In the ad, Obama appears to be saying, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” But in fact, when he said that, Obama was quoting an aide to then-2008 opponent Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who had used those words anonymously in an interview.
Aaron Blake of the The Washington Post wrote those words under the headline "Romney ad misleads its way to desired result." Kudos to him for calling out Romney's deception. And The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman also deserves credit for rejecting the Romney campaign's spin that the ad proves Obama is "desperate not to talk about the economy." (Only someone who was watching Fox News could possibly believe that.)
But even though Romney failed to snooker Blake and Weisman, The New York Times inexplicably cut him slack. If you make it down to paragraph five, you get this mealy-mouthed hedge:
But the line, which is perhaps the spot’s most devastating moment, is also the one that seems to be the most taken out of context. In fact, at the time, Mr. Obama was referring to something that an aide to his then opponent, Senator John McCain of Arizona, had said in reference to the McCain campaign — not Mr. Obama, then or now.
First, there's no reason for the hedging—when you're dealing with something this clear, what the words "perhaps" and "seems" are totally out of place. Romney lied. Period. So say it!
More importantly, there's no reason this should have been buried in the fifth paragraph. Romney's entire ad is rooted in a lie. Without that lie, the ad would not stand. And that means to the extent that the ad is newsworthy, it's newsworthy because it's a lie. The ad's dishonesty isn't part of the story. It is the story.
It's not exactly a shock that Mitt Romney lied. That's just what he does. I mean, he's running for office, for Pete's sake! If he can lie his way into the White House, that's exactly what he'll do. And unless the media does its job—including the hard work of keeping him honest—there's a good chance that's exactly what will happen.
8:39 AM PT: Greg Sargent points out that not only did Romney's campaign lie in the ad itself, they lied about the lie.
9:22 AM PT: And Ryan Lizza points out that instead of simply saying that the ad is a lie, some reporters are suggesting that flagrant dishonesty might be a smart campaign strategy. Of course, those very same reporters have a lot of influence over whether lying works ... and spending their time wondering about whether it's smart to lie helps nobody but the dishonest.