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“A Parallel Republican Universe”: How Mitt Romney Keeps Lying Through His Big White Teeth

“We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” says Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster.

A half dozen fact-checking organizations and websites have refuted Romney’s claims that Obama removed the work requirement from the welfare law and will cut Medicare benefits by $716 billion.

Last Sunday’s New York Times even reported on its front page that Romney has been “falsely charging” President Obama with removing the work requirement. Those are strong words from the venerable Times. Yet Romney is still making the false charge. Ads containing it continue to be aired.

Presumably the Romney campaign continues its false claims because they’re effective. But this raises a more basic question: How can they remain effective when they’ve been so overwhelmingly discredited by the media?

The answer is the Republican Party has developed three means of bypassing the mainstream media and its fact-checkers.

The first is by repeating big lies so often in TV spots – financed by a mountain of campaign money – that the public can no longer recall (if it ever knew) that the mainstream media and its fact-checkers have found them to be lies.

A series of court decisions and regulatory changes, beginning with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizen’s United vs. Federal Election Commission, opened the floodgates to big money. Fully a quarter of the $350 million amassed by Super PACs through the end of July came from just ten donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan group that tracks such spending.

And through political front groups masquerading as nonprofits charitable, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, corporations and Wall Street banks are making secret contributions — without even their own shareholders knowing.

The second means the GOP has developed to protect its lies is by discrediting the mainstream media – asserting it’s run by “liberal elites” that can’t be trusted to tell the truth. “I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans,” Newt Gingrich charged at a Republican debate last January, in what’s become a standard GOP attack line.

To be sure, the mainstream media hasn’t always called it correctly. Initially it bought the Bush administration’s claim there were “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq. But the mainstream media is at least committed to professional standards that separate truth from fiction, seek objective facts, correct errors, and disseminate the truth.

The third mechanism is by using its own misinformation outlets – led by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and his yell-radio imitators, book publisher Regnery, and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, along with a right-wing blogosphere – to spread the lies, or at least spread doubt about what’s true.

Together, these three mechanisms are creating a parallel Republican universe of Orwellian dimension – where anything can be asserted, where pollsters and political advisers are free to create whatever concoction of lies will help elect their candidate, and where “fact-checkers” are as irrelevant and intrusive as is the truth.

Democracy cannot thrive in such a place. To the contrary, history teaches that this is where demagogues take root.

The Romney campaign has decided it won’t be dictated by fact-checkers. But a society without trusted arbiters of what is true and what is false is vulnerable to every lie imaginable.

 

By: Robert Reich, Robert Reich Blog, August 28, 2012

September 3, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Journey To Nowhere”: Mitt Romney’s Etch A Sketch Speech, Thin On Ideas And Policy

Finally, Mitt Romney shook the Etch a Sketch.

Having given conservatives everything they had asked for — from switching his positions on abortion and immigration to picking their favorite as his running mate — Romney turned Thursday night to his essential task: converting some President Obama’s 2008 supporters into Republican voters.

At a convention where the rhetoric was harsh and often indifferent to facts, Romney took the path of quiet persuasion. For the most part, he chose not to speak to the fervor and anger of political activists on the Right. He addressed instead less-partisan voters he hopes will be open to his candidacy by virtue of their disappointment with the man who had inspired them four years ago.

“Hope and change had a powerful appeal,” Romney said in the speech’s key passage. “But tonight I’d ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama? You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.”

In a sense, the appeal Romney re-launched here was the argument he had hoped to make from the beginning — that the election was primarily an exercise in judging the incumbent’s stewardship and, in particular, a painfully slow economic recovery.

Romney’s turn had been promised last March by his veteran aide Eric Fehrnstrom, who provided his boss’s foes with a useful metaphor for describing the ease with which the candidate has altered his positions on a long list of issues.

After the primary campaign, Fehrnstrom argued, “everything changes,” and he added: “It’s almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”

Romney knew that what he most had to shake was a personal image tainted by an impression of inconstancy on issues; attacks on his record in business both by his primary foes and the Obama campaign; and off-the-cuff comments that suggested a great distance between his own experience and the lives of most of the voters whose support he needs.

Speaking a few hours before Romney’s address, Andrew Kohut, head of the Pew research Center, said the surveys pointed to three imperatives for Romney: He had to make himself more likable, more credible and more empathetic.

