You know people who attack their opponents’ spelling when they don’t have a comeback against the substance of their argument? (I never deal with this.) An attack on their vocabulary is only marginally better. That is to what this weekend’s firefight between this year’s presidential campaigns amounts: incorrect word usage. Which is, of course, missing the point.
Here’s what happened in a nutshell: President Obama’s re-election campaign is continuing its offensive against former Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R-MA) record as co-founder of Bain Capital by saying he would be the “outsourcer-in-chief” as president. In response, Romney’s campaign rather snootily clarified the word the Obama campaign used and the word they were probably thinking of:
Outsource, verb: To purchase (goods) or subcontract (services) from an outside supplier or source. (Random House)
Offshore, adjective: Located or based in a foreign country and not subject to tax laws. (American Heritage)
Got it? Outsourcing implies that a job that’s being moved out of one American company might be moved to a different American company. Offshoring means a job is staying within an American company, but moving out of America. And if you think I’m using the word “American” too much, man, are you in for a treat.
Now, I suppose we could argue that by attacking the Obama campaign’s diction, the Romney campaign is making the point that their guy understands basic business terminology better than the other guy. In a year when everyone wants the president to know something about ideal conditions for domestic business growth, that is, obviously, somewhat important. But any idiot – well, most idiots, I guess – can memorize a few definitions. Does it really mean anything when you put that idiot in the Oval Office?
The answer, in short order, is no. Romney and his people can trumpet the fact that he was in the private sector in some capacity all they want. But if that presence doesn’t include figuring out how to keep middle- and lower-tier jobs where they originated, people still aren’t going to be impressed. I’ve already made the point that Americans won’t feel like things are improving if they have to uproot their lives for a paycheck. If Romney’s people can meld this and the importance of free trade into a coherent jobs message, they might have something more than a prissy semantics lesson.
And another thing: No dictionary I checked lists “offshore” as a verb. If we’re going to split hairs, let’s split them right.