I’m trying to understand the math in today’s NYT story by Michael Shear about Bill Clinton people in the Barack Obama Administration, begged to the announcements of Bill Daley as Chief of Staff and Gene Sperling to head the National Economic Council.

Key quotes:

The appointments add to the already significant ranks of Clintonites in Mr. Obama’s administration.

Still, as some of Mr. Obama’s longtime advisers leave the White House, his decision to revamp his staff by tapping more veterans of Mr. Clinton’s administration is notable.

Can we get a bit of a reality check? Both of the people who are being replaced (Rahm Emanuel and Larry Summers) are every bit as much associated with Bill Clinton as are Daley and Sperling. So the net change in Clinton people would be...zero. In fact, since Sperling was already over at Treasury, it may be that there will be fewer, not more, Clinton people when all is said and done, at least by one reasonable way of counting, and assuming no more changes. 

Why does anyone care about this?  Well, in fact, it is important to understand that the Clinton White House was and the Obama White House is deeply situated within the Democratic Party network; neither of these administrations has been primarily filled with personal loyalists with ties only to the president. Indeed, while Daley, Emanuel, Summers, and Sperling all worked for Clinton, each of them has various other ties within the party, and none of them were Arkansans or otherwise had roots to Clinton that reached back before the 1992 campaign.

That is not, however, the tack that Shear takes. Instead, he uses the supposed increase in Clintonites as a signal (or a potential signal; he cloaks it in wishy-washy “To many” language instead of identifying himself or specific others who are claiming it) of ideological movement to the center. For that, however, he’s going to need an increase of greater than -1 to make his point.