An out-of-context threat

Looking for something else, I came across a speech Mitt Romney delivered in April to a Koch brothers group, and given recent events, a line in his remarks stood out.

“…I’ll tell you, the fact that you’ve got people in this country really squeezed with gasoline getting so expensive, with commodities getting so expensive, families are having a hard time making ends meet. So we’re going to have to do talk about that, and housing foreclosures and bankruptcies and higher taxation.

“We’re going to hang him with that — uh, so to speak, metaphorically, with, uh, you have to be careful these days, I learned that.”

As a substantive matter, Romney’s case is a mess. There is, for example, no “higher taxation.” Romney also supports housing foreclosures, making it an odd thing for him to complain about.

But what I’m interested in now is, of course, context. Let’s say someone wanted to put together an ad accusing Romney of threatening violence against President Obama. The ad could show the former governor saying, “We’re going to hang him.”

In Romney’s mind, would that ad be fair? By all indications, yes.

Remember, as far as the Romney campaign is concerned, context doesn’t mean anything. If someone can honestly say, “He did say the words. That’s his voice,” then the spot is kosher. And in this case, Romney did say, “We’re going to hang him.” That’s Romney’s voice.

Obviously, in context, Romney wasn’t literally talking about committing an act of violence against the president. But what happens when context is deemed irrelevant?

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