Political Animal


August 15, 2012 4:13 PM The Bigger Lie

By Ed Kilgore

In excoriating Romney’s campaign for its disgusting, mendacious ads and attack lines claiming Obama has re-created no-strings welfare, I probably haven’t been clear enough that this is part of a much bigger picture Team Mitt is trying to paint. WaPo’s Greg Sargent nails it here:

The original Romney theory of the race was similar to the one animating the AFP ad. We were told for months that Romney could win by making this race nothing more than a referendum on the economy and on Obama’s stewardship of it, which was such a disaster that all Romney had to do was paint him in as a nice guy in over his head and he’d win.
But the Romney campaign has veered sharply away from this approach. Today’s ad is only the latest example of the new tack, which is all about stoking an old-school politics of resentment by painting Obama as someone who harbors disdain towards the hard work of ordinary Americans and redistributionist designs on their hard-won wealth. This has lately been everywhere: The “didn’t build that” distortions; the ads featuring hard working Americans alongside claims Obama wants to send “welfare checks” to people who don’t work; the enlisting of Newt Gingrich to amplify the welfare assault; and, now, the new ad suggesting Obama wants to raid old folks’ health insurance and channel it into a “massive new government program that’s not for you.”

This last point is worth underlining. The sudden new attacks on bogus “Medicare cuts” (which in any event, were included in Paul Ryan’s budget as well) are generally being interpreted as aimed at blunting Democratic assaults on Ryan’s treatment of Medicare, and that’s partly the case. But if it was just a matter of a “counter-Mediscare,” Team Romney wouldn’t be putting so much emphasis of where that money went: to ObamaCare, which benefits those people. Building resentment towards a supposed broad-based redistribution of money from older and whiter people to younger and darker people is the common aim, and if it requires a lot of lying, who cares, right? It’s Obama’s secret Alinskyite plan, even if he isn’t actually carrying it out.

But it gets even worse, as Jamelle Bouie notes today: even as it’s playing blatant racial politics, the Romney campaign has the gall to accuse its opponents of racial appeals in its aggrieved reaction to Joe Biden’s “chains” reference (which was in fact a clumsy effort to invert Ryan’s talk about “unshackling” the economy).

“Well, there’s going to be folks across the country that will try and take that as some kind of code word that is going to suggest that the Republicans are trying to be racial in their programs,” said former New Hampshire governor John Sununu. Yesterday evening, while campaigning in Ohio, Romney referenced Biden’s remarks, attacking the Obama campaign for its “divisive” campaign….
Romney’s complaints about “anger” and “divisiveness”…come less than two days after he has renewed his attempt to split white voters from Obama with tired tropes about the undeserving poor. And when you look at the whole of his general-election campaign—which includes regular attacks on Obama’s fictional “apology tour,” and routine lies about his job-creation record—there’s no way in which Romney is in a position to take the high road.

Looks to me like the Romney campaign is once again taking a page from the Rove playbook and accusing his opponent of exactly his own sins. If nothing else, it enables the media to retreat with a relieved sigh into the false-equivalency meme and just report that both sides are accusing each other of racially divisive tactics. And it makes those who respond positively to Romney’s own racial appeals feel justified: those people always play the “race card,” after all.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Quaker in a Basement on August 15, 2012 4:31 PM:

    Looks to me like the Romney campaign is once again taking a page from the Rove playbook and accusing his opponent of exactly his own sins.

    It's the same gambit employed by the "heel" in a pro wrestling match. Complain about the fouls committed by your opponent, then bash him in the head with a folding chair.

  • c u n d gulag on August 15, 2012 4:35 PM:

    Well, no one can accuse Mitt of having sold his soul to win, since he never had one in the first place.

    At this point, Mitt and the Republicans are like cornered animals.

    Yesterday, House Republicans even went to Boner to whine about Mitt's pick of Ryan, and how that can/will be used against them in their reelection campaigns - forgetting that all but 4 of the miserable skunks voted for "Privatizing" Ryan's Plan in the first place.

    Now, I guess it ain't the bee's-knee's, is it boys and girls?

    Oh, I now practically GUARANTEE that someone on the Republican side will come out with the "N-word!" before Election Day.

    If "I want my country back," means that they forget the lessons of Lee Atwater taught them about the "N-word" in order to get it back, to the 1950's (or, is it 1850's?), maybe they think it's worth it.

    'I love the smell of desperation in August. It smells like... VICTORY!" - for President Obama and the Democrats.

    The problem will be, only 27% will love the racist tactics, and maybe another 15-20% will look the other way, some may even smile - but that doesn't exactly add up to having Ann's maid measuring for the drapes in the White House, or Mitt's architecst meeting with his chauffeurs to design elevators for the WH garage.

