Thursday, July 26, 2012

Catch of the Day

Goes to Alec MacGillis, for taking down The Fix's Aaron Blake. See, Blake wrote an item about that latest out-of-context quote that Mitt Romney's campaign is using in which not only did he assess it purely in terms of whether it would "work" or not, but in which he just threw up his hands about the possibility of assessing it in any other way.

Here's Blake:
The problem is, the gray area is just too gray. Fact-checkers are great (especially our Glenn Kessler), but as long as either side has an argument to justify its attacks, the history of politics dictates that it’s all fair game.Romney’s team is exploiting that fact — to the credit of its political acumen, if not its strict adherence to accuracy.
But as MacGillis points out (his emphasis):
Ah yes. If only there was someone whose job and calling it was to ferret out the truth of such things, to provide some context for voters. Let me think, there must be someone we can think of, a profession of some kind perhaps, sort of like a researcher but also a communicator...
What he didn't include this time around, but did mention in a tweet recently (but not in another excellent item on the topic he wrote yesterday), is that leaving this stuff for the fact checkers is not good enough. Not only are some things better reported on by regular reporters than by fact checkers (whose job, if it's going to work, really needs to be limited to clear cases of fact), but it's simply, as MacGillis points out here, bad reporting to omit most of the full story -- which in this case, is simply that Barack Obama never said the thing that the Romney campaign is claiming he said.

By the way, in my view it's fairly reasonable for horse race reporters to also discuss the likely effects of an attack (although keeping in mind that the likely effects of any campaign attack in a presidential general election campaign are going to be very small). As long as they tell us the whole truth, which is that in this case Romney is attempting to pull a fast one, and that part of the whole truth is that if the press reports it as such, the effect of the slur on Romney's reputation may be a factor as well.

Also: Great catch!


  1. I think we can look back at the ad Romney released quoting Obama quoting McCain, back in the primaries, as a bellwether... I'm sure he released that one to judge just how dishonest he could be and suffer no real damage. The answer was: pretty frickin' dishonest. The way he's survived transparently lying about his tenure at Bain is another point in his favor: The press was too busy assessing the rival claims to have the time to report that yes, Romney had clearly lied in one document or another, as well as to the populace.

    I don't expect to see any letup in this dishonesty unless it starts to cost him with the press, and odds are, it won't.

    1. I don't think it will cost him "in the press." If one really cares about this stuff, and thinks critically about the facts reported, there's already plenty of info establishing that Romney is a shameless liar. I don't know that it would make a lot of difference if the NYT or WaPo ran big, black headlines "Yes, Romney is a liar," - people who don't believe anything in the "liberal media" wouldn't be swayed, and the rest wouldn't be learning anything they didn't already know. If Romney fans credit the articles at all, the only thing they take away is that Romney is giving Obama a taste of his own medicine. And in a sense he is, but the Obama campaign's liberties with the truth are homeopathic micro-doses of arsenic, and Romney's are full strength.

      Still, I think it's possible that the lies will backfire in the long run, as the drip, drip, drip of stories (even-handed and fuzzy as they are) make at least some open-minded Romney leaners think less of him. Not a bang, but a whimper. Right now, Romney probably thinks that whatever his lazy mendacity costs him with those folks is worth the extra credit he gets with the Base for being a ruthless arsehole. (I'm describing Romney's view of the Base, not necessarily my own.) He may be right, he may be proven wrong.

      I guess what I'm saying is that it's not how the press covers the facts, but rather how people react to them. Jerry Sandusky wasn't done in by "the press" but by the facts reported in the press, because Americans generally hate child abusers (rightly!, of course). They are much more sanguine about lies (again, because "both sides do it," even if they don't). If Romney did something really egregious, and reporters, commentators and comedians devoted as much attention to that as they have to the lies, he'd be a goner.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?