To be fair, the photo does not purport to show Romney either during or immediately after a woman in his Ohio townhall accused Obama of treason. (Here’s the video to get the full atmospherics.) It is however, one instant in time during the event and, more importantly, it’s the crisply-toned shot that the New York Times ran with their Caucus post to amplify the circumstance. Certainly, the photo editor earned his keep on this one, Romney looking down as if consciously choosing not to counter the accusation (but knowing better), the morality of his omission amplified by the harshness of the light.
If the attacks on Obama hadn’t become so vitriolic and over-the-top in 2008 (accepted by Mac and egged on by Palin for weeks), the act of McCain straightening out a woman for going after Obama would never have happened in the first place. And, if that were the case, Romney would have been more justified in responding (not in these exact words) that ‘you can’t straighten out every crank comment lobbed at you at every townhall.’
At this political level, however, the mark of an “A” game, and the difference between winning and losing (even if we’re just talking one news cycle), is to have the McCain precedent so embedded in your circuitry, you would identify the red flag when you heard it. And that, by they way, can be as simple as calling it wrong afterwards. If the Romney campaign feels that the media is ganging up (just as, in this case, the New York Times is being thoroughly hyperbolic from a visual standpoint), perhaps he set himself up for it.
(photo: Jim Watson/Getty Images caption: Senator John McCain took a question from a supporter who called Senator Barack Obama an Arab during a town hall meeting in Lakeville, Minn., yesterday. He took the microphone from her and called his rival ”a decent family man.photo: Michael McElroy for The New York Times caption: Mitt Romney at a town hall on Monday at Stamco Industries in Ohio.)