Mitt Romney’s weekend choice of Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate may have pumped some energy into the former Massachusetts governor’s uninspired presidential campaign, but all the moxie in the world won’t keep his paper ship afloat if he can’t convince the American voting public that the incumbent president does not represent its interests.
Since it’s pretty hard to make that claim based on facts alone, Romney has embraced the “if you can’t beat him, smear him” school of politicking. And when there’s nothing available to “smear him” with … well, he is content to just make stuff up.
To date Romney’s mendacity has run the gamut from the deliberate misrepresentation of Obama policies to a seemingly compulsive tendency to distort the President’s message by cutting and pasting quotes at will. His disregard for the truth is so profound that it prompted journalist Joe Klein—who has covered Washington since the Nixon years—to comment that he “can’t remember a candidate so brazenly allergic to facts.” PolitiFact.com has given the presumptive GOP candidate so many “Pants on Fire” nominations that it’s a wonder he can still sit down. And still the former Massachusetts moderate turned Tea Party maven trudges on, telling one whopper after another (or sitting quietly by while his supporters do), no doubt with a big box of Kleenex nearby just in case he inadvertently kicks up some truth.
I’m no Obama apologist; the President has had his share of missteps, most of which have been duly (and vocally) pointed out by his own base. His mistakes are well documented; there’s no need to make them up. But the spin coming out of the Romney camp is so shameless that it should offend anyone with even a limited sense of fair play, regardless of their political persuasion.
The number of baseless accusations are too many to count (although blogger Steve Benen is making a noble effort); but of all the unfounded claims that pass across my computer screen on any given day, the following three stand out for their sheer audacity. This is my meager attempt to set the record straight.
Myth 1: President Obama is trying to undermine military voting rights.
The Truth: The hypocrisy of a Republican politician accusing someone else of violating voting rights, notwithstanding, Romney’s claim that President Obama is trying to eliminate early voting for members of the military is as blatant a lie as has ever been told on the campaign trail.
This one hit the wires in late July after the Obama campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Party of Ohio filed a suit challenging a Republican-led effort to prohibit early voting for everyone except military personnel. Until then, every citizen of Ohio had the option of casting a ballot up to three days early, a concession that made it easier for working-class voters and students (demographics that tend to skew Democrat) to cast their ballots. In 2008, when Barack Obama won the state, 1.4 million Ohio voters cast their ballots early, according to the United States Election Project of George Mason University. News of the suit quickly made the rounds of the right wing echo machine and out came the tin-foil-hat brigade to claim the President was anti-military simply because he wants all Ohioans to share the same voting rights (not just those most likely to vote Republican). Romney was lambasted in the press for mischaracterizing the suit, but by then the damage had been done. As they say, a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on.
Myth 2: President Obama wants to eliminate the work requirement from welfare.
The Truth: The latest false allegation coming out of the Romney camp— detailed in an ad that began running this month—accuses President Obama of planning to “gut welfare reform” by eliminating recipient work requirements. According to the ad, “Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check.” Like most of Romney’s claims about the President, this one is exaggerated beyond comprehension, a fact that has been acknowledged even by fellow Republicans. While the new policy, which was implemented in July by executive order, would give states more flexibility in applying the work standard, it also imposes stringent requirements such as the development of an evaluation plan that shows why an alternative approach is needed and an assessment of its progress. The ad also doesn’t mention that the new policy was lobbied for in 2005 by the Republican Governors Association in a letter to Congress signed by Romney himself.
It’s ironic that a candidate like Romney, who has vociferously argued for turning everything from health care to immigration policy over to the states, would take issue with a plan that doles more power to the nation’s governors, but Romney has never been one to shy away from a hearty flip flop when it serves his purpose.
Myth 3: President Obama demonizes small business.
The Truth: I tackled this topic a few weeks ago when I discussed the collective nature of American prosperity. Rather than rehash the socio-biological basis of the President’s message, this time I’ll simply focus on his opponents’ aggressive efforts to distort it. During a speech in Roanoke, President Obama took pains to impress upon his audience that the benefits we all enjoy as citizens depend in some way shape or form on investments made at the federal level. To underscore his point, Obama noted—with a delivery that admittedly lacked eloquence—that businesses rely on publicly built infrastructure to get raw materials to factories and to deliver goods to the marketplace. But you wouldn’t know that from the flurry of selective sound bites that followed from the conservative echo machine. The Romney campaign wasted little time before manipulating the President’s imperfect, but easily comprehensible wording to make it sound like Obama was giving the government credit for single-handedly building America’s small businesses instead of the roads and bridges that make those businesses successful.
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s an excerpt from the speech in its full context, and here’s how it was presented by the Romney campaign. Check it out for yourself; if you have anything more than a sixth-grader’s conception of English syntax Romney’s manipulation will come across loud and clear.
I suspect Mitt Romney’s truth allergy is a seasonal affliction that manifests in the months leading up to important elections, but given the ease with which he replaces fact with fiction, I can’t help but wonder if the candidate is simply a really practiced BS-er, or if he is completely out of touch with reality. I don’t know about you, but I find neither characteristic particularly comforting in a president.