I was alerted to the find by Alec MacGillis of the New Republic. He was exasperated by this brief report in the Washington Post, which appeared at The Fix, the Post’s top political blog. If you don’t know it, The Fix is a reporting and analysis franchise built around the many talents of Chris Cillizza, a star reporter and key presence on its most important beat: national politics.
The Fix is a group blog now; the item in question carried the byline of political reporter Aaron Blake. It’s a 700-word analysis of a Mitt Romney ad that twisted some words of Obama’s into a claim that could be more easily attacked:
Context be damned: Obama’s ‘It worked’ quote should work for Republicans.
Context is dead. Long live context.
For the second time in two weeks, Mitt Romney’s campaign has an out-of-context quote it can use to bludgeon President Obama. First it was “You didn’t build that,” and now it’s two ill-fated words that Obama spoke at a fundraiser Monday: “It worked.”
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.
The rest of the item runs in this vein: Scream all you want about “context” and accuracy; these ads are effective, and that’s what counts. Listen to a bit more:
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.
Some people don’t hear it, others do: the way the tone of the piece… don’t get me wrong, fact checkers are great, but… eats away at our confidence that this kind of journalism can ever be the truthelling kind. MacGillis of the New Republic heard it. “Ah yes,” he wrote. “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…”