We noted earlier Wednesday that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney lambasted the press corps for uncritically parroting inaccurate Republican talking points about the "inferno of debt" that President Obama has piled up. Carney called it a sign of "sloth and laziness" on reporters' part.
But on Wednesday night, Rachel Maddow took the challenge to the Beltway media one step further.
"Does it make a difference to the press to have the Democratic White House Press Secretary scold them over not fact-checking Republican claims?," Maddow asked. "I do not know. But we are about to have a test of that."
As Rachel explained, Mitt Romney told Time's Mark Halperin, in a televised interview released today, that he'd get the jobless rate—currently stuck over 8 percent—down below 6 percent during his first term as president.
Though Halperin didn't note it, that pledge doesn't line up with Romney's earlier comments on the subject—something we pointed out at Lean Forward earlier Wednesday. Not long ago, he told a crowd that when it comes to judging President Obama's record on unemployment, "anything over 4 percent is not cause for celebration."
In other words, Romney seems to think he should be held to a different, and lower, standard than the president on the issue—an inconsistency that a more dogged press corps might be expected to point out clearly.
Over to Rachel:
This is a test of the Washington press corps. This is not a test for bloggers, or snarky opinion columnists or liberals on TV, who talk about this stuff all the time. This is a test for straight-up, report-the-facts Beltway reporters, charged with the responsibility of conveying the importance of what the candidates say and do. Mitt Romney says he wants to be held to a 6 percent unemployment rate, but if Obama is at 4 percent that's a failure. This is a test, this is only a test. If there were a real national investment in the rigor of Beltway reporting, your job would be on the line if you didn't get this right.
And of course, there will be plenty of other tests too. Will reporters focus on Romney's charge that Obama has gone around the world "apologizing" for the U.S., and point out that it's flatly untrue? Will they point out the contradiction between Romney's pledge to tackle the deficit and his embrace of the Paul Ryan plan, which experts say will do almost nothing on that score? And will they note that the substance of Romney's economic plan differs little from that of President Bush, which to some might suggest it's probably likely to produce the same disastrous results.
It'll be interesting to see how many reporters pass these tests, and how many flunk. You can bet that Rachel will be watching the results, and won't be shy about publicizing them.