Thus the unusual amount of detail Romney provided about his family and history. Thus the long narrative about Bain Capital, aimed at changing the impression of a heartless business past that has reduced Romney’s appeal to blue collar voters. Such voters do not celebrate investors and employers with the same ebullience that greeted every mention of the private sector at this convention. The burden of having to tell his personal story fell heavily on this speech: It took up space and time and left the speech very thin on ideas and policy.

Romney hit few ideological hot buttons, and he broke little new ground. His philosophical core is clearly defined by his promise of a pro-business administration that would seek to create jobs by giving investors and CEOs what they want. He continued to paint Obama as lacking understanding of private sector. “Jobs to him are about government,” he said.

Once again, Romney showed that his campaign will launch attacks with little regard for their veracity. “Unlike President Obama,” he said, “I will not raise taxes on the middle class.” While the definition of the “middle class” is flexible, Obama has in fact asked Congress to retain current tax rates for families earning less than $250,000 a year.

“I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour,” Romney also said. “President Obama began with an apology tour.” There was no apology tour. And Romney suggested that Republicans had been initially eager to work with the president, when in fact the party was determined from the beginning to oppose virtually all of Obama’s initiatives.

Romney’s was not a great speech, but it did at least familiarize those who heard it with aspects of his personal journey of which they were unaware. He is likely to get some bounce out of his convention, but it will be short-lived as media attention shifts abruptly to the Democrats’ conclave in Charlotte right after Labor Day.

And there will be a jarring contrast between the Romney who spoke of uniting the nation and his exceptionally harsh, relentless and divisive advertising campaign that includes factually-challenged spots on welfare plainly aimed at stirring resentment.

The stark disjunction will inevitably keep alive the question that his convention speech did not answer: Who is the real Romney?

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 31, 2012

August 31, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Look Into My Lies”: Paul Ryan Uses Fact Checkers As Campaign Surrogates

The old saying goes “There are no referees in politics.” But there are fact checkers — Politifact, FactCheck.org, The Fact Checker. These “independent” seers like to think they’re defending the truth. But Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have figured out how to use them to spread lies.

Many of these fact checkers peer into the words of both major parties and do their best to suggest that both sides are the same – despite the fact, for instance, that the GOP’s nominee Mitt Romney has more “Pants on Fire” rulings than any national politician.

Rarely are fact checkers as unanimous and righteous in their condemnation of a falsehood as they have been of the Romney campaign’s claim that the president took the work requirement out of Welfare. It’s a flat out lie. But it’s also the first ad that has moved the dial for Romney. You may have listened as a Romney pollster, when confronted with that fact that the attack is false, said, “We aren’t going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”

Instead of letting fact checkers edit their campaign, Romney’s team has a better use for fact checkers: campaign surrogates.

The “birther” scandal shows that debunking lies does little to quell the lie and much more to spread it. It’s a tactic Mitt Romney has used effectively for a year now as he’s accused the president of “apologizing for America.” That never happened. But to debunk the lie, you have to repeat it. It’s classic “He’ll look like hell denying it” politics.

Although modern politicians are generally too smart to repeat lies about themselves, the Romney camp knows the fact checkers will. So how do you dictate what the media will be talking about tomorrow? Make purposely deceptive statements about the issues you want to highlight.

What are Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney’s biggest weaknesses? Medicare; the auto bailout; a hugely unpopular Congress and Ryan’s record of voting for Bush-era surplus-blowing policies.

So Ryan systematically made an “attack by assertion rather than accusationabout each of these issues. By making these attacks in deceptive ways that either ignored or left out crucial facts, he forced the media to repeat his assertions.

From the morning Romney announced Ryan as his running mate, the candidates have been making the assertion that the president funneled – or sometimes “robbed” — $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. This assertion is a classic half-truth in several ways. The money comes from savings that extend the life of the program. Ryan voted to keep the cuts but not to fund ObamaCare.

But you see? We’ve fallen into the precise trap that Ryan set.

While you and I and the fact checkers debunk his half-truth, we’re ignoring the larger issue. Ryan makes huge cuts to current seniors by gutting Medicaid now and then turning Medicare into a voucher program that passes the costs on to seniors. Point: Romney/Ryan.

