In case you’re wondering what it takes to offend a campaign whose allies have accused Romney of tax evasion based on anonymous “sources” and blamed him for leaving a steelworker’s wife to die from cancer uninsured, here you go. Turns out Obama, whose major contribution to deficit reduction this past year was the fiscal joke known as the “Buffett Rule,” is running a serious, substantive campaign while Romney, who just took up the sword of entitlement reform by picking Paul Ryan, is all about smears and distractions. The things you learn on MSNBC.
Two points. One: I don’t get why Romney would step on his own message to make a birth certificate joke. He’s spent the past week neck-deep in culture-war quicksand thanks to Todd Akin and is looking at another week of it once the Democratic convention opens. He could have used today to talk about unemployment or his energy policy or whatever, but instead he chose to throw the press some chum with this. (One of his aides told BuzzFeed that the line wasn’t in Romney’s prepared remarks but was delivered off-the-cuff. I’ll bet.) The point, I guess, is to prove that he’s capable of being politically incorrect by tweaking the media on a subject that makes them hyperventilate like almost nothing else, but anyone who cares much about that was voting for him already. It’s hard enough for Romney to break through the media’s wall of nonsense to reach voters. Why hand them another brick?
Two: This is the perfect ending to a week marked by criticism from Jake Tapper and, more tepidly, Chuck Todd that the media isn’t doing its job. From the moment this sentence escaped Romney’s lips, it was a metaphysical certainty that it would dominate political coverage for the rest of the day, with MSNBC’s pants-wetting expected to last well into the evening. No one expected otherwise even though everyone understands that few votes, if any, will shift because of this. When I started reading blogs years ago, it was relatively rare for reporters to admit that the media is biased or prone to trivial treatment of momentous events; whenever a reporter or editor actually ‘fessed up — the example that sticks in my mind was Daniel Okrent acknowledging the patently obvious fact that the NYT is a liberal newspaper — it was big news, a moral victory for conservatives who demanded that the press own up to its prejudices. These days, my sense is that they’re more willing to own up (they have to be since there are so many more critics online cataloging them) but that they’ve started to use their candor almost as an excuse to be as trivial as they want. Sure, they’ll spend three days navel-gazing about Romney’s dumb joke, but as long as Todd or Bob Schieffer or some other big name TV journalist sighs afterward and admits that it’s silly to spend three days on this, well, then that’s proof that they have “integrity” after all. Three cheers for progress.
Two clips for you here, one of Obama’s flack checking the various talking-point boxes and the other, via the Examiner, of MSNBC being very MSNBC-ish.