Love the Way You Lie
You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad. They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they’re wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them.”
Mitt Romney August 9, 2012
Paul Ryan addressed the Republican National Convention, last night, and pledged that if he and his running mate, Mitt Romney, were elected, they would usher in an “ethic of responsibility.” Evidently, an “ethic of responsibility” does not include honesty because, as Fox News columnist Sally Kohn memorably put it:
“ . . . to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.
On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.
The good news is that the Romney-Ryan campaign has likely created dozens of new jobs among the legions of additional fact checkers that media outlets are rushing to hire to sift through the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth. Said fact checkers have already condemned certain arguments that Ryan still irresponsibly repeated.
When you are a Republican candidate for high office, and Fox News allows an employee to rip into you like that, you know you’re in the major leagues of mendacity. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the particular “stock lies” that Ryan trotted out last night. His lying was so egregious that it has generated a bipartisan journo-fact-fest carpet-bombing of every media outlet in the country from network TV to Great-Aunt Sally’s boomer-blog. If you want gory details, they’re out there!
Talking Points Memo did a nice job of summarizing Ryan’s Top 5 Lies:
The Medicare Lie: President Obama plundered the Medicare Fund to finance his pet project, ObamaCare.
The Credit Rating Lie: The Obama administration “began with a perfect Triple-A credit rating for the United States; it ends with a downgraded America.”
[Standard & Poors downgraded the country’s sovereign debt rating in 2011 because congressional Republicans, of which Ryan is a key leader, threatened not to increase the country’s borrowing authority — risking a default on the debt — unless Democrats agreed to slash trillions of dollars from domestic social programs and investments.]
The Janesville GM Plant Lie: Ryan blames the plant closure on failed Obama policies. The Janesville, WI [Ryan’s district] plant closed in 2008, during the Bush administration and due to Bush’s ruinous fiscal policy.
The Bowles-Simpson Debt Commission Lie: Ryan chastised Obama: “He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.”
Ryan sat on that commission. He voted against it. Following his lead, so did the panel’s other House Republicans.
The Protecting the Poor Lie: “We have responsibilities, one to another — we do not each face the world alone,” he said. “And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak.”
Just under two thirds of the dramatic spending cuts in Ryan’s budget target programs that benefit low-income people. That plan also calls for large tax cuts for high-income earners.
Team Romney gave us fair warning—Romney pollster, Neil Newhouse said at a panel organized by ABC News “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” Sort of a really dumb thing for a campaign to say – we’re not going to let the truth slow us down?—but then Team Romney hasn’t exactly re-set the bar for campaign excellence.
Make no mistake, though, Paul Ryan’s speech, last night, was not distorted or misleading because he’s a newbie to all of this attention. This lying and amplification of lies in the right-wing echo-chamber are a very particular political strategy.
Mitt Romney has been systematically lying to the electorate since January, at least. Steve Benen, who writes for Washington Monthly, has been tracking and compiling those lies in what he calls a “chronicle of Mitt’s Mendacity.” Benen is up to 533 lies in the past 30 weeks and these are not lies that Benen is catching by casting a wide net. These are not assertions, interpretations, opinions or allegations. These are hard facts, that Romney has as much access to as the rest of us, that he lies about to suit his purpose.
Since the 2008 presidential campaign, right-wing political strategists have made audacious lies the go-to strategy for opposing the Obama administration and its political goals. You’ve heard them all before: Birtherism, death panels, Obama is a Marxist who wants to take over the entire economy, Obama hates white people and white culture, Ivy Leaguer Sonia Sotomayor is an undeserving affirmative action anti-white-male racist, the federal hate crimes law is a “pedophile protection act” that will put preachers in jail, the Obama administration hates religion. And so on. Romney has even flirted with a few of those, himself.
As People For the American Way wrote, some time back:
Big lies by their nature are audacious, since they are meant to convince people to accept a version of truth that is 180 degrees from reality. Think about the Swift Boat crowd’s doggedly deceptive effort to damage John Kerry by smearing his well-documented and highly decorated military service. The Swift Boat episode epitomizes the Karl Rove Machiavellian-Orwellian political approach to go after an enemy’s strength, not his weakness.
James Fallows, writing for The Atlantic, has dubbed this the “Post-Truth Age.” He says:
“. . . when significant political players are willing to say things that flat-out are not true—and when they’re not slowed down by demonstrations of their claims’ falseness—then reporters who stick to he-said, she-said become accessories to deception.”
Fallows goes on to cite three encouraging examples of the media getting it right and challenging some of the biggest whoppers. One of his examples is that of the New York Times, last week, boldly (for the New York Times) refuting the Romney campaign’s “You Didn’t Build That” meme which, nevertheless has become one of the RNC’s prevailing themes for the 2012 convention.
James Bennett, an editor, also at The Atlantic, asks a pretty pertinent question:
But what if it turns out that when the press calls a lie a lie, nobody cares?
Bennett goes on to describe a panel debate between some journalists and Romney strategists about the veracity of the Romney ad that claims that a) President Obama has eliminated federal welfare work requirements and b) whether the ad has a racial element. The panel is stalemated in a “yes it is, no it isn’t” loop.
As Bennett points out:
The bottom line, of course, is that the ad is continuing to run. It is continuing to run because the Romney campaign’s polling shows it to be effective. And therefore, kind of by definition, the press pushback is not having much effect—at least not so far, and at least not in the battlegrounds where the ad is playing.