In the last frantic days of the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney turned to desperation. His campaign realized that Ohio was slipping out of contention and turned to untruths to peel white, working-class voters away from Obama. They rolled out a campaign ad charging that, under Obama's auto bailout, Chrysler would be shipping Jeep manufacturing over to China. That, of course, was an outright lie. Even Chrysler jumped in to dispute the claims, but Romney was not dissuaded, assuming the public wouldn't be smart enough to parse through the dispute.
That fib landed Romney Politifact's "Lie of the Year" award on Wednesday. "The Jeep ad was brazenly false," they concluded. Politifact, the Florida-based publication at the forefront of the newspaper fact-checking movement, has annoyed liberals in the past; earlier this year, Rachel Maddow made a habit of tearing apart the organization, once terming it "shockingly, shockingly bad" during one epic tirade. And in crowning Romney as the king liar of 2012, Politifact couldn't completely ditch the equivocation game. "It’s not that President Obama and his campaign team were above falsehoods, either," Angie Drobnic Holan, Politifact's deputy editor, wrote. "Their TV ads distorted Romney’s positions on abortion and immigration to make them seem more extreme than they actually were."
Yes, the Obama campaign might have simplified and overhyped elements of Romney's plans from time to time. That's politics. Romney, on the other hand, tested the very concept of truth in politics. The Jeep ad was far from the lone demonstrably false statement from the Republican campaign. He devoted the month of August to peddling a falsehood about ending welfare reform's work requirement. The bulk of Romney's foreign policy rested on fictitious claims that Obama had embarked on an apology tour. And an entire day of the Republican convention hinged on a mischaracterization of Obama's "you didn't build that" quote.
Romney's campaign adopted a pliable take on facts, a direct test of our media climate. He was the most dishonest presidential candidate in decades. For the most part, the media failed, reverting to the tired he-said she-said conventions of "objective" journalism that obfuscate the actual truth. While it might be satisfying to see Romney rightfully branded as the biggest liar of the year, it's not enough; 2012 should provide a lesson to political journalist that they can't rely on the standard back-and-forth quotes when one candidate willfully ignores the truth.
So They Say
“President Obama, if you look at nearly every decision he has made about this issue, it is to lift up the Islamists and to take down Israel.”
Daily Meme: Labor and the GOP's Long Game
- Yesterday, Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed the right-to-work bill that had made it through both houses of the state legislature, taking away power from unions in the state considered the heart of America's labor movement.
- Fortunately, as Anna Clark reports, the labor organizers aren't stopping to mourn—they're already planning their next move.
- Legal challenges to the law have begun pouring in.
- The AFL-CIO already has troops ready in many states, hoping to contain the rising tide of GOP anti-labor actions.
- Unfortunately, the law is part of the Republicans' long game—they're hoping the changes they're making in the legal system now will keep them is a safe spot for years to come, despite the demographic doomsday predictions that surrounded the 2012 election's end.
- And if elected officials say they are against right to work and then become champions of it once they're safe from voters, how do you stop them?
- Harold Meyerson connects what's happening with workers in Lansing and what's happening with workers in Beijing.
- The National Review called the law a modest proposal, and said Dems are overreacting.
- We'll see who's right when Michigan voters decide whether to keep Snyder and other elected officials in office.
What We're Writing
- Robert Kuttner tells the long story of why there are 100 judicial vacancies on the federal bench.
- Robert Reich warns that billionaires are here to stay in American electoral politics.
What We're Reading
- John Judis on how higher taxes could give a much-needed boost to the economy.
- The Fed announces new standards for continuing stimulative policy.
- Latino groups are agitating for immigration reform before 2014.
- Molly Ball explores how same-sex marriage advocates won in 2012.
- Timothy Noah debunks the quest for tax certainty.
- Even Republican pollsters recognize the need for the party to shift on immigration and gay rights.
- Eric Holder hints at federal action against marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado.
Poll of the Day
Hillary might be the presumed lock for the Democrats' 2016 presidential nomination, but the current secretary of State wouldn't fare quite as well in her adopted home city. According to a Quinnipiac poll, 51 percent of city residents wouldn't like to see Clinton run for New York mayor in 2013, dashing the hopes of departing Mayor Michael Bloomberg.