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O'Malley's misspoken word still driving debate

George W. BushExecutive BranchBarack ObamaDemocratic PartyMSNBC (tv network)CBS Corp.

WASHINGTON -- Nearly a week after Gov. Martin O'Malley said in a television interview that the country is not better off than it was four years ago, the Maryland Democrat was still explaining his position -- and he made news again Friday by saying his comments were "word-spliced" by the news media.

The defense was not new -- he said in a separate interview Monday that his words had been spliced -- but the allegation got noticed on Friday and it took on a new life as Democrats were pulling out of Charlotte after nominating President Barack Obama for a second term.

It also put his original comment squarely back in the national news for another cycle just as most people were beginning to forget about it.

"Yes, of course we're doing better when America is creating jobs and we are creating jobs. No, we have not recovered all the jobs we lost in the Bush recession," O'Malley, who has been widely discussed as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, said on MSNBC on Friday. "And that's what I was saying the other day when they word-spliced me and took the 'no' and kept beating me over the head with it."

As chairman of the National Governors Association, O'Malley has been one of the most frequently booked guests on the Sunday political talk shows this year. The controversy surrounding his original comment on Sunday underscores the danger that comes with that constant national exposure. It also shows how one wrong word can reverberate in national politics for days, and even into the next week.

Answering a question posed to him on CBS's Face the Nation about whether the country is better off than it was four years ago, O'Malley responded: "No, but that's not the question of this election. The question, without a doubt -- we are not as well off as we were before George Bush brought us the Bush job losses, the Bush recession, the Bush deficits, the series of desert wars charged for the first time to the national credit card."

The answer was almost identical to one Obama himself gave to the same question last year. "Well I don't think they are better off than they were four years ago," Obama told ABC News in October. "They're not better off than they were before Lehman's collapse, before the financial crisis, before this extraordinary recession that we're going through.”

Regardless, Republicans pounced on the response, which came just as Democrats were arriving in Charlotte for the convention. By the next morning, O'Malley reversed his position -- putting his original comment in the news once more. Other campaign surrogates, who had previously provided less precise answers to the question, were suddenly jumping at every opportunity to declare that the country was, indeed, better off.

It was an inauspicious start to the convention for O'Malley, whose prime time address on Tuesday received mostly poor reviews. Still, the governor seemed to perform well in smaller settings -- speaking to state delegations, for instance. And he was interviewed over and over again every day by national news outlets, all of whom noted (and therefore added to) the speculation about his 2016 ambitions.

O'Malley first raised the "word-splice" defense Monday on the Charlie Rose Show. He is not suggesting that CBS spliced his original words but rather that the reporters covering the comments did not put the word "no" in the context of his broader statement.

"I was a victim of a word-splice," O'Malley said Monday. "I was asked if we're better off now than we were four years ago. And I immediately started to pivot to the fact that we haven't recovered all of the jobs we lost in the recession. And we haven't. What I should have said was, 'Look, we're clearly better because we're now creating jobs as a country instead of losing jobs. But we haven't yet recovered everything we lost in the Bush recession.'"

Asked on MSNBC on Monday if he felt "abused" by the media, O'Malley quipped: "When you're in the arena, sometimes you get nicked by swords."

None of the initial lineups of the political talk shows for this Sunday include O'Malley's name.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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George W. BushExecutive BranchBarack ObamaDemocratic PartyMSNBC (tv network)CBS Corp.
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