Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies
As I watch the unfolding Presidential campaign, I’m growing more and more depressed. No, not just at the thought of a Romney victory (which, as of now, I still think is unlikely). No, what is really depressing me is that the Romney campaign has become unmoored from facts and they know it. But they’ve recognized that the lies and distortions are working and so they’re just going to keep lying and lying and lying. Rep. Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last night underscored this point.
But before really jumping into Ryan’s lies, I want to highlight an article that demonstrates the attitude of the Romney campaign: Greg Sargent’s Fact checking for thee, but not for me for The Plum Line blog of The Washington Post. I posted this on Facebook earlier in the week. I’m going to reprint the whole article because I think it’s that important (but click on it anyway to give The Washington Post the benefit of the page view; emphasis and links in original):
Get this: The Romney campaign’s position is now that the Obama camp should pull its ads when fact checkers call them out as false — but that Romney and his advisers should feel no such constraint.
This is not an exaggeration. This is really the Romney campaign’s position.
As Buzzfeed reports this morning, top Romney advisers say their most effective ads are the ones attacking Obama over welfare, and that they will not allow their widespread denunciation by fact checkers as false slow down their campaign one little bit:
“Our most effective ad is our welfare ad,” a top television advertising strategist for Romney, Ashley O’Connor, said at a forum Tuesday hosted by ABCNews and Yahoo! News. “It’s new information.”...
The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” awarded Romney’s ad “four Pinocchios,” a measure Romney pollster Neil Newhouse dismissed.
“Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” he said.
That’s a very interesting admission. But it gets better. Reading this brought to mind Romney’s own remarks about fact-checking and political advertising not long ago. Needless to say, he has a different standard for the Obama campaign:
“You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad,” Romney said on the radio. “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.”
The upshot is that Romney doesn’t have an intellectual objection to fact checking’s limitations in a general sense, at least when it’s applied to the Obama campaign. In that case, fact checking is a legitmate exercise Obama should heed. But at the same time, the Romney campaign explicitly says it doesn’t see it as legitimate or constraining when it’s applied to him.
By the way, this isn’t the first time the Romney camp has insisted that it is not beholden to the standards it expects the Obama campaign to follow. For the better part of a year, Romney has hammered Obama over the “net” jobs lost on his watch, to paint him as a job destroyer, a metric that factors the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost at the start of Obama’s term, before his policies took effect. Yet Romney advisers have argued, with no apparent sense of irony, that his own record should not be judged by one net jobs number.
In this sense, the Romney campaign continues to pose a test to the news media and our political system. What happens when one campaign has decided there is literally no set of boundaries that it needs to follow when it comes to the veracity of its assertions? The Romney campaign is betting that the press simply won’t be able to keep voters informed about the disputes that are central to the campaign, in the face of the sheer scope and volume of dishonesty it uncorks daily.
Paul Krugman’s question continues to remain relevant: “Has there ever been a candidacy this cynical?”
Go back and read that key quotation from the Romney campaign: “[W]e’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers”. In other words, it doesn’t matter if a claim is demonstrably false, if the argument works, the Romney campaign will stick to it.
So let’s take a quick look at a few of the things that Paul Ryan said last night (and remember Gov. Chris Christie’s claim from Tuesday night’s keynote address that Republicans would tell “hard truths”). Um. Not so much.
One of the most incredible claims Ryan made was in regard to a GM factory in his home town of Janesville, Wisconsin. Here’s what Ryan said last night:
When he [Obama] talked about change, many people liked the sound of it. Especially in Janesville where we were about to lose a major factory. A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that G.M. plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, “I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years.''
That's what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.
Now I will acknowledge that Ryan doesn’t actually say that the plant closed because of President Obama. And, as you’ll see in a moment, he has made a slight change from the way he framed the allegation just two weeks ago. But to the casual viewer who hasn’t been paying attention to the details, it sure sounds like Paul Ryan is laying the closure of that GM plant at President Obama’s feet. But guess what Ryan didn’t tell viewers about that plant closure? Let’s let local Wisconsin television stations fill in a few blanks:
That’s right. The plant closure was announced months before the election, let alone President Obama’s inauguration. And did you note that in the speech shown above, Ryan claims that the plant closed, not in 2008, but in 2009 (thus tying the timing of the closure to President Obama’s term in office)? Well, I guess, in a way, Ryan is right. When the plant closed in December 2008, approximately 150 workers remained at the plant just long enough to complete an order of light trucks for Isuzu. When those trucks were finished (in March 2009, I believe), the plant was shuttered for good. So any effort to place blame for the closure of that plant on President Obama … is simply a lie.
One more point worth noting on the issue of the plant closure. Did you hear Ryan brag in his speech about having voted for the auto bailout that kept GM and Chrysler factories open and tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of auto workers working. Hmm. I didn’t hear him say that either. I wonder why not. And while I’m at it, it’s probably worth noting that Ryan also voted for TARP (the bank bailout).
Ryan also took a shot at President Obama for having “done nothing” with regard to the report of the deficit commission:
He created a new bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanks them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.
But Ryan’s claim ignores a few salient points that make his statement pretty dishonest. First, he doesn’t note that the report of the debt commission (the Bowles-Simpson Commission) was not actually approved by the commission itself. A draft report was written, but the Commission couldn’t agree on its terms. And so it was voted down. But to Paul Ryan, President Obama was supposed to act on an unapproved report. But you know what’s worse? Do you know who was on the Bowles-Simpson Commission and helped convince the other House Republicans on the Commission to vote against it too? Yep. You guessed it. Paul Ryan. So think about it for a minute. He’s criticizing President Obama for not taking action on a deficit reduction plan that wasn’t actually adopted by the Commission because Ryan and his fellow House Republicans voted it down. But it’s still Obama’s fault!