    And never mind the signal that the Republican's words and actions are telling the rest of the world about them if they DO win.
    A whole lot of them ain't old white people, either.

  • T2 on August 15, 2012 4:38 PM:

    The Scary Black Man is basically all they have left at this point, and I'd venture to say the Romney forces will use it, and they very well may succeed with it. Any time anyone accuses them of it, they'll call them the racist, then the Media can say "both sides do it".

  • Diane Rodriguez on August 15, 2012 4:42 PM:

    I had a moment this morning when I saw the clip from yesterday, of CNN's Soledad O'Brien interviewing John Sununu on the stealing medicare Republican talking point. She persisted with professionalism, facts and research. The vile old pile of steaming dissipation "couldn"t handle the truth". It was surprising and wonderful. I suspect she'll be looking for another job today.

    Saw the clip on the Reality Chex blog.

  • Ron Byers on August 15, 2012 4:44 PM:

    I agree Scary Black Man, voter suppression and false equivalency are all Romney has left in his tank. I don't think that is enough.

  • Mimikatz on August 15, 2012 4:47 PM:

    It looks like a handful of trad med reporters are getting tired of being lied to. Chuck Todd challenged someone too.

    It is hard to think of a campaign as despicable and duplicitous as Romney's.

  • Geoff G on August 15, 2012 4:53 PM:

    Here's a fun fact. No sitting Democratic president was ever defeated for being too liberal. LBJ beat Goldwater by a landslide, despite signing the most liberal piece of legislation in US history (the Civil Rights Act). He didn't seek a second term because of Vietnam; Carter was defeated because he was a pretty bad president (who disappointed liberals as much as or more than he angered conservatives). The Willie Horton stuff may work on a basically unknown candidate, but it's not that effective when used against a president voters have come to know over four years. Yes, the Base hates Obama, but every attempt to stoke that hate alienates Obama supporters and leaners, and seems extreme to "swing" or undecided voters. I could be wrong, but I think this will hurt Mitt more than it helps him.

  • Ron Byers on August 15, 2012 4:53 PM:

    Just watched Solidad O'Brien take Sununu apart. That was journalism. I wish David Gregory or Wolf Blitzer had her balls.

  • MS on August 15, 2012 4:57 PM:

    I see that La Sarah--she of "palling around with terrorists" fame--is claiming that Biden "drags down the ticket". The nerve!

    The double standard here (and I'm talking about the media, too) is infuriating. The Republicans have been emitting ever-less-subtle dog whistles on racial issues for years. In this campaign, we've had "the food stamp President", claims that Obama wants to give blacks "free stuff", accusations that the President "needs to learn how to be an Amerioan"---and the list goes on. These comments were noted in the media, but none got the wall-to-wall headlines that have greeted Biden's remarks.

    I concede that the VP's phrasing was infelicitous but I don't believe it was calculated. The same cannot be said for the steady stream of racially-tinged accusations thrown at Democrats in general and Republicans in particular. And the media plays right along...

  • MS on August 15, 2012 5:11 PM:

    Oops. In my previous post, the penultimate sentence should read "Democrats in general and the President in particular."

  • CharlieM on August 15, 2012 5:16 PM:

    I don't think it's desperation in the R-R campaign. I think it's because they've been emboldened by the lack of pushback in the MSM on this tactic (said MSM now enamored of themselves as stenographers with their highest calling of "telling both sides.") and they know it can work.
    Unless there is some serious broadfront pushback, it will work. They're playing to bigotry and that mindless self-entitled "it's my country and I want it back" mindset. And there's enough of them out there - especially in tough economic times - that it can succeed.
    It would be a monumental mistake on the Dem side to see this tactic as a "last, desperate attempt" by R-R and discount the effects. Nothing motivates people like resentment politics. And when you can combine that with the inherent/implied racism in their ad message, it's something to take seriously.
    That there doesn't seem to be any serious pushback on that message (outside of blog-dom), makes me *very* uneasy about the outcome this Nov.

  • MuddyLee on August 15, 2012 5:22 PM:

    It's "Alinsky" - if we don't get everything exactly right, the repubs will accuse of a "failed" attempt at spelling. Racism is a big thing with republicans - otherwise my biz partner's golf buddies wouldn't be calling Michele Obama "ugly" - yes, it gets that bad in South Carolina, even from white republicans I would not consider to be especially attractive.

  • DaveR on August 15, 2012 5:54 PM:

    The easiest way to understand Republican strategies is just to remember that "it's all projection". Everything that they do will be something that they will accuse the other side of doing. And they've been able to afford a pretty big bulb for their projector this year...

