This Is Not That
Time's Mark Halperin has graced us today with a fine example of political equivalence, arguing (emphasis his)
The President doesn't think the economy is "doing fine." Mitt Romney doesn't oppose firefighters, police, or teachers. Yes, there are legitimate questions about the President’s understanding of how the private sector operates. And, yes, Governor Romney supports less federal aid to states and localities for such jobs than the Democrats do. But shame on the media for starting the week perpetuating the self-fulfilling prophecy that Friday’s gaffes will be a big deal in the election by continuing to pump them. These gaffes will matter because we say they do.
How can the press ever criticize politicians for trivializing our politics when we focus on statements that have little to do with the candidates actual views or their proposals for the future? But also: shame on both campaigns for saying, in effect, the other guy’s gaffe matters but our guy just had some bad phrasing which should be ignored.
For those who haven't noticed- including the mainstream media- hiring in the private sector has been much more robust than in the public sector. That, now, is virtually irrelevant, especially since the President chose to (cliche alert) "walk back" his comments almost immediately by bowing and scraping, pleading "It is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine. That's why I had a press conference." Clearly, he does not want to be judged by the initial remark, which he has retracted.
Not so Mitt Romney. Promptly following Obama's remarks, Romney declared in a web video "He says we need more fireman, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people."
No one knows whether the GOP candidate believes that- rare or nonexistent is the man or woman who can be sure what the former governor believes about anything. At the least, however, Romney wants us to think that he believes it. Three days later, he has not retracted or even modified his remarks. He wants us to believe that he's coming after public employees, even if teachers, firefighters, or police officers. We are better off, he strongly infers, with fewer public servants.
Salon's Alex Pareene recognized Halperin late last year as "the world's laziest dispenser of collective wisdom." Halperin resides comfortably among what Digby refers to as "the Village," Washington insiders who mistake "balance" for fairness or accuracy. Having offered an assessment which appears faulty, Barack Obama bid a hasty retreat. By contrast, Mitt Romney offered a political assessment, suggesting that "the American people" believe "it's time for us to cut back on" firemen, policemen, and teachers. When a politician contends "the American people" want X, he is clearly advocating X, maintaining that he or she embodies the will of the populace.
There is no equivalence between Barack Obama's statement and Mitt Romney's statement, nor a resemblance between Mark Halperin and a journalist.