There are those who tell the truth. There are those who distort the truth. And then there’s Mitt Romney.
Every political campaign exaggerates and dissembles. This practice may not be admirable — it’s surely one reason so many Americans are disenchanted with politics — but it’s something we’ve all come to expect. Candidates claim the right to make any boast or accusation as long as there’s a kernel of veracity in there somewhere.
Even by this lax standard, Romney too often fails. Not to put too fine a point on it, he lies. Quite a bit.
“Since President Obama assumed office three years ago, federal spending has accelerated at a pace without precedent in recent history,” Romney claims on his campaign Web site. This is utterly false. The truth is that spending has slowed markedly under Obama.
An analysis published last week by MarketWatch, a financial news Web site owned by Dow Jones & Co., compared the yearly growth of federal spending under presidents going back to Ronald Reagan. Citing figures from the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office, MarketWatch concluded that “there has been no huge increase in spending under the current president, despite what you hear.”
Quite the contrary: Spending has increased at a yearly rate of only 1.4 percent during Obama’s tenure, even if you include some stimulus spending (in the 2009 fiscal year) that technically should be attributed to President George W. Bush. This is by far the smallest — I repeat, smallest — increase in spending of any recent president. (The Washington Post’s Fact Checker concluded the spending increase figure should have been 3.3 percent.)
In Bush’s first term, by contrast, federal spending increased at an annual rate of 7.3 percent; in his second term, the annual rise averaged 8.1 percent. Reagan comes next, in terms of profligacy, followed by George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and finally Obama, the thriftiest of them all.
The MarketWatch analysis was re-analyzed by the nonpartisan watchdogs at Politifact who found it “Mostly True” — adding the qualifier because some of the restraint in spending under Obama “was fueled by demands from congressional Republicans.” Duly noted, and if Romney wants to claim credit for the GOP, he’s free to do so. But he’s not free to say that “federal spending has accelerated” under Obama, because any way you look at it, that’s a lie.
Another example: Obama “went around the Middle East and apologized for America,” Romney said in March. “You know, instead of apologizing for America he should have stood up and said that as the president of the United States we all take credit for the greatness of this country.” That’s two lies for the price of one. Obama did not, in fact, go around the Middle East, or anywhere else, apologizing for America. And he did, on many occasions, trumpet American greatness and exceptionalism.
Romney offers few specifics, but the conservative Heritage Foundation published a list of “Barack Obama’s Top 10 Apologies” — not one of which is an apology at all.
One alleged instance is a speech Obama gave to the Turkish parliament in 2009, in which he said the United States “is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history . . . [and] still struggles with the legacies of slavery and segregation, the past treatment of Native Americans.” If the folks at Heritage and at the Romney campaign don’t know that this is a simple statement of fact, they really ought to get out more.
Romney does single out the following Obama statement from a 2009 interview: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Romney says this acknowledgment — that others might have as much national pride as we do — means Obama doesn’t really believe in American exceptionalism at all.
But in the same interview, Obama went on to say he was “enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world,” and to tout U.S. economic and military might as well as the nation’s “exceptional” democratic values. So he should be accused of chest-thumping, not groveling.
I could go on and on, from Romney’s laughable charge that Obama is guilty of “appeasement” (ask Osama bin Laden) to claims of his job-creating prowess at Bain Capital. He seems to believe voters are too dumb to discover what the facts really are — or too jaded to care.
On both counts, I disagree.
BY: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 28, 2012
Conservatives must be feeling regretful. After nearly fifty years of using appeals to white racial resentment to take over the South, win presidential elections and control of Congress, conservatives are realizing this might come back to bite them in the ass. As the right wing has become xenophobic and anti-Latino, conservatives have watched young Latinos and young Asian Americans join young African-Americans in being overwhelmingly Democratic. The greater diversity of this younger generation has in turn meant that Democrats, especially Barack Obama, have won handily among young voters in recent elections. All of a sudden, conservatives see being the party of angry white males as a potential liability, and they want to change their image.
