I like to quote a made-up law that I first got from Brookings Scholar Stephen Hess. In a long-ago interview, he referred to it as Hess’s #1 law of the media, and it goes like this:
“No one notices what you say on television or what you wear on the radio.”
Tim Pawlenty went on the (revered) PBS Newshour last night as a Romney surrogate and, according to Hess’s Law, he did pretty good, which is to say that he looked young and winsome and his tie was on fairly straight although I would say that he wasn’t having his best hair day and a couple of his grins seemed a little lopsided.
But for someone like me, who hangs on every word, Pawlenty blew his credibility with the first words out of his mouth (not counting the obligatory “good to be with you, Judy, thanks for having me”) when his interrogator Judy Woodruff gave him an open shot to respond to Team Obama’s claim that the economy is on its way to full recovery. TPaw’s reply began with these words:
“Well, we can set aside the partisan spin and just look at the numbers, Judy.”
This is roughly like the Ford salesman offering to level with you about the relative values and features of Fords and Chevys. The former guv proceeded to cite several numbers but, surprisingly, the numbers amounted to pure partisan spin.
There are, of course, at least 100 different numbers you could use to assess the health and direction of the economy and there are 10 or more ways you could fit those numbers into variations of the history of how our economy got into its current predicament and the relative efficacy of the various things Pres. Obama has tried to do and how well they have worked and how well they might have worked if he had a more cooperative Congress and so forth.
If you were interested in setting aside partisan spin, you would probably at least acknowledge this complexity, for example the difficulty of assigning blame across the Bush-Obama transition and the issue of whether Romney’s proposals bear any similarities to the Bush policies that Obama and his surrogates say “got us into this mess in the first place.”
But no, to TPaw, the numbers worth mentioning and the history worth reciting all amount to a simple straightforward case that everything Obama has done has been wrong and that Obama and Obamaism are fundamentally to blame for any complaints that any American might have about the state of things.
This is not unusual. This is how partisan spin works. And, other than giving MinnPost readers any easy way to access TPaw’s recent appearance, I wouldn’t bother writing about it, if he had not chosen to start off with the ludicrous “set aside the partisan spin” claim. I crave a political discourse in which the level of partisan noise is less deafening and less insulting than the current level.
If you watch the video (below), Pawlenty takes over a little bit after the 2:00 minute mark. If you would rather read the transcript, it’s available here.