Part 4—Imagining Romney’s sad wife: Had Mitt Romney been beating his wife about her silly dumb hobby?
A string of liberals made that claim in the wake of his interview with TV’s Brian Williams. Even the normally sensible Kevin Drum got swept away by the furor (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/9/12).
Romney’s comments were “painful to hear,” Drum declared in their wake. According to the normally sensible scribe, Romney “threw his own wife under the bus” when he spoke with Williams.
Romney had engaged in “really contemptible behavior,” Drum said. He was “a gutless weasel.”
Several days later, Digby declared that Romney’s behavior had been “low even for him.” Eventually, Rachel Maddow conned us rubes as only a TV star can.
As Don Corleone once thoughtfully asked, “How did it get so far?” Why did so many liberals emote so much about so little? What could explain, or justify, such massive over-excitement?
Why are we liberals getting so dumb? Are we trying to be just like Sean?
In fact, the level of insult was rather slight when Candidate Romney discussed his wife during his session with Williams. Only two Q-and-As were involved.
Believe it or croak, this was the hopeful’s first answer:
WILLIAMS (7/25/12): It seems to me this completes your Olympic experience. You get to run the games and now you actually have a horse in the race. (Laughing) What's that gonna be like?That was it! Even for overwrought liberals like us, it’s hard to find insults there.
ROMNEY: Well, it's a big exciting experience for my wife and, and for the person that she's worked with, the trainer of the horse who’s riding the horse. And obviously, it's fun to be part of the Olympics in any way you can be part of them.
Romney didn’t seem to be beating his wife in this, his initial answer. If Williams had moved to another topic, the candidate’s contemptible conduct would have ended right there.
Luckily, Williams asked a second set of questions about this pointless topic. At this point, Romney did begin beating his wife, letting us libs take offense:
WILLIAMS (continuing directly): When is the event, and for those of us who don't follow the sport, what happens? Are there rounds that—of competition? Is there just one chance? What happens?For the record, it’s always possible that Romney didn’t know the answers to Williams’ questions. Are we sure he knew when the event would occur—the event he wouldn’t be attending? Are we sure he knew how many “rounds of competition” would occur?
ROMNEY: I have to tell you. This is Ann's sport. I'm not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it, I will not be watching the event. I hope her horse does well. But just the honor of being here and representing our country and seeing the other Olympians is, is something which I'm sure the people that are associated with this are looking forward to.
Whatever! By the highlighted part of that second answer, it once again didn’t sound like Romney was actually beating his wife. And so, when the normally sensible Drum wrote about Romney’s misconduct, that part of this answer didn’t appear; neither did any part of Romney’s upbeat first answer. In Drum’s uncharacteristic post, Romney qualified as a “gutless little weasel” simply because he said this:
“I have to tell you, this is Ann’s sport. I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it, I will not be watching the event. I hope her horse does well.”
That was it—Romney’s statement as Drum’s readers saw it. Rather implausibly, they were told that these less-than-hugely-outrageous remarks constituted “really contemptible behavior,” from which Drum was still “recoiling” a full day later. They weren’t exposed to Romney’s other remarks, in which he said positive things about his wife’s experience.
Might we speak sensibly for a brief moment about this peculiar response?
As we noted yesterday, it’s entirely possible that Candidate Romney wanted to dissociate himself from the dressage event. It’s obvious why he might have:
As the Olympics approached, the usual gang of “Hannity liberals” transferred their concern about Romney’s dog to fury about his dancing horse. Candidates try to avoid such topics, for perfectly obvious reasons.
Was Romney “throwing his wife under the bus” when he avoided this topic? (If that’s what he did.) It’s always possible; everything is. But Ann Romney understands politics too. There’s no reason to think she wasn’t part of any such messaging decision, if such a decision was made.
There’s no reason to think that the little lady wanted her husband to attend her event—that she was weeping in her suite about the vile way he had cast her aside. That assumption reflects a tired old dream—although, in this case, it let us liberals express some unintelligent fury.
That said, we liberals are currently trying to make ourselves as dumb as Sean—as full of trivial fury, as rich with feigned outrage. And so we screeched and wailed and complained about a contemptible messaging decision—a decision in which Romney’s misused wife quite possibly (almost surely?) took part.
The sensible Drum got strangely upset. Others took matters one step farther, misreporting what Romney had said.
In his post, the normally sensible Drum linked to a groaning “news report” at OTUS, an ABC News site. Amber Porter was so upset by the way Romney was beating his wife, she decided the time had come to massage the gentleman’s comments.
