“It’s All Fair Game”

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Yesterday, I wrote a post in this space pleading with the political press corps to make an attempt to hold campaigns to basic standards of context and accuracy, in light of the supremely cynical ads running around the country taking wild liberties with Barack Obama’s “you didn’t build that” riff. I got some nice backup last night from Jon Stewart, who not surprisingly made the case in far more entertaining and persuasive terms.

But apparently neither of us are getting through. I just came across this on a major political blog, referring to a new controversy over yet another ad in which the Republicans have taken Obama even more blatantly out of context.

And here’s how the blog dealt with the matter:

As with “You didn’t build that,” the Romney campaign’s attacks on “It worked” will be criticized for being out-of-context, lowest-common-denominator politics. And as with “You didn’t build that,” “It worked” is going to ... well ... work.

Here’s why.

There’s a lot of controversy these days about campaign tactics and what crosses the line. Obama’s team has been crying foul for two weeks now that “You didn’t build that” has been taken badly out of context by Republicans.

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.

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...

The blog goes on to explain its abdication of any sort of reportorial responsibility by declaring that the “Obama team’s hands aren’t quite clean when it comes to context, either, including its use of Romney’s ‘I’m not concerned about the very poor’ and ‘I like being able to fire people’ quotes.” But that’s a false equivalence. Unless I'm mistaken, the Democrats have not run massive ad blasts around those linesas damaging as they may seem in isolation, they were less damning in context, and, well, the Democrats may have realized they’d be chided for suggesting otherwise. And we would chide them, as I chided them for strained attacks on Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts record a few weeks ago. That’s part of our job, isn’t it, holding the candidates to some modicum of reality? Or we could simply sit by our screens and marvel at their “acumen.”

follow me on Twitter @AlecMacGillis

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