Or how about this claim:
It began with a perfect AAA credit rating for the United States. It ends with the downgraded America.
The key thing to remember? It was House Republicans, under the leadership of the chair of the House Budget Committee, who refused to increase the debt ceiling and even toyed with the idea of allowing the United States to default on its debts. And it was the controversy surrounding the refusal to raise the debt ceiling and the Republicans’ refusal to even consider new revenues, that led to the S&P downgrade. Oh, did I mention that the chair of the House Budget Committee was Paul Ryan? So, once again, he’s trying to blame President Obama for something … but this time, he’s blaming President Obama rather than looking in the mirror!
Finally, I want to take a brief look at Medicare. Ryan accused President Obama of “funneling” $716 billion from Medicare. Ryan also claimed that:
Medicare is a promise and we will honor it. A Romney-Ryan Administration with protect and strengthen Medicare for my mom's generation, for my generation and for my kids and yours.
Let’s tackle these points one at a time. First, with regard to that $716 billion that Romney, Ryan, and all sorts of Republican surrogates have been screaming about, it’s worth noting that the “reduction” didn’t decrease Medicare benefits at all. Instead, the money was taken away from insurance companies and hospitals who were overcharging and committing waste. The ombudsman in charge of Medicare has noted that the “reduction” of that money extends the life of Medicare! Yes, really. And you know what else? In his (in)famous budget plan, you know, the plan that supposedly proved that Paul Ryan was a real policy wonk and deficit hawk, Ryan used that same $716 billion savings. Again, yes, really. He blames President Obama for an action that saves money and extends the life of Medicare, a plan that he himself adopted, at least until it was time to try to make President Obama look like he was doing something evil and nefarious.
And that other claim? The one about protecting Medicare? Hmm. Ryan didn’t mention that the Romney-Ryan plan (based on Ryan’s plan) to “protect” Medicare is to dramatically change it from a guaranteed benefit plan to a means-tested plan under which Americans won’t get their care paid for; rather, they’ll get a voucher to buy private insurance but without any guaranty that the voucher will be enough to purchase the necessary insurance. You may have also heard Ryan or Romney say that the Medicare won’t change for those 55 and over … except for the fact that if their plan will bankrupt Medicare sooner and, according to analysts that have looked at the impact of the plan, will cost Medicare recipients substantially more in premiums and drug costs. Add to this the plan to repeal Obamacare, which will re-open the Medicare “donut hole” and other protections that were added to protect seniors and reduce their out-of-pocket costs.
I’m not sure that Paul Ryan’s definition of “protect” is the same as mine.
It was interesting to note that Ryan did not repeat the repeatedly debunked “gutting welfare” claim that Romney and his ads and surrogates have been making for a few weeks. Maybe that lie was just a bit too far even for Paul Ryan. But I did say on Twitter last night that Ryan had been so dishonest that I hoped some of the fact checking organizations would fact check whether those kids Ryan introduced were actually his. I mean, with that degree of dishonesty, how are we to know? (And yes, I’m being sarcastic…)
There were other things in the speech as well, but I think that you’ve probably got the idea by now. Call it what you will: lies, dissembling, dishonesty, distortions, “playing fast and loose with facts”. Whatever. What Paul Ryan did not do was just tell the truth. And that’s a pattern that’s becoming all to common from the Romney campaign.
This reminds me of something that I’ve intended to post about … and kept forgetting. The very first television ad that the Romney campaign unveiled, back in November 2011, included audio of President Obama saying “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” The problem? That quote came from the 2008 campaign and was taken wildly, wildly out of context. Here’s the full quote:
“Even as we face the most serious economic crisis of our time, even as you are worried about keeping your jobs or paying your bills or staying in your homes, my opponent’s campaign announced earlier this month that they want to ‘turn the page’ on the discussion about our economy so they can spend the final weeks of this election attacking me instead,” Obama said in the speech. “Sen. McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, ‘If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.’”
Yes, really. When I told this one to my kids, they were shocked. They got it. They understood that you just can’t do that. And they’re 12. They’re not trying to be elected President of the United States.
The Romney campaign knows that they’re telling lies. And they don’t care. They’ve admitted as much. And they just keep doing it. So, as you listen to Romney’s speech tonight, as you listen to his surrogates and his ads, as you listen to his stump speeches and those of Paul Ryan, just remember that the words that come out of their mouths … are likely to bear little resemblance to the truth. Do some homework, read what independent analysts have to say. But don’t just take Romney or Ryan at their words and make your decisions on the basis of those words, true or false.
There are important issues facing our country and important decisions to be made. But we can’t face those issues or make those decisions if we’re not given details or the truth. A constant theme of this blog has been that we can’t make good decisions about important issues on the basis of lies. But the Romney campaign wants you to cast your vote in November on just such a basis. That is a dangerous road for our country to travel down. And just imagine, given the ease with which the Romney campaign lies now and the secrecy behind which everything is shielded (tax returns, actual details of programs to be cut, actual details of tax “loopholes” to be closed, etc.), what a Romney administration might look like.
For more examples of the lies from the Romney campaign, please see Mitt Romney Will Apparently Lie About Anything and Mitt Romney Will Apparently Lie About Anything (Again), both published on August 7, 2012.