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!