Porter improved Romney’s comments a bit. She simply ran his two statements together, omitting the bulk of his upbeat first statement. In the process, she failed to mark her large deletion, making it sound like Romney went straight to the wife-beating poop after one tiny remark.
Later, as if to even things out, Porter inserted a sign of deletion where no real deletion had even occurred! As she opened her news report, Porter read the candidate’s mind, then improved his words:
PORTER (7/26/12): Much is made during the Olympics of the robust support systems needed to send an Olympian into competition. The parents, families and employers who rally around their athlete to get them to the games. The village it takes to make Olympic dreams come true.Porter wanted her readers to feel it—that “disengaged tone and shrug of a husband who doesn’t quite get his wife’s hobby.” It didn’t seem to occur to her that Romney might have been speaking from some other place—for example, “with the messaging of a husband and wife who don’t want their White House campaign to get mired in stupid distractions.”
But for Mitt Romney, whose wife Ann’s horse Rafalca will compete in the Olympic event of dressage, he makes it clear it’s really not his thing.
In an interview with NBC News Wednesday night, Romney spoke of the experience of being in the Olympics with the disengaged tone and shrug of a husband who doesn’t quite get his wife’s hobby.
“It’s a big, exciting experience for my wife. I have to tell you, this is Ann’s sport,” he said. “I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it, I will not be watching the event. I hope her horse does well. But just the honor of being here and representing our country and seeing the other Olympians is ... something which I’m sure the people that are associated with this are looking forward to.” (All punctuation by Porter.)
That too would have been a novel, of course! As “journalists” have been doing for decades, Porter went with the novel she preferred.
Porter wanted her reader to feel it. Perhaps for that reason, she omitted the bulk of Romney’s upbeat first answer, making it seem that he just couldn’t wait to start throwing his helpmate under the bus. She didn’t note that Romney’s remarks were answers to direct questions from Williams. And good lord:
In a parody of journalistic practice, she failed to mark her large first deletion, in which those upbeat words disappeared. Super-comically, she then inserted a mark of deletion a bit later on, when she omitted one word: “is.”
Stuttering, Romney had said “is, is something.” In a parody of journalistic practice, Porter removed the second “is”—being careful to let readers know that a deletion occurred!
Did Porter quote Romney sensibly, fairly? That’s a matter of judgment, although she plainly failed to mark her initial deletion. To all appearances, her quotation of Romney was massaged to serve an assumption—the assumption that Romney was dissing his wife.
She couldn’t know if that was true. But she massaged his words anyhoo, tilting the balance of what he had said, aggressively mind-reading motive.
As journalism, that’s crap. But it was liberal comfort food—and Digby swallowed it whole. She quoted a chunk from Henry Decker, the chunk we render below in italics. Decker had taken his (massaged) quotation of Romney straight from Porter’s report:
DIGBY (8/2/12): Romneygaffe can't even properly defend his own wifeVia Decker, Digby reprinted Porter’s massaged quotation. Romney “couldn’t even defend his own wife,” she declared in her headline, failing to conceive of a world in which that wife might take part in her husband’s decisions.
If you wondered whether Romney really has no center, this should dispel any questions:
Mitt Romney tried to distance himself from the elite horse-dancing sport of dressage on Wednesday night, telling NBC’s Brian Williams that he doesn’t know anything about it – and doesn’t plan to watch his wife’s horse compete in the upcoming Olympics.
“It’s a big, exciting experience for my wife. I have to tell you, this is Ann’s sport,” Romney said. “I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it, I will not be watching the event. I hope her horse does well.”
This is low, even for him. This is his wife, to whom, by all accounts, he is completely devoted. And that was the best he could do?
This was “low even for Romney,” she said. This proves he “has no center!”
Let’s talk about liberal focus:
Romney is a god-awful candidate. By light-years, he’s the worst nominee of the modern era.
His business history seems nightmarish in several ways—but the mainstream press corps hasn’t attempted to go there. (And won’t.)
His personal tax practices seem bizarre. The press has avoided this too, and will continue to do so.
His policy proposals are amazingly bad—the most ridiculous any nominee has made in the modern era. The press corps won’t be discussing that either. (This is the piffle the press does discuss, from the front page of today’s Times.)
The liberal world could be looking for ways to explain these critical matters. Instead, we clown around with silly shit that will mean nothing to anyone who isn’t as tribal as we are.
In such ways, we invite the world of unaligned voters to judge us liberals as lunatics too. Needless to say, it took a certain TV star to make the clown show complete.
Next: Maddow finds three examples