This year's rapid-fire news cycle appears to never run short of gaffes, most recently President Obama's statement that the private sector is doing fine and the sound bite in which Mitt Romney seems to say he wishes there were fewer firefighters, teachers and police officers protecting and serving our country.
Taking quotes out of context is (unfortunately) common in political propaganda. Romney, for one, has been found guilty of completely misquoting President Obama with a clip in which he says if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose (the Romney campaign forgot to mention the part where Obama was actually quoting something Sen. John McCain said while he was running against him in 2008).
In a news cycle often based of soundbites that can spread like wildfire on the Internet, it was just a regular day in Washington when misquoting came up once again on Friday. Both Democrats and Republicans attacked each other's respective candidates for things they said about the economy -- Obama on his thoughts on the private sector, and Romney on his thoughts on the public sector.
Journalists are always held to a higher standard, as they should be. But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney failed to mention what the Obama campaign recently did with a Romney quote, as he lectured reporters on keeping Obama's doing fine gaffe in context during a briefing on Monday.
The private sector is doing fine
Since President Obama said the private sector is doing fine during an address about the economy on Friday, Republicans have pounced on the quote to show the president as out of touch and unknowledgeable about the country's economy.
The president soon backtracked on the comment, explaining it was being used out of context and meant to describe how the public sector needed much more help than private businesses. Anyone who watched the speech would understand that the White House does not believe any part of the economy is where they would like it to be.
When a White House reporter referred to the gaffe during a briefing with Carney on Monday, asking if the Obama campaign could assure the public they wouldn't do the same and take a quote of GOP rival Mitt Romney's out of context for political propaganda, Carney avoided a direct answer and wouldn't confirm nor deny that the Obama campaign would use that strategy.
Instead, he turned the attention to the White House correspondents, saying (somewhat passive-aggressively) the White House believes you all ought to do your jobs and report on context, of course, and we think that's important generally.
You're asking me to speculate on what someone might say in the future and the context and I simply can't do that. But if you're asking me if we're for good reporting, filled with context, the answer is yes.
As for Obama's misinterpreted mess-up, Carney laid out the official White House explanation for those who didn't tune into the entire speech.
The simple fact that recovery has seen 4.3 million jobs in the private sector created is also seen in the situation where massive layoffs of teachers and firefighters and police officers, a reduction in the public sector, Carney said. And by public sector, we're talking about state and local governments who have had to lay off teachers from classrooms, firefighters from the force and police officers from the force.
He said we need more firefighters, more teachers, more police officers. Did he not get the message from Wisconsin?
Shortly after Friday's presidential address, the Obama campaign pulled a quote from a speech Mitt Romney gave in Iowa that day and used it in an attack ad called Mitt Romney's Economic Plan: It Didn't Work Then, It Won't Work Now.
[Obama] said we need more firefighters, more teachers, more police officers. Did he not get the message from Wisconsin? Romney said in Council Bluffs, referring to last week's recall election that re-elected Republican Gov. Scott Walker. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.
The ad then pairs the quote with news articles from Romney's governorship of Massachusetts and quotes from Democratic mayors that describe the Republican nominee as a heartless politician who laid off thousands of public sector employees. The man did not care, he did not care what was going on in our communities, said John Barrett, the former mayor of North Adams, Mass.
The ad repeats the Romney soundbite once again at the end of the ad, and the Republican comes across as someone who would like to fire people educating children and protecting streets.
Clarification on Romney's policy, however, came not from the former Massachusetts governor himself but from an unlikely cheerleader: Rick Santorum.
Romney's former Republican primary rival, and hardly his most enthusiastic endorser, elaborated Sunday morning on what Romney was trying to say.
Teachers are great, we love teachers, but if anybody believes that hiring more teachers as we did for many, many years in this country under President Clinton, even under President Bush and under the early part of President Obama administration, if that's dramatically improved the quality of education, you have got to show me the numbers because it's not, the former Pennsylvania senator said on ABC's This Week. This is a false choice, that somehow pumping more money into an education system that's already spending an enormous amount of money is going to solve the problem. What we need to do is have education reform -- not throw more money at teachers.
When host George Stephanopoulos pressed Santorum on whether or not hiring more teachers would lower unemployment, Santorum responded no.
For every 100,000 increase in public sector employment, there's 150,000 decrease in private sector employment, the ex-candidate said. This money, that you're paying teachers, this money that you're paying public sector employees comes from somewhere.
UPDATE: Romney said on Fox News Tuesday that Obama's assertion he wants to fire teachers, fire fighters and police officers is absurd because those decisions are made on the local level, although he was against the president's second stimulus to give local governments more federal money.