There is a fair amount of outrage on the left directed at journalists who seem intent on holding the Obamans accountable for the Priorities USA TV ad that features a man explaining how Mitt Romney’s actions at Bain Capital led to his wife’s death. The left (echoing the White House and Chicago) feels the press should instead focus on a new Romney campaign commercial about the President and welfare policy.
Here’s the thing: both sides already have made ads that, unfortunately and undeniably, stretch the truth on various matters of policy. Pinocchios have been given out left and right like speeding tickets on the Connecticut Turnpike. The ads routinely take a kernel of truth and explode it into a false or highly misleading TV spot: behold that new Romney ad on welfare and a recent Obama ad on Romney’s abortion position.
Such policy distortions are par for the course in campaigns these days. It has gotten worse over time, to be sure. Campaigns don’t care about being called out for a false commercial any more. They often welcome it, in fact, because the controversy that gets whipped up by their opponent or independent fact checkers results in a heap of earned media coverage.
This new super PAC spot, called “Understands,” which the White House and the Obama campaign decline to repudiate, is a horse of a different color. It really isn’t about policy (although some Democrats will claim otherwise). It is meant to use the emotion of a tragic story told by a bereaved widower to make voters think Governor Romney is callous and indifferent, and even is accountable for a woman’s death.
Responsible journalists will continue to do their best in the Freak Show environment to truth squad every ad, video, and communication. But when lines of decency are crossed, more strenuous efforts are required.
And the distinction the Obamans are trying to draw between a super PAC ad and a campaign ad are meaningless in this case. The campaign didn’t make the ad, but they could publicly call for it to be pulled off the air if they wanted it snuffed out. They aren’t, and they don’t.