As Dylan asked, How does it feel: This is the way Paul Krugman starts today’s column:
KRUGMAN (2/3/12): If you’re an American down on your luck, Mitt Romney has a message for you: He doesn’t feel your pain. Earlier this week, Mr. Romney told a startled CNN interviewer, “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.”That highlighted statement is technically accurate. Our praise will have to end there.
Romney actually did say those words. Then too, this is the technically accurate, comical way he was “quoted” by Ed Kilgore:
“I’m not concerned about the very poor... We will hear from the Democrat party, the plight of the poor... You can focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus... The middle income Americans, they’re the folks that are really struggling right now and they need someone that can help get this economy going for them.”
We guess that’s “technically accurate” too, although if you know the rules of quotation, we’d have to call it a misquotation. (Ellipses can’t be used if they obscure the overall meaning.) What would you think if someone “quoted” Romney’s statement like this?
I'm not concerned about the very rich, they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling...You can choose where to focus. You can focus on the rich. That's not my focus...My focus is on middle-income Americans, retirees living on Social Security, people who cannot find work, folks who have kids that are getting ready to go to college. These are the people who've been most badly hurt during the Obama years.
That would be just as “technically accurate” as Kilgore’s presentation.
In a similar vein, what would you think about a pro-Romney column which started out like this?
ANTIKRUGMAN: If you’re an American who’s raking in millions, Mitt Romney has a message for you: He doesn’t think you need his help. Earlier this week, Mr. Romney told a startled CNN interviewer, “I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine.”That would be technically accurate. You could vamp forward from there.
Krugman’s opening paragraph is technically accurate, but we’d have to call it misleading. In paragraph 5, he covers his tracks. Having reviewed a lot of “technical accuracy” down through the years, we think this makes it worse:
KRUGMAN: Also, given this whopper about how safety-net programs actually work, how credible was Mr. Romney’s assertion, after expressing his lack of concern about the poor, that if the safety net needs a repair, “I’ll fix it”?After expressing his lack of concern? You mean, about half a second after?
Krugman granted himself a bit more technical accuracy there. But this is what pundits often do. Before they’re done, they cover their keisters in this way, giving themselves the defense of “technical accuracy” even as they expand their stretch.
For our money, this was the week when pseudo-quotation began to define the “liberal” project, just as it has defined mainstream “journalism” for much of the past twenty years. By now, tape of Rmney’s remark about “liking to fire people" has become liberal wallpaper. By way of contrast, this is what liberal bloggers said less than a month ago, when the remark was made:
Matt Yglesias: [S]ome progressive groups are pretending to believe that this is a video clip of Romney saying that he enjoys firing people. In context, what he's clearly saying is that the problem with the health insurance market is that it's too difficult for an unhappy customer to fire his insurance company. This is not at all what he's being attacked for saying.
Steve Benen: In fairness, the context makes an enormous difference.
Kevin Drum: Of course, this is wildly out of context.
James Fallows: Obviously Mitt Romney did not mean that he enjoys the process of telling people "you're gone!" when he made his infamous "I like being able to fire people" remark in New Hampshire.
Greg Sargent: Let me go on record saying it would be misleading and unfair to clip the video in question in order to quote Romney this way: “I like being able to fire people.”
Josh Marshall: He wasn't talking about employees. And it's been taken out of context.
Pema Levy, TPM: in fairness to Mitt, the line seems to have been taken out of context.
Back then, the statement was “out of context.” Today, it defines our world.
Again, a basic statement:
Candidate Romney’s tax proposals are crazy on their face. His conduct at Bain was very unattractive. But so what? Four weeks after Reuters described that conduct at Bain in a very detailed report, the liberal world has let it go. We never saw anyone describe the conduct Reuters explained with such care.
We simply don't know how to do it! To all appearances, we don't understand the types of conduct which would make the public's blood boil. We simply don't understand.
In his column today, Krugman finally gets around to explaining what's wrong with Romney's absurd proposals. But that is not the current focus of liberal punditry. Rather clearly, that focus has been on the joy of pseudo-quotation. Then, we drag out Professors Dyson and Heldman. They tell us that everyone's racist.
(Professor Heldman seems to have failed her long, pathetic try-out as a blond pundit at Fox. Her tone is quite different now with Big Ed. These hustlers are very pleasing, but they aren't especially honest.)
Bottom line, and it's been a large surprise for us: We liberals just aren’t very smart. We have been handed opponents whose proposals are simply bizarre—but we don’t know how to argue such matters. Beyond that, we know the public doesn’t trust us—and in truth, we've earned their distrust. (Did you watch Rachel's week-and-a-half of dick jokes?)
But even if the public did trust us, we simply aren’t smart enough to argue these policy matters.
We're all Cokie Roberts now! As Dylan asked, "How does it feel?"