The Atlantic Botches Romney "Gaffe" Story Twice in One Post

The Atlantic Botches Romney "Gaffe" Story Twice in One Post

Today we got a solid example of the kind of agenda journalism theliberal media engages in whenever there’s nothing else with which to attackRepublican candidates. MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell got the ball rollingthis morning with a dishonestly edited videoof Mitt Romney. But before the day was over everyone on the left seemedeager to pile on the “gaffe” or, in some cases, actually add to theconfusion. The latter was certainly the case at the Atlantic whose JamesFallows managed to do both things simultaneously.

First let’s set the scene. Romney is on swing-state bus tour and overthe weekend he made a stop in Cornwall, PA. He chose to juxtapose twostories to make a point about the difference between the federalgovernment and the private sector. The story about WaWa (a regionalconvenience store chain) was about the efficiency of the private sectorin doing something simple, ordering a sandwich. Romney contrasted thatwith the story of an optometrist who wanted to change his address andwas given a 33-page government form to do so.

James Fallows, who was apparently at the event in question, jumped on the 33-page form claim with both feet, quoting a reader who emailed him to the effect that Romney was either a liar or a dupe:

The Post Office change of address form, in paper format, has always beenthe size of a large postcard.  I’ve filled it out numerous times in thelast decade and it has never been anything remotely approaching 33pages.  Either Romney was lying or the doctor was lying, and in thelatter case, it would be telling that no one in the Romney campaigncaught this because none of them has any idea what a simple standardUSPS change of address form looks like.

Fallows quotes another email backing up the first one and then adds “Itoo have changed addresses many times and know that it’s not veryhard.” So it’s completely settled then. Mitt Romney and his team areeither lying or completely out of touch or maybe both. One problemwith this bit of analysis. It’s not based on anything that Romney actually said. Here’s the story Romney told:

This optometrist wanted to change his billing address. He’d movedhis office from one side of town to the other. Same zip code, same postoffice, but he wanted to change his address. He got a form from thefederal government, this is so he can get reimbursement from the federalgovernment for the services he provides for the poor and seniors. Theform he gets to change addresses is 33 pages long…33 pages long. Hecalls someone to ask how to fill it out. He calls someone in government.They tell him what to do. He sends it in. They send it back, wasn’tdone right. Gotta do it again, another 33 pages. He calls anotherperson. They tell him what to do. Doesn’t get it right the second time.Third time’s the charm though. This takes several months during whichtime he’s not getting the checks for the work he’s doing for people whoneed his care. That’s how government works.

It should be clear, especially to someone who was there listening,that Romney was not talking about a simple US Post Office change ofaddress form. He’s talking about changing an address on file with thefederal government for purposes of issuing payments. Based on the descriptionRomney gives (“services he provides for the poor and seniors”) this is probably a Medicare form. In fact, it might even be this form, CMS 855I.

Under “Who Should Complete This Application” the CMS 855I form listsseveral categories of people who should fill it out including those “Currentlyenrolled in Medicare and need to make changes to your enrollmentinformation (e.g., you have added or changed a practice location).” The pdf version of the form is 27 pages long, not the precise length Romney claimed but close. This similar form (CMS 855B) for changing the address of an entire clinic or group practice is 48 pages long. Maybe it’s not either one of these forms or maybe the optometrist’s printer was off a bit, but we’re definitely in the neighborhood.

Fallows either misunderstood or didn’t hear what Romney said. Ithappens. But he should probably have checked the facts before allowing areader to suggest in his post that Romney was a liar. We’re not done yet. Fallowsalso decided to weigh in on the WaWa “gaffe” and the results weresimilarly bad:

The crowd at the Cornwall furnace did seem a littlenonplussed when he was describing this new place, “WaWa’s,” that he haddiscovered, sort of like George W. Bush describing the wonders of “theGoogle.”

Once again, this is a misrepresentation of what Romney saidand how the crowd reacted. But don’t take my word for it. Take the wordof the Yahoo News reporter who was there and who understood what happened:

Romney nearly alienated some in his audience by dipping a toe intowhat has been a tense local debate among Pennsylvanians for years: Wawaor Sheetz?

The question of which Pennsylvania-basedconvenience store/sandwich chain is better has divided residents herefor years. But that did not deter Romney, who had visited his first Wawaearlier in the day, from polling his audience on where they get theirsandwiches…

As his audience threw out names of local delis in response, Romneypaused and then proceeded to tell the audience about his trip toWawa–acknowledging that it might be a tense topic for some in hisaudience.

So, no, the crowd wasn’t nonplussed that Romney had just discoveredWaWas, they were engaging in a bit of friendly rivalry over competinglocal convenience store chains. It’s obvious if you watch the clip. Which brings me to my final point.

How would this story have gone today if not for one guy with a flip-cam waiting in the crowd there in Cornwall, PA so he could hand Romney his book on hemp (yes, really). All of the garbage the left piled up today would likely have gone unchallengedright through to the election if not for that video. But thanks to Les Stark (who shot the clip) and a conservative blogger, Sooper Mexican, who was paying attention to the media spin, we gotthe truth. Thanks to those two gentlemen, today was another win for the new media. Still, it makes you wonder how many times the left has gotten away with thissort of nonsense because we didn’t have the video or weren’t paying close enough attention todebunk their junk as it happened.