  • jpeckjr on August 15, 2012 7:14 PM:

    I agree racism is one aspect of this message from the Republicans.

    It is also classism, and it is meant to distract from the message / meme that the wealthy are not doing their share, that Mr. Romney is one of the rich people who is screwing the middle class.

    You see, it's not the hard-working, job-creating rich folks who are the problem. It's those lazy, good-for-nothing, job-avoiding poor folks.

    This is meant to distract from Mr. Romney's wealth.

  • Anonymous on August 15, 2012 7:29 PM:

    the new ad suggesting Obama wants to raid old folks’ health insurance and channel it into a “massive new government program that’s not for you.

    Oh, yes. "Obamacare". Although, since Obama didn't actually send a healthcare bill to Congress, but rather had the Democratic majority of Congress send him one, it should really be called Democratic-care.

    Romney's IRS tax filings must be absolutely awful. The "Don't trust the Black Man stealing your money" rollout is a not too subtle head fake to get the media off the scent. And the media, like a puppy chasing a shiny ball, obliges. Putting pressure on Ryan to release his returns will bring the puppy back.

  • RaflW on August 15, 2012 8:21 PM:

    It was clear they'd play the race card daily on Medicare when, as early as Sunday morning, Reince P. was on with David Gregory saying that Obama stole $716 billion. He said it twice, to make clear he meant it.

    Hmmm. Black man. Stealing from retired old white people. What ever could that button be that Prince Reibus was pushing??

  • Anon on August 15, 2012 8:23 PM:

    Props to Soledad O'Brein for spanking some GOP spinmeisters buts two days in a row.

    These guys are so used to the Fox treatment that they just go nuts when challenges. TeeHee.

  • Sparko on August 15, 2012 8:38 PM:

    Rove's destiny in Hell is well deserved. The truly evil are so unhinged by hate, so consumed by greed and selfishness, they literally don't care about reality any longer. I never thought American politics could be so overtly dominated by lies and fascism. If we don't turn these psychopaths back with ballots--what next? The GOP is Bain capital writ large--they suck value out of everything then retreat to gated communities. Damn them all.

  • emjayay on August 15, 2012 9:03 PM:

    The past few days of the Romney campaign has been the most stunning turn to Big Lies combined with Big Lying Accusations I've ever seen. After starting his campaign commercials with a Big Lie, Romney has continued one after another, as you all know. Now he's begging Obama to stop the low level unfair accusations and the hate. WTF? Where's the hate in "show us your tax returns?"

    How can ANYONE interviewing him, even if they are secretly to the right of Atilla the Hun, swallow that shit? It's really jaw droppingly stunning.

    That his audiences buy it I get, from my occasional checking out of comments about Dictator Obama and Obammy and all that crap.

    Obama has always tended to sand the edges off everything while speaking in more common grammar and more of a southern accent than he uses in real life, which has always been disappointing to me. Why can't he address directly what it going on? Because Romney will go "there he goes again with the hate and accusations (meaning the actual truth) and all I want to do is preserve jobs and Social Security and Medicare for the middle class? Which he is also saying, rather contrary to any kind of objective truth. Jesus.

  • emjayay on August 15, 2012 9:23 PM:

    I meant to say "Yahoo News comments" in the third paragraph up there. Have I mentioned how clever the morons think they are when they make teleprompter comments?

    There's a new book out about I guess letting the Confederate states be their own country after all. I've been saying it for years. Lincoln was wrong. Yeah, yeah, I know it wasn't that simple. Damn that western expansion slave state problem.

    In modern times we gave them the damn TVA and of course they get more back from our federal income taxes, and they're still ignorant assholes, as Mitt well knows.

  • Texas Aggie on August 16, 2012 12:49 AM:

    Another take on Biden's comment is that it is factually not quite correct. The banks and similar institutions aren't about to make slaves of anyone. If you have a slave, you have to feed, house and take care of it to protect your investment. On the other hand, having a sharecropper or an indentured servant is much better because you get the same benefit, but they have to take care of themselves. You have nothing invested in them so when they wear out and die, you just find another one like them.

  • dianne on August 16, 2012 7:23 AM:

    The Dems need to start pounding away on Medicaid because "those people" are anyone with elderly relatives in a nursing home. Once Medicaid is gone,(and they say that's immediate) 2/3s of the patients will either go home to be taken care of by their family members or the family will have to pony up for the $6000 or so a month to keep them in their rooms. Being hit in their own pocketbooks will cause them to focus on their own selfish selves.

  • fillphil on August 16, 2012 11:44 AM:

    Talk about "taking a page from Rove", how about the new "Special Ops Group" that just entered the scene. Looks alot like the "Swift Boaters" to me. Anybody looked for their financing support? Bet it connects with Rove.