Time's Halperin Covers For Romney's Attack On Public-Sector Hiring

Time magazine's Mark Halperin dismissed the very real policy differences between President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney on whether to rehire police, firefighters, and teachers and other public sector workers. In an appearance on MSNBC, Halperin claimed Romney's position against hiring more public-sector workers had no “real policy implications” and that Romney does not actually “oppose the hiring of police officers,” just the spending of federal money to accomplish such hiring.

Halperin was discussing comments made by Obama and Romney on Friday about jobs and the economy. After President Obama called for federal funding to stem the tide of public-sector job losses, Romney mocked the president, claiming “he wants to add more to government.” Romney continued: He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message in Wisconsin? The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people."

States and local governments have been shedding public sector workers, which has created a drag on the economy, and Republicans are blocking the federal government from providing aid to states to rehire workers. But in an appearance on MSNBC, Mark Halperin provided cover for Gov. Romney, claiming that the Obama campaign should never have highlighted Romney's words because there are no “real policy implications” to what Romney said.

HALPERIN: If you want to take it to the level of pure politics and evaluating the two sides, I think what we've seen since Friday is both of these sides are very aggressive. Both have a lot of ways to get their message out. They have a lot of contact with their surrogates to try to flood the zone on these things, but it's absurd to have the Obama people saying what the president said, he didn't use the best words but that's not what he meant but now let's spend as much time as we can going after Mitt Romney for the exact same kind of thing.

Now again, both sides will say no, there are real policy implications what the other side said but that's just not the case, at least not as big a deal as they are making it on either side.

The Romney campaign itself, however, does not believe Romney's statement was unimportant or incorrect. Earlier on MSNBC's Jansing & Company, Romney surrogate John Sununu defended Romney by trying to make the argument that taxpayers really do want fewer teachers and saying “people ought to stop jumping on it as a gaffe and understand that there is real wisdom in the comment.” Immediately after Halperin's appearance, top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that if Obama is “suggesting that increasing the levels of government employment is going to lead us out of this -- these economic problems that we're having” then “we have two very different visions between the president and Mitt Romney about how you get this economy going again.”

But while Fehrnstrom was insisting that Romney does not endorse preventing further public-sector job loss, experts agree with President Obama that failing to do so presents a significant threat to the recovering economy. Mark Zandi called public-sector job losses “the most serious weight on the job market” while The Wall Street Journal noted that had the public-sector not lost so many jobs, unemployment would be a full percentage point lower.