Who knew vetting could be so confusing?
In the wake of the Washington Post's unflattering article yesterday about how five of Mitt Romney's high school classmates recalled the Republican candidate leading an assault against a presumed gay schoolmate, pinning him down, and cutting his long hair while tears filled up in the boy's eyes, conservative bloggers were indignant the Post would bother with such trivial pursuits.
-"Is a decades old high school story really 'news'?" (Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin.)
-"Cutting-edge reporting from WaPo: Let's take an in-depth look at ... Romney's cruel high-school pranks." (Ed Morrissey)
-"It's a waste of time and energy and effort." (Fox News' Karl Rove.)
-"BREAKING NEWS: Mitt Romney Went to High School. Seriously." (Erick Erickson)
Suddenly the far-right press thinks it's pointless to delve deep into a candidate's past in search of clues about his personality and clues to what shaped him into an adult. Suddenly they mock efforts by the press to paint a detailed personal portrait of would-be presidents by combing over their biographies.
In short, suddenly right-wing bloggers are strongly opposed to vetting.
This represents a curious turn, because as we've been noting this week, the established mantra from Obama's media critics is that the press has repeatedly refused to delve into Obama's past in search of clues about his true self, and has refused to paint a detailed portrait of Obama's history.
Those allegations are false. Nonetheless, it's baffling that critics are attacking the Post for doing to Romney what they want the Post, (and the press) to do to Obama; report out detailed articles about his past.
Keep in mind Romney does not question any of the facts in the Post article, which features multiple, on-the-record sources. Instead, the loud cries of protest from the right have focused on the claim that the Post never should have wasted its time writing about Romney's youth (i.e. who cares?), and that by reporting about his personal past, by vetting him, the Post was guilty of liberal bias.
This is getting nutty, and really just highlights the tangled "vetting" knot conservatives have tied themselves in during recent years: Vetting Democrats is good. Vetting Republicans is very bad.
Think about it. The same type of partisan media pursuers who obsessed over which elementary school Obama attended overseas as a child, and the same ones who have spent years obsessing over Obama's birth (you can't go back any further than that), suddenly think reporting out disturbing incidents from Romney's high school days is out of bounds?
It's amazing how the vetting urge dissipates when the target shifts from a D to an R.
The conservative vetting complaint is used as a crutch to bolster the broader conservative argument that the real reason Obama won an electoral landslide victory in 2008 was because the press (purposefully) hid the truth about who Obama really is. It's also supposed proof that the press has been covering for Obama since Election Day. (Analysis of the president's consistently negative press coverage torpedoes that claim.)
And the vetting claim has become relentless. Here's Karl Rove on Fox News last night robotically hitting the point:
See, Obama wasn't vetted! The press ignored the Rev. Wright story in 2008.
Actually, what we found last year was that between March and April 2008, major print, TV and radio outlets covered Jeremiah Wright over one thousand times. In fact, The New York Times found that in later April and early May of 2008, Wright was the focus of more political coverage than Hillary Clinton, who was running for president at the time.
So yeah, the press covered that story pretty thoroughly, to the point where just five percent of Americans thought the Wright story received "too little" media attention, according to a CBS/New York Times poll.
The "Obama-was-never-vetted" cry remains a right-wing distraction. When conservatives turn around and attack the press for vetting Romney, the whole exercise becomes a charade.