You can see this concern in Mitt Romney’s recent campaign events touting his substantively thin but rhetorically compassionate education reform agenda. As the Washington Post reported on Romney’s visit to a school in West Philadelphia on Thursday, his first campaign event in a majority black neighborhood: “Mitt Romney’s campaign team has been quietly laying plans for an outreach effort to President Obama’s most loyal supporters—black voters—not just to chip away at the huge Democratic margins but also as a way to reassure independent swing voters that Romney can be inclusive and tolerant in his thinking and approach.” Romney’s campaign insists they are sincere, but they never made any such outreach during the primaries, when they were competing against Newt Gingrich’s successful efforts to appeal to racism in his campaign in South Carolina.
The conservative media are happy to help burnish both white racial anxieties and the official story line that Republicans are the friends of minorities by trying to tell an oddly inverted story of race relations in America. According to National Review’s current cover story by Kevin Williamson, it is the Republican Party which has consistently supported civil rights and Democrats who have opposed it. Meanwhile, conservative blogs, talk radio and Fox News hype random stories of anti-white violence, creating the false impression that whites are more often the victims of hate crimes by blacks than the reverse.
The National Review argument has been thoroughly debunked in many outlets. Over at Democracy Journal, Clay Risen demonstrates “Williamson’s embarrassingly basic misunderstanding of American history.” There used to be liberal pro–civil rights wings and conservative anti–civil rights wings in both parties, hence the misleading factoid commonly cited by conservative pundits that a higher proportion of Republicans than Democrats in Congress voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But it was the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, especially Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, who pushed the issue and got the law passed. Republicans nominated anti–civil rights conservative extremist Barry Goldwater in 1964 and thus began their conversion of the South. Goldwater carried five Southern states despite losing in a landslide. “For a variety of reasons—including, but not only, racial politics—both parties went through ideological realignments in the postwar decades, so that today we speak of Republicans as almost uniformly conservative and Democrats as almost uniformly liberal,” notes Risen. “The GOP of today is simply not the GOP of 1963.” That’s why anti–civil rights Southern conservatives such as Trent Lott, Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms became Republicans. Williamson is simply lying when he writes, “those southerners who defected from the Democratic Party in the 1960s and thereafter did so to join a Republican party that was far more enlightened on racial issues than were the Democrats of the era.”
Most embarrassingly, Williamson starts his story by proudly proclaiming National Review’s history of debunking pernicious myths. (In this case, the myth is that Democrats supported civil rights more than Republicans.) But he makes no mention of National Review’s own history of opposing civil rights. As Jonathan Chait writes in New York, “conservative Republicans—those represented politically by Goldwater, and intellectually by William F. Buckley and National Review—did oppose the civil rights movement. Buckley wrote frankly about his endorsement of white supremacy: “the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically.”
Critics of Williamson’s piece were generous enough not to mention that National Review’s tendencies towards racism and opposition to civil rights continue today. National Review recently let go of longtime contributor John Derbyshire for penning a shockingly bigoted rant in another publication, although as NR editor Rich Lowry, admitted, “Derb has long danced around the line on these issues.” Derbyshire has since continued to write for the racist conservative Website VDARE, which is run by fellow National Review exile Peter Brimelo. Regarding the proper name for VDARE’s corner of the right, Derbyshire wrote on May 10, “The enemies of conservatism are eager to supply their own nomenclature. ‘White Supremacist’ seems to be their current favorite…. Leaving aside the intended malice, I actually think ‘White Supremacist’ is not bad semantically. White supremacy, in the sense of a society in which key decisions are made by white Europeans, is one of the better arrangements History has come up with.”
NR also had to drop another contributor, Robert Weissberg, shortly thereafter for having, in Lowry’s words, “delivered a noxious talk about the future of white nationalism.” Meanwhile NR defends voting laws that would disenfranchise minorities through onerous requirements such as presenting government-issued photo identification. And it argues that the Voting Rights Act is no longer necessary.
That last part speaks to the other half of the conservative misinformation campaign about race. In order to simultaneously pretend to support civil rights in principle and oppose it now in practice, you must make the claim that the movement was so successful it has, if anything gone too far.
There is a corollary to this logic holding that it is blacks that oppress whites, rather than the reverse. This is, of course, a regular feature in arguments against affirmative action. Similarly, McKay Coppins recently reported in BuzzFeed on the odd conservative media fixation with occasional crimes that happen to be perpetrated against a white victim by a group of black aggressors. Coppins writes:
If you’ve spent much time consuming conservative media lately, you’ve probably learned about a slow-burning “race war” going on in America today. Sewing together disparate data points and compelling anecdotes like the attack in Norfolk, conservative bloggers and opinion-makers are driving the narrative with increasing frequency. Their message: Black-on-white violence is spiking—and the mainstream media is trying to cover it up.
