The media and both presidential campaigns no longer know what “out of context” means. Or maybe, they choose to play dumb.

It does not mean, as liberal Democrats complained when their criticisms of President Obama’s Israel approach appeared in anti-Obama ads, “You used something I’m embarrassed to tell my liberal friends I said.” Nor does it mean, “Yeah, I said it. Yeah, I meant it. But other times I’ve said nice things, too.” These are political ads, not authorized biographies of those quoted.

“Out of context” also does not mean “You misconstrued this sentence.” Dems claim “You didn’t build that” meant “You didn’t build [those] bridges and roads.” But the comment, however you interpret it, is perfectly in context with Obama’s rag on entrepreneurs, who he claims steal too much credit, thinking they’re so smart and work so hard. In fact, as I’ve pointed out, it was a favor to Obama to pick out the “build that” phrase since the rest of the speech was worse.

“Out of context” also doesn’t mean “you said something I didn’t say.” The latter is a lie or misreporting. Mitt Romney, for example, never said the phrase “Palestinian culture.” Ann Romney never said, as ABC confessed, “you people.” (Many pundits never corrected themselves after long discourses on the subject.) It is not pleading for “context” to ask reporters not to report something your side didn’t say.

Why do we have this epidemic of “out of context” used, well, out of context? The press and the press handlers are lazy. The pundits like the phrase “out of context” because it is shorter than “He misconstrued ‘that’ even though the rest of the speech said the same thing.” The candidates and their hacks like “out of context” because it sounds less screechy and Bob Dole-like than “Stop lying!”

But from here on out, let’s stop using “out of context” to mean “using my own statements against me.” The latter is a tried and true political tactic, and both sides, not to mention the press, should stop bellyaching about it. It also might help, by the way, if pundits and the campaigns didn’t use these rhetorical arguments to avoid the substantive arguments.

The left now seems to want to argue “out of context” instead of defending liberal nostrums. Liberals playing the “out of context” game apparently don’t want to defend their belief that government should play a central role in the economy or that culture matters to the prosperity of a country. Go figure.