The best part of this super-sneaky strategy is that it’s fool-proof. Republicans can admit what they’re doing, yet fact checkers and incredulous Democrats still fall into the trap. “Not only was everything Congressman Ryan said factually accurate, but by the Chicago folks highlighting this, they’re advancing our argument,” Sean Spicer, the chief spokesperson for the RNC, said today.

And I have to admit they’re right. Look at the one GM factory in Jannesville that Ryan brought up, deceptively blaming the president for its closure today even though it was scheduled to close during the Bush Administration. We’re doing it again!

Instead of talking about the dozens of GM factories the president helped save or the hundreds of thousands of industrial jobs that the auto rescue protected, we’re talking about one that’s closed. Point: Romney/Ryan.

Instead of talking about how Paul Ryan’s budget increases the deficit, we’re talking about how he voted against Simpson-Bowles. Instead of talking about Paul Ryan’s role in this incredibly unpopular Congress that held the debt limit hostage for a debt deal they won’t even honor, we’re talking about the U.S. credit rating.

These lies are clearly strategically placed, which becomes obvious when you think about what Ryan was really arguing. He wants fewer cuts to government? He wants the government to decide which factories stay open? He wants to protect the poor but cut tens of millions of them from Medicaid?

These aren’t his beliefs, they’re his smokescreen. As long as we’re parsing his words, we’re not talking about how harmful his vision for America actually would be. And that’s obviously what Paul Ryan and the GOP want. The entire convention theme “We Built It!” is based on a deceptive misquote from the president.

It’s nearly impossible to imagine the president lying the way Ryan or Romney do. But if he doesn’t find some way to break through to the truth, the real referees in politics — the voters — may end up being swept up in the tide of lies.

 

BY: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, August 31, 2012

August 31, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Ghosts Of Dixie”: In Modern GOP, The Old South Returns

The Republican ticket may hail from Massachusetts and Wisconsin, but Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan head the most Southernized major U.S. political party since Jefferson Davis’s day. In its hostility toward minorities, exploitation of racism, antipathy toward government and suspicion of science, today’s Republican Party represents the worst traditions of the South’s dankest backwaters.

No other party in U.S. history has done such a 180. Founded as the party of the anti-slavery North and committed to deep governmental involvement in spurring the economy (land-grant colleges, the Homestead Act, the transcontinental railway), today’s GOP is the negation of Abraham Lincoln’s Republicans. It is almost entirely white — 92 percent, compared with just 58 percent of Democrats. It is disproportionately Southern — 49 percent of Republicans live in the South vs. 39 percent of Democrats.

The beliefs of the white South dominate Republican thinking. As the white share of the U.S. population shrinks and the Latino share rises, Republicans have passed draconian anti-immigrant laws and opposed legislation enabling immigrants brought here as children to gain legal status. They also exploit racist resentments in a way not seen since the Willie Horton spot of 1988. Consider the Romney campaign’s ads falsely attacking President Obama for gutting welfare reform. “Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job,” proclaims one such commercial. “They just send you a welfare check.” Obama’s plan, as several media fact-checking monitors have noted, does nothing of the sort. The spot clearly seeks to resurrect the kind of resentment of African Americans that the GOP exploited back in the days when welfare was a major program. The Romney campaign has evidently concluded, since virtually its entire pool of potential voters is white, that it must rouse the sometime voters among them with such expedients — which explains why it is running more of these ads than any others.

In the anti-government column, the Ryan budget, which House Republicans enthusiastically adopted, would cut taxes disproportionately on the wealthy and halve the share of spending on every domestic, non-entitlement program. It would decimate education, transportation and funding for college students and scientific research. It would bring the nation down to the developmental level of the anti-tax, anti-public-investment Southern states of yore.

The ghosts of Dixie — of the Scopes Trial and the underfunding of public education — also pop up in Republicans’ willful resistance to science and, more broadly, simple empiricism. Global warming? Evolution? Homosexuality’s causation? How babies get made? Find a robust scientific conclusion and you can find a significant number of Republicans — adducing pseudo-science and faith — who oppose it.

What’s remarkable is not that a significant number of Republicans harbor these beliefs but that these beliefs have come to dominate the party. Veteran politicians of the more pluralistic GOP that was around as recently as half a decade ago, including Orrin Hatch and Romney himself, have had to repudiate their past as thoroughly as China’s communist apparatchiks did during the Cultural Revolution. An empiricist? Not me, buddy.

