December 30, 2007

Did Reporters Get Born Yesterday?

The dumbest political controversy this week, a prize that one wins with some difficulty, comes unsurprisingly from the Boston Globe. Michael Kranish found it necessary to breathlessly report that John McCain used a proverb that is so well-known that it has probably appeared on tens of thousands of blogs before yesterday. Somehow, however, Kranish and an unnamed reporter on McCain's beat managed to turn it into a nasty personal attack on Mitt Romney:

Asked how he intended to respond [to a Mitt Romney attack], the Arizona Republican said: "Never get into a wrestling match with a pig. You both get dirty -- and the pig likes it."

The back-of-the-bus compartment in which McCain was holding forth went silent for several seconds. Finally, a reporter asked: was McCain comparing Romney to a pig? McCain laughed and paused as he formulated his response: "That was a general philosophical approach to American politics."

No wonder no one takes the media seriously. A quick Google search on a few key words in this phrase comes up with 145,000 hits. According to one site, it has been in use in American politics for at least 60 years, and some even ascribe its use to Abraham Lincoln. It's well-known enough to keep it from rendering a group of supposed experts on politics speechless at its use.

So no, John McCain did not call Mitt Romney a pig. He gave a cliche answer as a demurral from further engagement with Romney in sniping about immigration, and the proverb explained why; it's a battle neither one of them will win, especially in sound bites. Anyone who has graduated from high school before 2007 would have realized the context and the meaning of the remarks.

Anyone reaching for this as a personal attack on Romney is showing signs of either desperation or incredible inexperience. Coming from the Boston Globe, one could apply either.

UPDATE: Rick Moran and James Joyner note more traditional journalistic hijinks, this time in mishandling a Fred Thompson statement on his effort to win the Presidency.


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