What Rules for Words?

07.19.12 5:34 PM ET

People have ripped words out of context since the beginning of language, probably, and there are arguably even worse violators than political campaigns. Movie ads. "Cate Blanchett gives a mesmerizing performance in an otherwise execrable, foul, completely irredeemable film" becomes "Mesmerizing!"

But it's getting to be about that bad. The Romney ad on Obama's "attack" on business is shocking. I wrote about it before. When Obama said the guy "didn't build that," he was obviously referring back to the roads and bridges of the previous sentence. In case you missed this, look at what they cut out of the ad (the cut material is in italics):

I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.

How does someone do something like that? The Romney people have to know they're lying about the quote. I suppose they feel the Obama camp lied about their guy, so they're just giving back what they got. I trust Obama oppo people are looking for simlar Romney quotes. But if we're now at the point where one person can just lop off (as if it were a misfit teenager's hair) six sentences out of the middle of a set of remarks, the absence of which utterly changes the meaning, then we're very close to a point when someone is going to be seen as "defending" Hitler or gas chambers or all kinds of things.

I will give this much ground on this: Obama was a lot less articulate making the point he was trying to make than Elizabeth Warren was. And Obama, like any pol, needs to think about every single word coming out of his mouth. But this Romney web video is a total disgrace, featuring this guy from New Hampshire taking umbrage at something Obama never said.