Mitt Romney's Truth-Free Campaign
If you haven’t already, you should read Ed Kilgore and Greg Sargent on Mitt Romney’s speech yesterday in Michigan, where he tried to clarify and contrast his approach on the economy. The message was typical of Romney’s rhetoric; an attempt to flip an attack and direct it at his opponent. In this case, Romney decried Obama as the purveyor of failed policies, and presented himself as a reform conservative in the mold of Bill Clinton and the New Democrats.
As Kilgore argues, the argument is laughable on its face. The Obama administration is staffed with Clintonites. It’s core policies—on health care, especially—were variations on policies pushed during the Clinton years, and Obama’s foreign policy falls well within the approach of the Clinton administration. What’s more, as Greg Sargent points out, there is no way in which Romney is running as a departure from the previous Republican administration. An RNC spokesperson summed this up well—the Romney agenda is the Bush platform, “just updated.”
But if there’s anything that truly stands out about Romney’s speech in Michigan, it’s the extent to which its stuffed with falsehoods, misrepresentations, and outright lies. Romney claims that Obama has brought “big government” “back with a vengeance”—the truth is that government spending has fallen sharply after a decade increase under President Bush (note: this isn’t a good thing). Romney attacks Obama’s plan to repeal the Bush tax cuts on the rich as a “throwback to discredited policies”, but doesn’t tell his audience that those are Clinton-era rates. He attacks the Affordable Care Act as a takeover of American health care (false), blames Obama for the accumulation of debt (false), and warns—apocalyptically—that Obama will “substitute government for individuality, for choice, for freedom.”
For political reporters with time and space constraints, there is no way to counter all of this, even if you had the inclination. On a regular basis, the Romney campaign issues so many distortions—so many lies—that it’s nearly impossible to keep up. New York Times editorial editor David Firestone is as frustrated as I am on the relentless march of Romney’s dishonesty:
[F]or months he and his campaign have pushed the boundaries of veracity on a huge range of subjects, from the number of jobs created during the Obama administration to the economy’s effect on women to the phony “apology tour” he claims the president has taken. For these crimes against accuracy he is chided by newspaper fact checkers and denounced by editorialists. […]
Otherwise, the Romney campaign hasn’t paid much of a price for its untruths. Mr. Obama has done his share of exaggerating, too, and voters may figure that all politicians do it. That’s a false equivalency: unlike Mr. Romney’s campaign, the president’s is grounded in reality.
Constant mendacity is the norm for Romney and his campaign, and odds are good that he won’t suffer for it. Campaign reporters don’t have a strong incentive to challenge him on his misrepresentations, and interested parties have a hard time dealing with the deluge. In other words, we should strap ourselves in and prepare for five more months of Romney’s truth-free operation.
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