But how is it that the South has come North in today’s GOP? The fact that Barack Obama is our first black president coincides with the United States’ transformation from a majority-white nation to a multiracial country no longer destined to remain the world’s hegemon. Augmented by an intractable recession rooted in a crisis of capitalism, this epochal shift has summoned the shades of racial resentment. To the extent that Republicans can depict government as the servant of this rising non-white America (precisely the purpose of Romney’s ads), the South’s antipathy toward government can find a receptive audience in other regions.

This transformation of the GOP has also been spurred by the Southernization of the economy. The U.S. economy’s dominant sector is no longer the unionized manufacturing of the Northeast and Midwest, whose leaders included such Republican moderates as George Romney, and whose white working-class employees were persuaded by their unions to back Democratic candidates. Instead, the economy is dominated by a mix of the low-wage, nonunion retail and service sectors, and by high finance, which has shown itself fiercely opposed to regulation and taxation, happy to reap and shield its profits abroad at the expense of U.S. workers, and willing to invest plenty in a party that does its bidding.

That party is meeting in Tampa this week. Cut through its self-justifying rhetoric and we’re left with a GOP whose existential credo is, “We’re old, we’re white and we want our country back.” The rest, as the sages say, is commentary.

 

By: Harold Meyerson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 28, 2012

August 30, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Strategy Of Deception”: Romney Complains While Using Race To Divide The Nation

On the eve of his nominating convention, Mitt Romney complained to USA Today about the “vituperative” and “dishonest” assaults on his character by the Obama campaign and its surrogates. “Isn’t it sad?” asked the Republican candidate. “The White House just keeps stepping lower and lower and lower, and the people of America know this is an important election and they deserve better than they’ve seen.”

This whining hardly becomes the politician who dispatched his Republican rivals with multi-million-dollar barrages of attack ads. There is some truth to his complaint that Obama’s campaign is trying “to minimize me as an individual, to make me a bad person, an unacceptable person,” but that is precisely what he did to Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum on the road to Tampa. The Republican primary season was the most vicious in memory – and committees backing Romney led the bloody pack, spending more than two-thirds of their money on negative advertising.

What he is doing now, however, is arguably much worse. And again it is the kind of political behavior that shames the memory of his father George.

What’s truly sad – for a country that hurdled an important barrier four years ago – is that Romney and his aides are running an increasingly racialized campaign, seeking to capture a supermajority of white voters, because they can see no other pathway to victory. Some analysts estimate that the Republican ticket cannot win the White House without at least 61 percent of white voters – a significantly higher percentage than voted for John McCain in 2008.

Romney’s remark about his birth certificate in Michigan last week can be generously discounted as a clumsy attempt at humor, rather than a calculated slur. Growing up in the bigoted environment of the Mormon Church, he may be sufficiently obtuse not to realize that “birtherism” is a racist movement. But that wouldn’t excuse his vile advertising, which is clearly designed to stoke white resentments with false attacks on White House welfare and health care policies. The overall theme, as Thomas Edsall, Chris Matthews, and other analysts have charged, could hardly be clearer: Obama is taking Medicare money away from hard-working whites to give cash and medical care to indolent blacks.

There is no truth to those insinuations, as anyone who spends ten minutes to investigate will discover. Yet we have long since learned that a strategy of deception can succeed if it confirms existing fears and prejudices. America is neither a post-racial nor a post-partisan society, and there are certainly voting blocs, particularly among older whites, whose underlying beliefs make them more receptive to the Republican lies about Obama.

Romney may deplore discussion of his tax returns and business career, although he has used precisely those same questions to raise doubts about Republican rivals in the past. But when he falsely accuses the President of undoing welfare reform “to shore up his base,” he is trafficking in the racial ugliness that disfigured his church for a century. Having claimed that he marched with his father for civil rights, he has a special responsibility to rein in the nastiness of his minions.

If not for the sake of simple patriotism or pride, Romney should abandon the racial messaging to protect his own legacy. More than 20 years ago, Republicans won a presidential campaign with a blatantly racial appeal. The men responsible – Roger Ailes, Larry McCarthy, the late Lee Atwater, even the first President Bush — will never quite transcend that “Willie Horton” moment when opportunism overwhelmed decency.

Neither will Mitt Romney.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, August 28, 2012

August 30, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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