In new territory
Ezra Klein takes a deep breath, a long look, and faces up to it:
Honestly? I didn’t want us to write this piece.He even went back to look at Sarah Palin, and has to admit that all of "Palin's criticisms, agree or disagree, held up."
The original pitch was for “the five biggest lies in Paul Ryan’s speech.” I said no. It’s not that the speech didn’t include some lies. It’s that I wanted us to bend over backward to be fair, to see it from Ryan’s perspective, to highlight its best arguments as well as its worst. So I suggested an alternative: The true, the false, and the misleading in Ryan’s speech. (Note here that we’re talking about political claims, not personal ones. Ryan’s biography isn’t what we’re examining here though, for the record, I found his story deeply moving.)
An hour later, the draft came in — Dylan Matthews is a very fast writer. There was one item in the “true” section.
So at about 1 a.m. Thursday, having read Ryan’s speech in an advance text and having watched it on television, I sat down to read it again, this time with the explicit purpose of finding claims we could add to the “true” category. And I did find one. ... But I also came up with two more “false” claims. So I read the speech again. And I simply couldn’t find any other major claims or criticisms that were true. ...
All this is true irrespective of your beliefs as to what is good and bad policy, or which ticket you prefer. Quite simply, the Romney campaign isn’t adhering to the minimum standards required for a real policy conversation. Even if you bend over backward to be generous to them — as the Tax Policy Center did when they granted the Romney campaign a slew of essentially impossible premises in order to evaluate their tax plan — you often find yourself forced into the same conclusion: This doesn’t add up, this doesn’t have enough details to be evaluated, or this isn’t true.
I don’t like that conclusion. It doesn’t look “fair” when you say that. We’ve been conditioned to want to give both sides relatively equal praise and blame, and the fact of the matter is, I would like to give both sides relatively equal praise and blame. I’d personally feel better if our coverage didn’t look so lopsided. But first the campaigns have to be relatively equal. So far in this campaign, you can look fair, or you can be fair, but you can’t be both.
Jay Rosen put it like this: "I have never seen a Washington journalist struggle with what Ezra Klein struggles with here. He's in new territory." But he's facing it. I hope others can do the same.