Sunday, September 23, 2012

In Context

An Open Letter to the First Lady nominee of the United States:

Dear Ann Romney,

Campaigning is tough work, and I admire your sacrifice to undertake such a massive challenge.  I cannot imagine putting myself or my family through what you are enduring.  The long days, the endless rope lines, and the constant spotlight has to take a terrible toll on a person.  Take solace that it will be over soon and you’ll be able to fade back into relative wealth and obscurity.

I admire your fortitude, but must point out when I believe you could use some rest.  When I heard you confusing the definition of the word ‘context’ this week, I knew that I needed to encourage you to take a few days off.  Fatigue is the only rationale for your confusion.

On Tuesday, you told an interviewer in Denver that your husband’s “47 percent” comments were “taken out of context”.  Actually, as I am sure you are aware, his comments were presented to the public in full context, so I can only assume that you are suffering from exhaustion.

You were quoted as saying, “It’s unfortunate when something gets misinterpreted like this or it’s taken out of context because if you really do listen to everything that he does say, he’s talking about what we’re facing in America right now. We’re facing some really difficult situations. If we don’t take corrective measures soon, more and more people will be dependent on government, and that’s not what he wants. He wants to have more economic opportunity for people. He wants to have better jobs for people.”

When the reporter followed up by asking you, “So he wasn’t expressing any disdain for people who are poor or who are on entitlement programs at this point?”, and you responded, “Absolutely not. Absolutely not.  That’s totally not so”, you could not have been deliberately misrepresenting yourself.  You should skip a day on the trail to recharge.

Of course Mitt was taken in context, and he said at the May fundraiser in response to a question:

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it -- that that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. ... These are people who pay no income tax. ... [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

The words and the context are clear and unambiguous.  Perhaps with all the travel you confused “recorded without his knowledge” and “out of context”.  Honest mistake, but as you know, these are not the same thing.

An example of something “out of context” would involve taking words or parts of sentences and paragraphs and only presenting them to the public without the benefit of knowing the audience, hearing the full question and full response, and in some cases, understanding the forum of the discussion.

When the GOP spent an entire day dedicated to the theme of “You didn’t build that”, this would be something taken out of context.  In its full context, President Obama telling business leaders and entrepreneurs that they did not build the roads that allow customers to reach them, or the public service security forces that protect their investments, that’s correct and politically benign.  Out of context, it can be ginned up to sound like Obama thinks business people do not “take personal responsibility and care for their lives” and think that “the government should give it (success) to them.”  

See what I did there?  Obama’s statement was not presented in full context; your husband’s disdain for 47% of the population was. 

It can be confusing, I know, especially with all the travel.  It is especially tough when your husband’s campaign tries to pivot the conversation away from his in context remarks to another out of context remark from Obama recorded in 1998.  The Romney campaign points to a video clip of Obama saying he believes in "redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody has got a shot."  Out of context, that’s sounds like Chairman Mao!

In context, it is much more free market friendly.  Here’s the full text:

“I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot. How do we pool resources at the same time as we decentralize delivery systems in ways that both foster competition, can work in the marketplace, and can foster innovation at the local level and can be tailored to particular communities."

Pooling resources to foster competition and innovation at a local level is not too controversial, so the limited quote is needed to remove context.  I realize that out of context has more political clout than in context, so your misstatement about Mitt’s 47% video is understandable.  

Heck, even Paul Ryan is confusing the concept of context, so it’s no wonder you’re confused!  The VP nominee tried defending your husband by pretending that what he said wasn’t what he said.  "I think the point that Mitt is trying to make is that he cares not only about the middle class, he wants to grow the middle class."  If that was the point he was trying to make, he forgot to make it at all.

In summary, it’s OK that Mitt said what he said, and you shouldn’t fight a context battle that is unwinnable on the facts.  It will only tire you more.  Embrace the language, like Republican state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe did when discussing the Republican-imposed, PA state-ID law that facts say disenfranchises eligible voters:

"I don't believe any legitimate voter that actually wants to exercise that right and takes on the according responsibility that goes with that right to secure their photo ID will be disenfranchised.  As Mitt Romney said, 47% of the people that are living off the public dole, living off their neighbors' hard work, and we have a lot of people out there that are too lazy to get up and get out there and get the ID they need. If individuals are too lazy, the state can't fix that."

Rep. Metcalfe understands your husband.  The elderly, disabled, students, and the working poor are “too lazy to get up and get out there and get the ID they need.”  The state can’t fix lazy, and your husband can’t fix those who can’t take “personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Get some well-deserved rest, and we’ll talk more about context soon.

Take care,
Marvin Disgruntled
Loyal Supporter - Effective Federal Income Tax Rate: 0.00%

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