When the press reacted with frantic scientific outrage to a joke by GOP nominee Mitt Romney about rolling down windows on planes, the world got its first hint that the American mainstream press might have slept through courses on irony or sarcasm.
That now seems to be confirmed. Apparently, not only can the mainstream press not understand a joke when it comes from the GOP nominee, but it can't even understand it when it comes from one of their own. This can be seen in the reaction to an obviously joking column by Politico's Roger Simon, alleging some rather un-vice presidential behavior on the part of Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan:
Though Ryan had already decided to distance himself from the floundering Romney campaign, he now feels totally uninhibited. Reportedly, he has been marching around his campaign bus, saying things like, “If Stench calls, take a message” and “Tell Stench I’m having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later.”
Never mind how much this sounds out of character for Ryan. Everyone from Paul Krugman to Steve Benen at MSNBC have lept into action, gleefully declaring this a sign that the Romney campaign is in disarray. Bloomberg has the excerpts:
Times columnist Paul Krugman:
Can I say that even though I’m not exactly a fan of Mitt Romney’s, this is just bad behavior? You’re supposed to wait until it’s actually over before you do this kind of thing. Anyway, I like how Ryan is declaring independence: by using PowerPoint!
Tommy Christopher of press-gossip site Mediaite:
Simon’s anecdote has the recognizable (to the Beltway crowd) ring of truth that renders it canonical in political circles ... Simon’s anecdote demonstrates that the Romney campaign’s toxic press is in Ryan’s head. In this electoral game of chicken, Ryan is already unbuckling his seatbelt and visualizing his roll onto the shoulder.
Joe Gandelman of the Moderate Voice:
Have we ever heard of a winning Presidential ticket in American politics that had a Vice Presidential candidate have an attitude like this about his running mate? Talk about a total lack of deference (or respect).
Liberal radio personality Taylor Marsh:
Ryan is trying to save himself so he can live to run another day. Roger Simon’s piece has spread like wildfire and is causing a gigantic ripple.
Steve Benen at MSNBC host Rachel Maddow's blog:
In applied terms, Simon's piece went on to note that Ryan no longer likes the directions "dictated by his Romney handlers." It's quite a presidential campaign, isn't it?
David Ferguson of the Raw Story:
According to Simon’s anonymous sources, the Romney “brain trust” of senior campaign officials in Boston have taken to calling Ryan “Gilligan.” Campaign headquarters apparently feels that the man brought on to the ticket for his alleged deftness in navigating complicated snarls of budget and policy numbers is turning out to be an intellectual flyweight.
Unfortunately for them, it's not only not true, but it is -- again, obviously -- a joke. It took a usually reliable fellow journalist Ben Smith to point this out via Twitter.
The joke itself isn't particularly funny, so it's easy to see how the mistake might be a bit understandable. However, this isn't the first time Simon has written a satirical column poking fun at Ryan. Given the army of fact checkers and investigators employed by the mainstream press, one would expect this sort of joke to be caught, even if it wasn't funny.