Roger Simon, the chief political columnist for Politico, began his column last week with an alarming report:
“I hate to say this, but if [Paul] Ryan wants to run for national office again, he’ll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him,” Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa, told the New York Times on Sunday.
Coming from a resident of Iowa, a state where people are polite even to soybeans, this was a powerful condemnation of the Republican nominee.
Though Ryan had already decided to distance himself from the floundering Romney campaign, he now feels totally uninhibited. Reportedly, he has been marching around his campaign bus, saying things like, “If Stench calls, take a message” and “Tell Stench I’m having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later.”
Roger Simon’s “scoop” then raced across the information superhighway at record speed, with liberals exchanging quips about how the Romney campaign had finally crashed and burned. Ace New York Times columnist Paul Krugman dryly noted, “You’re supposed to wait until it’s actually over before you do this kind of thing.” Mediaite, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, Gawker, Daily Kos, and Comedy Central all ran reports based on Simon’s column.
As it turns out, all of these news outlets were duped. Simon’s column was satire! This was not readily apparent because Politico is not ordinarily in the business of publishing satires, and Simon’s column wasn’t labeled as such. But above all, the reason it wasn’t understood to be satire is that Simon’s column was punishingly unfunny. The Scrapbook will not say this often so make a note of it: We don’t blame Paul Krugman, Lawrence O’Donnell, and the Daily Kos for arriving at the wrong conclusion.
We do, however, find Roger Simon and his editors guilty of malpractice. Politico’s editors were forced to place a disclaimer at the top of the column: “Editor’s note: Some readers were confused that this Roger Simon column was satire. Please see Roger’s note at the end.” Simon’s note, for its part, seemed weirdly hostile to his readers:
Author’s note: Jonathan Swift did not really want Irish people to sell their children for food in 1729; George Orwell did not really want the clocks to strike thirteen in 1984; Paul Ryan, I am sure, calls Mitt Romney something more dignified than “Stench” and Microsoft did not invent PowerPoint as a means to euthanize cattle. At least I am pretty sure Microsoft didn’t.
Ah yes, that explains it. He was casting his pearls before swine. Roger Simon’s readers don’t just fail to get his jokes, they’re also too stupid to understand his predecessors—Swift and Orwell. Maybe this is just another misfired joke. Let’s hope so.