Media critic

First in a series of articles on Politico’s story “To GOP, Blatant Bias in Vetting

Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen of Politico today sock it to their peers in the mainstream media for inconsistent vetting of the 2012 presidential candidates. The article begins by citing a big New York Times story about Ann Romney’s history with expensive horses and a small New York Times story on President Obama’s history with marijuana. Then this:

No wonder Republicans are livid with the early coverage of the 2012 general election campaign. To them, reporters are scaring up stories to undermine the introduction of Mitt Romney to the general election audience — and once again downplaying ones that could hurt the president.

Adopting the GOP viewpoint on presidential media vetting requires VandeHei and Allen to diss or question stories that other media outlets have printed during the race. That’s an odd position for a guy like VandeHei. He’s Politico’s executive editor, a never-stop-working journoboss who preaches an omnivorous approach to news — break it, break it, break it. If not, aggregate it and analyze it. Now!

So when VandeHei and Allen are chiding their competitors in this piece, there’s a subtext just crying to be made explicit. Herewith a translation of two key passages in “To GOP, Blatant Bias in Vetting”:

Key Passage No. 1:

The reality is that presidential nominees get every chapter of their lives exhumed and prodded — and should. And The Post story, by Jason Horowitz (“Romney’s pranks could go too far”), alleges more than harmless hijinks: It reported that Romney was part of a group that held down a kid they believed to be gay and chopped off some hair, an incident several involved said they feel ashamed about until this day.

But the 5,500-word account was invested with far more significance than it merited, and is more voyeuristic than relevant to assessing Romney’s readiness for office.

The Post’s top political blogger, Chris Cillizza, wrote Tuesday of his paper’s hit: “Romney appears to have weathered — at least for now — a Washington Post story detailing some bullying behavior in high school.” The implication: that there’s an authentic debate about how a candidate behaved 50 years earlier.

Translation: Damn — why didn’t we have that story?

Key Passage No. 2:

The story in the Sunday Times, “In Rarefied Sport, a View of the Romneys’ World,” looks at a sport Ann Romney took up as part of her multiple-sclerosis therapy, and stretches it into another telltale sign that the Romneys are out of touch.

The reporter, Trip Gabriel, who is among the Times’s regulars on the Romney bus, describes “the wealthy women drawn to the sport of dressage, in which horses costing up to seven figures execute pirouettes and other dancelike moves for riders wearing tails and top hats.”

The 2,300-word piece raises the possibility that Mrs. Romney was aware that a horse sold on her behalf was injured worse than advertised.

Translation: Possibility of wrongdoing? Telltale signs of Romney out-of-touchness? Those are classic Politico stories! How did we get beat on this stuff?

VandeHei declined to comment. Allen didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.