Scrutiny and ‘nitpicking’ aren’t the same thing

SCRUTINY AND ‘NITPICKING’ AREN’T THE SAME THING…. A leading far-right Republican this morning suggested like-minded Republican candidates will do just fine in November, so just long as voters overlook pesky Democratic “nitpicking.”

Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), the chairman of the House Republican Conference, said that Democrats’ efforts to home in on controversial statements by some GOP nominees would fall flat with voters come Election Day.

“I think that [voters] are going to see through this typical nitpicking and ‘We’re going to pull things out of context,’ ” Pence said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

I suppose some of these words have subjective qualities, but “nitpicking” tends to relate to inconsequential differences. If John Boehner said he wanted to cut a program by $1.7 billion, but a closer look showed it would cut $1.6 billion, Dems probably shouldn’t raise much of a fuss. It would fit into the “nitpicking ” category.

But nationwide, we’re looking at a landscape in which high-profile Republicans, nominated to key offices, have said things that are stark raving mad. This is, alas, far too long to republish in a blog post, but most political observers shouldn’t have to try too hard to think of some of the frightening pronouncements from GOP candidates — just run through the greatest hits collections of extremists like Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, Christine O’Donnell, Ken Buck, Joe Miller, Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, Tom Emmer, etc.

Flubbing a minor statistic is “nitpicking.” Scrutinizing candidates who want to rewrite the Constitution, eliminate Social Security, gut the American health care system, and contemplate an armed insurrection against the United States government isn’t “nitpicking.”

Pence added, by the way, that O’Donnell “has an obligation to explain” her remarks about “dabbling” in witchcraft. That’s not unreasonable, I suppose, but wouldn’t that, in Pence’s mind, count as “nitpicking,” too?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.