Small stuff in politics is fun.
It eases tension when things aren't easy, it's a pleasant distraction when the main attraction is Old Yeller getting put to sleep in Greece, Spain, and across the globe. When that happens, you want to watch All Dogs Go to Heaven, even if the evidence is inconclusive.
Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" comment was funny. It's inspired a funny meme, and that makes politics more accessible, and that's good.
But, now, thanks to the Obama campaign and a media that's played along with the joke, it's threatening to turn into an issue.
Seriously? With a few weeks until the election, with the very real threat of another recession in 2013, with Europe at the brink of implosion, with the Middle East doing all sorts of Middle East things, with the Yankees down 0-3.... really?
Over the past twenty-four hours, we've seen folks starting to push the idea that this might hurt Romney with women, and I agree. It might, which is why I'm writing about it.
But if it does hurt him with women, it's not a reflection on Romney or his lifetime of dealing with women, instead, it will be a reflection on the media's failure to provide context. In other words, failure in its charge to be itself. To do its job. It will have turned into a collective A-Rod.
You can't stop something from going viral, but you can call an awkward sentence an awkward sentence, and not sit by as it's presented as a worldview.
Everyone who knows anything about him knows that he doesn't view women as objects, or files, or anything else this "revealing" sentence is supposed to, well, reveal.
He's formed close, professional partnerships with women, leaned on them at countless points in his career, sought their counsel, their advice, treated them with nothing but dignity. Is there any evidence from anyone at any point that he behaved in even a slightly objectifying way toward women? Now apply that same test to Bill Clinton.
What's not dignified? Implying his awkward sentence proves that he views women as files.
If it sounds like I'm shilling for Romney on this, yes, actually, I am.
Just like I shilled for Obama during the "bowing to Saudi king" controversy.
To this day, large swaths of the GOP are using that -- not kill lists, drone attacks, surges in Afghanistan, or killing bin Laden -- to define Obama's foreign policy, to define his very character.
That's reprehensible, but of course, we don't expect politics to be fair. It's full of phony charges, out-context-quips, gross generalizations, and silly memes.
But that doesn't mean the media has to play along, and on this one, a fun game of flag football has turned into the most freakish sideshow of a sport since Sarcastaball, and one that doesn't belong in serious discourse any more fittingly than Gilbert Gottfried taking over the reins at Prairie Home Companion.
If the Obama campaign were dinging Romney on equal pay, on abortion, on taxes, on any of those substantive things, then that's what deserves a political airing.
But this is one step beyond Big Bird, because it accuses Romney of viewing women -- not fake birds -- as objects at a personal level.
That's a serious charge, and the more it's indulged without dispute, the more corrosive it becomes to the conversation.