FineGaffeGate!

If you don't follow a bunch of conservatives on Twitter, you may have missed the fact that in a press conference this morning, Barack Obama said the most horrific thing any president has ever said, an extemporaneous utterance so mind-boggling, so vile, so earth-shatteringly awful that it will forever transform the way all Americans look at him and make it plain that he should not be re-elected. What was it? "You know, Hitler had some good ideas," perhaps? "I saw Milli Vanilli on tour three times and every show was awesome"? No such luck. Behold:

We've created 4.3 million jobs over the past 27 months. The private sector is doing fine. Where we're seeing problems is with state and local government, often with cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help they're accustomed to from the federal government.

Madre de dios! Sacre bleu! Holy crap! If you said that this would make Mitt Romney very fake-indignant, you'd be right. "Is he really that out of touch?," Romney said. "I think he's defining what it means to be detached and out of touch with the American people. Has there ever been an American president who is so far from reality?"

OK, so the private sector isn't "doing fine," but his larger point—that while the private sector has been steadily creating jobs, public-sector job losses have been holding the economy back—is absolutely true. Nobody really cares about that, of course. The question reporters usually ask at a time like this is, "Will the other side quickly produce a web video mocking the candidate for this statement?" And if the answer is "yes," then that means the "gaffe" is "news" and therefore worthy of extended discussion.

But if they wanted, they could ask some different questions. Such as: Does this statement tell us something new that we didn't know before? Is the other side's allegation about what the statement "means" plainly absurd? Are there any important policy implications, and if so, what are they and are they any different than what we already knew the candidate wants to do? Start asking those kinds of questions, and maybe you can exercise some genuine news judgement.

Of course, both sides play this game; indeed, sometimes it seems that the entire campaign is little more than each campaign saying "Their candidate said something awful!" But that doesn't mean the press has to reward them for it.

Comments

I suppose people could challenge Romneyisms by just ask Romney, "why?" (or "how?") which might lead to awareness of the data.

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