This notion isn’t necessarily new to the right, which has long complained about stifling political correctness in the media and the rising tide of “reverse racism….
The irony of the race war narrative’s latest flare-up is that it comes at a time when national crime rates have reached historic lows—including reported hate crimes against whites. According to a report released by the FBI, there were 575 anti-white bias crimes reported in 2010—up slightly from the 545 reported in 2009, but distinctly lower than the 716 reported in 2008. Overall, the past decade has seen a downward trend in anti-white bias crime. What’s more, hate crimes against blacks have continued to outstrip those against whites by about four-to-one: In 2010 alone, there were 2,201 reported. Violent crimes across the spectrum reached a four-decade low in 2010.
Conservative media have been especially eager to smear Trayon Martin, the young black victim of a shooting for which the perpetrator was initially not arrested. They are also getting on the wrong side of modern civil rights struggles, by opposing gay rights and fanning the flames of Islamophobia. And as is especially the case with Fox News, their biggest sin of all may be simple inaccuracy.
By: Ben Adler, The Nation, May 28, 2012
On Wednesday, November 7, Mitt Romney could wake up as the President-elect thanks to one man: Florida Governor Rick Scott. With little fanfare, Scott is undertaking an audacious plan to kick thousands of Floridians off the ballot just before this year’s elections. It’s a sloppy, chaotic and possibly illegal plan. But it just might work. Here’s how:
1. Scott has created a massive list of Floridians to purge from the voting rolls before the election. Late last year, Governor Scott ordered his Secretary of State, Kurt Browning, to “to identify and remove non-U.S. citizens from the voter rolls.” But Browning did not have access to reliable citizenship data. The state attempted to identify non-U.S. citizens by comparing the voting file with data from the state motor vehicle administration, but the motor vehicle data does not contain updated citizenship information. The process, which created a list of 182,000 people, was considered so flawed by Browning that he refused to release the data to county election officials. Browning resigned in February and Scott has pressed forward with the purge, starting with about 2600 voters.
2. The list of “ineligible” voters is riddled with errors and includes hundreds of eligible U.S. citizens. According to data obtained by ThinkProgress, in Miami-Dade county alone, 1638 people were flagged by the state as “non-citizens.” Already, 359 people on the list have provided the county with proof of citizenship and 26 people were identified as U.S. citizens directly by the county. The remaining 1200 have simply not responded to the letter informing them of their purported ineligibility. Similar problems have been identified in Polk County and Broward County.
3. Scott’s list is heavily targeted at Democratic and Hispanic voters. A study by the Miami Herald found that “Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted in a state hunt to remove thousands of noncitizens from Florida’s voting rolls.” For example, Hispanics comprise 58 percent of the list but just 13 percent of eligible voters. Conversely, “Whites and Republicans are disproportionately the least-likely to face the threat of removal.”
4. Florida election officials have acknowledged that, as a result of Scott’s voter purge, eligible voters will be removed from the rolls. “It will happen,” Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, told ThinkProgress. On or about June 9, anyone who hasn’t responded to the ominous and legalistic letter informing them of their purported ineligibility will be removed from the rolls. Some eligible voters won’t have been able to respond by that time due to travel, work obligations, family obligations or confusion as to the purpose of the letter. Some will forget to open it. Others may have moved.
5. Florida will likely be a close contest in 2012 and purging eligible Democratic and Hispanic voters could tip the balance to Romney. In the latest Real Clear Politics average of polling in the state, Romney and Obama are separated by just 0.5 percent. Hundreds of eligible voters in Democratic strongholds, wrongfully purged from the rolls, could easily make the difference for Romney.
6. Winning Florida could clinch the election for Mitt Romney. Nationally, the race between Obama and Romney is within two points. It’s expected to be close all the way to election day and Florida’s 29 electorial votes would be the deciding factor in many plausable electorial scenarios.
Will history repeat itself in Florida this year? By one estimate, 7000 Florida voters were wrongfully removed from the voter rolls for the 2000 presidential election — 13 times George W. Bush’s margin of victory in that state after the U.S. Supreme Court halted the post-election recount.
By: Judd Legum, Think Progress, May 28, 2012