Like the yell at Biden for using the phrase "chains" when talking about Wall Street. Don't even get me into that one. But, as the New York Times points out, there are more diversions we need to stay aware of.
First of all, the economic numbers, while not terrific, have been on the way up, followed by a jump in consumer confidence. Combine that with the fact that the demand for an explanation from Romney about his taxes and you have a perfect storm the Romney campaign wants to avoid. Particularly since Romney's polling numbers haven't been so good and Obama's have been surprisingly optimistic.
Diversion: Leave economy, go with ideology.
Problem: The choice of Ryan (perfect ideologue) may turn out to be a bummer.
Four years ago, John Brooks cast his ballot for Barack Obama, becoming one of the voters won over by his promise for changing Washington. This time, he had been undecided, but he said Mitt Romney made his decision easier by placing Representative Paul D. Ryan on the Republican ticket.
The choice pushed him back to President Obama, said Mr. Brooks, 43, a sales manager at a Chevrolet dealership, who said that until now he had thought Mr. Romney was really a moderate, and he had been open to voting for him before he picked a running mate whose views on the budget he found extreme.
“Romney and someone else could have been a great team,” Mr. Brooks said Wednesday, a day after meeting the president at a restaurant in Cedar Falls, Iowa, during a stop on Mr. Obama’s three-day bus tour of the state.
The selection of Mr. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, has energized the party’s base and brought fresh enthusiasm and bigger crowds to the Romney campaign. It also has awakened casual Democratic voters like Mr. Brooks who recoil at a Republican budget and tax policy they see as unfair to the middle class. ...NYT
Oops. Romney decided to go back to the economy.
In the midst of an election in which few voters have not already taken sides, he is now running a campaign more focused on energizing an anti-Obama coalition than on trying to expand the universe of Romney voters with an argument that he is the most qualified economic steward.
Mr. Obama has been responding in kind, opening a deeply divisive period in the race in which firing up hard-core partisans is taking priority over trying to pursue relatively small numbers of undecided voters in the middle. This week has unfolded in a series of harsh exchanges between the candidates, with the president mocking his rival’s character, and Mr. Romney accusing Mr. Obama of disgracing the presidency by waging a “campaign of division and anger and hate.” ...NYT
It's hard not to see the Romney campaign as continuing to flail though the choice of Ryan has brought some energy to the conservatives, if not the rest of us. The rest of us are wondering about medicare, Republican corruption in general, and the persistent and divisiveness that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have stirred up quite deliberately since 2008.
A protest is forming about campaign lies. Garance Franke-Ruta describes how little coverage Romney's blatant lies have received. Though that seems to be changing. She points to her former colleague, Alex Gillis, who writes:
Romney hit President Obama for his “war on coal” (never mind that Romney in 2003 stood outside a coal-fired plan in Salem, Mass. and said that it “kills people.”) But he got his biggest applause during this riff:
I want you to know I heard something the other day that really surprised me... What I heard is that the president is taking the work requirement out of welfare. (Boos.) Yeah. We value work, our society which celebrates hard work, we look to a government to make it easier for jobs to be created and people to go to work. We do not look for a government that tries to find ways to provide for people who are not willing to work. And so I’m gonna put work back into welfare and make sure able-bodied people can get jobs.
Romney proceeded straight from this into a retelling of Obama’s “you didn’t built that” line, but even that did not get the applause the welfare riff did. After the speech, several in the audience told me that their favorite part had been Romney’s calling out Obama for weakening welfare work requirements. Yes, one of the more depressing parts of the job of being a political reporter is watching an audience fully absorb a blatant and knowing lie. ...Alex Gillis, TNR
As Gillis points out, these lies about work requirement, "you didn't build that", and the rest have been disproven (easily) by media and fact-checkers. I'm willing to bet you that Romney's audience knows they're lies but embraces them as weapons even more enthusiastically because they think they earn some respect from their own side for it. After all, this is a culture war -- guns, lies, and multiple grievances vs. annoying truths.
Two truths coming out of the Obama campaign enrage them: Biden's "chains"+Wall Street statement plus the matter of the death of the wife of a steelworker laid off by Bain Capital. Gillis writes what I've been thinking: it's about diversion.
A psychoanalyst might see in Romney’s outrage over campaign excess more than a little Freudian projection. But a smart political analyst would settle for the more mundane explanation that Romney is seeking to distract attention from his own very effective and mendacious offensive with welfare. ...Alex Gillis, TNR
Franke-Ruta's response to the frustration we all feel at the media's role in perpetuating lies is a good one and long overdue.
Fact-checking was a great development in accountability journalism -- but perhaps it's time for a new approach. It's no longer enough to outsource the fact-checking to the fact-checkers in a news environment where every story lives an independent life on the social Web and there's no guarantee the reader of any given report will ever see a bundled version of the news or the relevant fact-checking column, which could have been published months earlier. One-off fact-checking is no match for the repeated lie.
Objective news outlets had to deal with this last cycle, too. Remember the huge controversy over how to cover the allegations that Obama was a Muslim without just publicizing the smear -- or suggesting that there is anything wrong with being Muslim?
The solution now as then lies in repeated boilerplate, either inserted by editors who back-stop their writers, or by writers who save it as B-matter (background or pre-written text) so they don't have to come up with a new way of saying something every single time they file. Basic, simple, brief factual boilerplate can save an article from becoming a crutch for one campaign or the other; can save time; and can give readers a fuller understanding of the campaigns, even if they haven't had time to read deep dives on complex topics. ...Garance Franke-Ruta, The Atlantic