The Atlantic Botches Romney "Gaffe" Story Twice in One Post
Today we got a solid example of the kind of agenda journalism the liberal media engages in whenever there's nothing else with which to attack Republican candidates. MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell got the ball rolling this morning with a dishonestly edited video of Mitt Romney. But before the day was over everyone on the left seemed eager to pile on the "gaffe" or, in some cases, actually add to the confusion. The latter was certainly the case at the Atlantic whose James Fallows managed to do both things simultaneously.
First let's set the scene. Romney is on swing-state bus tour and over the weekend he made a stop in Cornwall, PA. He chose to juxtapose two stories to make a point about the difference between the federal government and the private sector. The story about WaWa (a regional convenience store chain) was about the efficiency of the private sector in doing something simple, ordering a sandwich. Romney contrasted that with the story of an optometrist who wanted to change his address and was given a 33-page government form to do so.
The Post Office change of address form, in paper format, has always been the size of a large postcard. I've filled it out numerous times in the last decade and it has never been anything remotely approaching 33 pages. Either Romney was lying or the doctor was lying, and in the latter case, it would be telling that no one in the Romney campaign caught this because none of them has any idea what a simple standard USPS change of address form looks like.
Fallows quotes another email backing up the first one and then adds "I too have changed addresses many times and know that it's not very hard." So it's completely settled then. Mitt Romney and his team are either lying or completely out of touch or maybe both. One problem with 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 moved his office from one side of town to the other. Same zip code, same post office, but he wanted to change his address. He got a form from the federal government, this is so he can get reimbursement from the federal government for the services he provides for the poor and seniors. The form he gets to change addresses is 33 pages long...33 pages long. He calls 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't done right. Gotta do it again, another 33 pages. He calls another person. 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 which time he's not getting the checks for the work he's doing for people who need 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 of address form. He's talking about changing an address on file with the federal government for purposes of issuing payments. Based on the description Romney 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 lists several categories of people who should fill it out including those "Currently enrolled in Medicare and need to make changes to your enrollment information (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. It happens. But he should probably have checked the facts before allowing a reader to suggest in his post that Romney was a liar. We're not done yet. Fallows also decided to weigh in on the WaWa "gaffe" and the results were similarly bad:
The crowd at the Cornwall furnace did seem a little nonplussed when he was describing this new place, "WaWa's," that he had discovered, sort of like George W. Bush describing the wonders of "the Google."
Once again, this is a misrepresentation of what Romney said and how the crowd reacted. But don't take my word for it. Take the word of the Yahoo News reporter who was there and who understood what happened:
Romney nearly alienated some in his audience by dipping a toe into what has been a tense local debate among Pennsylvanians for years: Wawa or Sheetz?
The question of which Pennsylvania-based convenience store/sandwich chain is better has divided residents here for years. But that did not deter Romney, who had visited his first Wawa earlier in the day, from polling his audience on where they get their sandwiches...As his audience threw out names of local delis in response, Romney paused and then proceeded to tell the audience about his trip to Wawa—acknowledging that it might be a tense topic for some in his audience.
So, no, the crowd wasn't nonplussed that Romney had just discovered WaWas, they were engaging in a bit of friendly rivalry over competing local 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 unchallenged right 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 got the truth. Thanks for 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 this sort of nonsense because we didn't have the video or weren't paying close enough attention to debunk their junk as it happened.