Michael Brendan Dougherty, writing at The American Conservative, makes a good point about how the media helps the campaigns promote absurd “gaffes” that are really just distortions of what was said. He points to two obvious examples — the Democrats using Romney’s “I like being able to fire people” comment entirely out of context and the Republicans using Obama’s “you did not make that” comment entirely out of context — to show how the media narrative helps the campaigns engage in such dishonesty:
There is this weird assumption on the part of the media that if a candidate can be hurt if their comments are misconstrued then it is the solemn duty of the media to misconstrue those remarks.
This news coverage is justified in passive constructions. “The Obama campaign opened itself up to attack,” or “The Romney remark could reinforce a negative image.”
Then the defensive partisans charge in: “Let’s put the remarks in context.”
The charging partisans of the other side: “Let’s put them in some other broader context, like our nation’s unemployment problem, or its history of racism, or in contrast to an obscure Federalist paper quote I can recall.”
This is the cue for pundits who brand themselves “thoughtful” and “fair” to narcotize us with their thoughtfulness.
For once, I’d like a pool report to tell the truth “Candidate x got off the bus and addressed an enthusiastic crowd with the exact same platitudinous crap he said four hours earlier to another equally enthusiastic crowd. There was no sense to it whatsoever, but man, these people really ate it up. And his enemies will twist his words into slightly offensive shapes and make a big dumb boring hullaballoo about it until the nation finally stirs itself to end this thing with their votes.”
Hear, hear. All the things Mencken said 80 years ago about the essential dishonesty of political campaigns is more accurate than other. If anything, things have gotten far more absurd than even he identified — and he got many a good belly laugh out of them.