use the information as long as he didn’t source it. So he went with that.

But perhaps curiously, he argued that it wasn’t a news break anyway.

“I didn’t think it was such a big deal,” he said. “The big story was that she was under consideration in the first place. That was the story I would have liked to have broken. That was completely unexpected. I just wrote a wrinkle in the story. Andrea Mitchell is the one that deserves the praise.

“The basic scoops are the ones that come out of the blue,” he continued. “They surprise people. They make them stop. And Andrea Mitchell’s had done that. [The Guardian story] is just a development on another story. It’s just on the back of another one.”

But didn’t his story come out of the blue since—forget Hillary even accepting the job—we’re not even clear that Mr. Obama offered one in the first place? Wasn’t this the real break that was far ahead of everyone?

By the time this article reaches many of its print readers, the story will either have been retroactively falsified or … truthified? In the meantime, veteran political reporters—never mind the hapless consumer well outside the Media Elite—are left wondering what major news sources to believe, and when.

“I feel like an idiot for not believing it was an offer on Friday,” said Ben Smith in an interview, referring to the Huffington Post report. “And by Sunday it was a fait accompli. By this point, the fact that they let it hang out there this long means it would be a catastrophe to pull it. In a weird way, we have a confirmation by the way the story unspooled.”

Or do we? At about 15 minutes before 4 p.m. on Nov. 18, Mr. Smith’s colleague Glenn Thrush, the Washington veteran lately of Newsday, seemed to have some people who were willing to break the tie among his competitors.

“Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t certain she would accept the Secretary of State post even if Barack Obama offers it to her, several people close to the former first lady say,” Mr. Thrush wrote.

“Clinton is conflicted and the deal far from done, despite screaming headlines in outlets including the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper claiming the offer was made and accepted,” he wrote.

“We’ve gotten rid of all the other idiots” besides her husband, Bill Clinton, and one or two very close advisers, a source joked to Mr. Thrush.

So, what have we learned this week, kids? Hillary Clinton will be the next secretary of state, unless she’s not.

That, we think, is pretty much airtight. Run with that.

jkoblin@observer.com