The mainstream media have only themselves to blame for a tiresome coverage of serial gaffes. The MSM is the crew that has made a habit of ignoring real news (e.g. the rise in poverty) and serious policy ( Is a Medicare premium support plan viable?) in favor of bashing Mitt Romney over a series of real and distorted slips (e.g. on Libya, on 47 percent of Americans who are dependent on the government). So it was truly something to behold when they sighed and protested having to cover a gaffe by Vice President Joe Biden, who said Tuesday that the middle class had been “buried” in the last four years.
On cable TV and Twitter, as well as in print and the blogosphere, the mainstream reporters and the lefty pundits tried to minimize the remark and seemed openly contemptuous of Romney’s attempt to — gasp! — play politics in the midst of a presidential election.
Their annoyance no doubt stemmed from the ever-evolving standard for a “gaffe.” Romney truth-telling on Libya was a “gaffe” in their book, but how could Biden’s feeling the middle class’s pain possibly qualify? The only consistent line of reasoning is the obvious one: What Romney says is a gaffe; what the Obama team says is “taken out of context” or explained through some circuitous reasoning. Consider how one justifies covering Libya when Romney’s remarks are at issue, ignoring it when it becomes an Obama debacle, making Romney’s 47 percent remark the top story for days but sneering at the notion they should cover Biden, and covering polls and non-policy issues non-stop all the while grousing about the lack of substance. If that sounds suspiciously like the TV network coverage or your average lefty blogger, then you’ve discovered (or confirmed) the media’s all-out effort to steer the race into Obama’s safe harbors.
On the Biden remark, the media sure seemed miffed to have to respond to the Romney campaign (hey, who’s running this race anyway!), and more importantly to be dragged against their will into a policy discussion. Now that was the reason, of course, the Romney-Ryan ticket pounced on Biden. They’ve been talking about their five-point plan to restore the middle class for months, but the media yawns. Two conservative studies were released Tuesday showing that the middle class will shoulder some of the tax burden associated with debt repayment. Again, the media yawned. So when opportunity presented itself, who could blame the Romney-Ryan team for ramping up the volume? At least they got the media to report that the middle class has lost ground under Obama.
We would, of course, get out of gaffe mode and into discussion of policy if the media, to the delight of the Obama team, didn’t string together one process story after another (on polling, money, campaign tactics) in hopes of taking the focus off the real world (bad for Obama) and keeping it on the campaigns’ performance (bad for Romney).
So live by the gaffe, die by the gaffe. The press wants to talk about gaffes? Let’s talk and talk, say the Romney folks — but about a subject that benefits the Republicans.
Romney would do well not just to highlight the VP’s revelatory moment, but also to use it in the debate tonight to talk about the loss of employment, household net worth and median income under the Obama “recovery,” as well as the hike in gas prices and health-care costs, which combine to squeeze the middle class.
And Obama’s second term would make the first look like a walk in the park, argues the Romney team. There is a great deal to that argument, in part because of the plague of low growth and prospect of higher taxes (which would hit everyone, not just the rich). So now that Romney has the attention of the media and a debate platform, let's see if he can make something of the opportunity to explain that for all of the president’s self-righteous talk, Obama has actually worsened the problems of middle class voters.