This post, from The Washington Post‘s “The Fix” blog, is nearly laudable for its complete and utter disregard for any traditional understanding of what it means to be a journalist. Blake’s writing about the aforementioned “It worked” lie, and in the process of writing 300 or so words of nothing, journo Aaron Blake distills everything contemptible about vacuous horse race coverage into one radioactive post:
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.
OK. Right off the bat we have the frivolous “the game inside the game” version of analysis that is the raison d’etre of “The Fix” and, just by the way, the reason I feel slightly unclean every time I end up there. What Blake’s doing here is professionalizing, intellectualizing, romanticizing, what have you, a “tactic” being implemented by Team Romney that most rational people would describe rather simply: lying. There’s nothing special about it, and recognizing its being done does not make you some kind of savvy insider. It’s lying; it’s been around since Krog first ran against Urk for the Presidency of Cave 193.
So not only is Blake engaging in vacuous, post-modern wankery — he’s doing so in service of what’s a rather ho-hum development.
It gets worse.
Things really go off the rails once Blake attempts to parse a new Republican ad, one that takes the President’s “It worked” wildly and predictably out-of-context. Now even though most observers sympathetic to the President found the whole “You didn’t build that” kerfuffle to rest on a patent distortion, I think that at my most charitable I could imagine someone honestly thinking Obama more or less said what Republicans claimed. But “It worked” is another story. He’s clearly talking about tax policy — specifically raising taxes to Clinton-era rates on the top 2% of earners — and no amount of pretzel logic or sophistry can even half-convincgly turn “It worked” into an endorsement of the economic status quo. Lucky for Obama’s antagonists, then, that they’ve Blake around to bullshit for them:
If you’re a Democrat, Romney’s [“It worked”] ad will look wildly out of context and irresponsible.
But if you’re a Republican, you can make a credible case that the ad is completely justified.
It goes like this: Obama was contrasting two different tax policies — one being the Republican policy, and the other being the Democrats’ policy. Obama was talking about how the Democrats’ policy is better. But Democrats have been in the White House for four years now, and things are still bad. So obviously Democrats’ policies — on taxes or otherwise — aren’t that great.
If you’re predisposed against Romney, that sort of justification will seem ludicrous and make your skin crawl. But it paints just enough of a gray area over the whole matter to justify the attack.
In case your brain started hemorrhaging around “things are still bad,” here’s what Blake — despite his “if you’re a Republican” sock-puppetry — is arguing: Obama wants to return to Clinton’s tax program. Clinton, like Obama, is a Democrat. Obama has been President during a time of economic distress. Therefore, it is “credible” and “completely justified” to argue that all Democratic policies, even the ones that are not in effect, are responsible for the present crisis. The Civil Rights Act? Social Security? S-CHIP? The Camp David Accords? They’re all utterly discredited because the unemployment rate is above 8 percent. Or something.
I guess if you’re writing something this bad, you better finish strong (i.e., terribly); so Blake wraps things up with a weirdly condescending finish, one that leaves the reader with the distinct impression that Blake thinks himself some clear-eyed teller of hard truths:
Romney may be attacked in the days ahead for running an out-of-context campaign, and some objective reporters might even say it has gone too far.
But the fact is that these two comments further clarify a picture (or caricature, depending on where you stand) of Obama that’s already out there. And plenty of — nay, almost all — people who don’t dissect this stuff as much as we do are going to take the pulled quotes at face value.
Is it warm and fuzzy? No. Does it work? Yes. And that’s why they do it.
Let’s not even bother untangling whether his claim that these ads “work” is true. It strikes me as profoundly in need of further definition — what does “it work” even mean in this context? That Romney will win the Presidency because voters heard Obama say a silly thing? — but that would require a degree of thought on our part that Blake clearly didn’t expend for himself. Instead, let’s just thank Yahweh that the only people who take this kind of crap seriously are likely small in number and certainly well beyond saving.
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