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August 15, 2012 11:12 AM The Power of a Pure Lie

By Ed Kilgore

Just so you know that I’m not the only political observer who’s outraged by the Romney’s campaign’s continued fanning of racial flames via a flat-out lie about Obama’s record on welfare, TNR’s Alec MacGillis watched Romney deliver the lie himself to an all-white audience of Ohio coal miners, and reported his dismay that it drew big applause:

After the speech, several in the audience told me that their favorite part had been Romney’s calling out Obama for weakening welfare work requirements. Yes, one of the more depressing parts of the job of being a political reporter is watching an audience fully absorb a blatant and knowing lie. Which is, of course, what this is.

MacGillis, however, isn’t surprised the Romney, Ryan and their admakers are giving the lie the widest possible distribution, because they’re getting away with it. It is arguably the centerpiece of their entire campaign at the moment, yet the MSM is largely ignoring it, and/or cynically shrugging at its mendacity:

Romney just keeps using it, at stop after stop, in ad after ad. How can this be possible? Well, maybe because very few of my colleagues in the press seem all that troubled by it. Unless I’ve missed it, none of the national papers or networks or Buzzfeeders have done a comprehensive report on Romney’s persistence in playing the welfare card. It’s as if it was enough to have the factcheckers offer their initial scolding, but after that, hey, anything goes. I saw no mention in dispatches from yesterday of Romney’s successful use of the welfare line in Beallsville — instead, the stories were dominated by Romney’s declaration of outrage, later in the day, over Obama’s campaign of “anger and hate.”

I’d have to guess the amazingly persistent pushback from conservatives against the idea that any of them could possibly ever be guilty of an appeal to racism has, ironically, created a large zone of safety for racially motivated attack lines, even if they are based on lies. The Romney/Ryan campaign is sure as hell exploiting it, and in a just world campaign beat reporters would be covering Romney like he’s George Wallace come right back to life until he cuts this crap out.

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.

Comments

  • Josef K on August 15, 2012 11:26 AM:

    I’d have to guess the amazingly persistent pushback from conservatives against the idea that any of them could possibly ever be guilty of an appeal to racism has, ironically, created a large zone of safety for racially motivated attack lines, even if they are based on lies.

    Its just not going to end, is it? There's no way short of some idiot taking 9mm pot-shots at the incumbent to get these idiots to realize what kind of fire they're lighting.

  • Josef K on August 15, 2012 11:30 AM:

    Or maybe they do realize and just don't think they'll get the slightest bit singed. I'm sure the French 1% thought the same in 1789.

  • T2 on August 15, 2012 11:33 AM:

    Vast Right Wing Media Conspiracy and/or Vast White Wing Media Conspiracy

  • howard on August 15, 2012 11:43 AM:

    what i often wonder is how today's reporters live with themselves.

  • julesscott on August 15, 2012 11:44 AM:

    A. The japping heads on political tv do not know or understand policy they are unable to distinguish fact from fiction.
    B. All is fair because an Obama pac created an add that offended the Washington gasbag culture.

    Romney can say anything now because "both sides do it" even when it's obviously one side lying day after day.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on August 15, 2012 11:49 AM:

    But the media has seems very taken by the latest episode of GOP Swoonin' Couches and Pearl Clutchin': How dare Biden tell those poor knee-groes they'll be back in chains if the GOP guts Wall Street regulations!!!!

  • boatboy_srq on August 15, 2012 11:52 AM:

    File this under the TABMITWH column. T2 nailed it.

  • stormskies on August 15, 2012 11:58 AM:

    The corporations own the media and hire the goons that they need to do what they are hired to do. For example General Electric pay David "I am not a used corporate condom" Gregory about 2 million a year. So whose interests do you think he has in his Soul, or what is left of it ? The corporate interests, or the interests of the nation as a whole ?

    This has all been part of the master plan of the corporations going back about thirty years. Take over the federal courts, take over the media, and progressively buy the congress, senate, and presidency.

    So here we are ....... with an utterly corrupt corporate media who is actively complicit in turning our country into a fascist country defined by an oligarchy ...

  • delNorte on August 15, 2012 12:04 PM:

    "Yes, one of the more depressing parts of the job of being a political reporter is watching an audience fully absorb a blatant and knowing lie. Which is, of course, what this is...."

    Romney is getting away with this because he's just telling the audience what they already believe is true. He's just reinforcing their beliefs (based, yes, on racism), "pandering to the masses," swelling the chorus of hatred by giving a blow job to the worse angels of our human nature.

  • Leopold Von Ranke on August 15, 2012 12:05 PM:

    Chuck Todd pushed back pretty hard on Governor for Life [TM] Terry Branstadt when he told the lie this morning. Wondering why no one asks the ultimate question of Mr. Romney about any of his numerous canards. "Why are you lying?"

  • Milt on August 15, 2012 12:18 PM:

    The media must know about the lies but they must give a pass in order to maintain the illusion of a "race". This all comes down to money, lots of money. If the media sets the record straight Romney has nothing to run on and the election becomes a walk-over - no reason to advertise, no one watching the news or talking heads. In order to keep the numbers up the media must play along.

  • c u n d gulag on August 15, 2012 12:26 PM:

    Mitt's handlers/programmers are smart.

    As he's yelling everything but the "N-word," he's also screaming about how Obama is using hate speech.

    All of this, so the MSM can say, "Look! BOTH sides are doing it!"

    NO! - you festering postules on the bunghole of what's left of our democracy.

    BOTH sides AREN'T doing it, if it's coming from ONE SOURCE - THE R-MONEY CAMPAIGN!

  • Dick Polman on August 15, 2012 12:28 PM:

    At least a few political columnists have written in detail about Romney's welfare lie. Me, for example, last Friday in The Philadelphia Inquirer:

    http://articles.philly.com/2012-08-11/news/33138222_1_welfare-reform-work-requirement-welfare-recipients

    The problem is, how can you keep writing every single day that the lie is being repeated?

  • K3HY on August 15, 2012 12:30 PM:

    There is the Truth, the Lie and then there is Racism, which
    overrides everything.

  • Grumpy on August 15, 2012 12:36 PM:

    "It’s as if it was enough to have the factcheckers offer their initial scolding, but after that, hey, anything goes."

    The lie is reported once, and then it's old news. That's why I like Steve's ongoing chronicle: most weeks, half of the items are repeats, but they're still lies no matter how many times they're told.

  • Neildsmith on August 15, 2012 12:41 PM:

    It may be a lie, but it's one many Americans enjoy hearing and repeating. They all know it's a lie. Don't blame Romney for throwing out red meat to the snarling conservative monster. Blame the monster.

  • marianne19 on August 15, 2012 12:49 PM:

    It's a post-truth campaign. Don't forget that in 2008 Palin kept repeating her story about killing the "bridge to nowhere" even though it was extensively debunked. Campaign strategists have learned that it doesn't matter what the truth is, just keep repeating what you want people to hear.

  • Steve on August 15, 2012 12:52 PM:

    Who is up for dosing rMoney with Sodium Pentathol on a regular basis?

  • DAY on August 15, 2012 12:56 PM:

    I wonder how many of those coal miners have been or are now on "welfare". Food stamps? WICs? Earned income tax credit? COLA? Disability?

  • Diane Rodriguez on August 15, 2012 1:01 PM:

    Republican polling dictates the whole decades old angry- shiftless-ignorant black man meme. The campaign repeatedly hits each point. Obama has never had a "real job", he was handed everything without lifting a finger, his whole agenda is supporting other black people on welfare, where are his transcripts, he didn't really excel in law school that was affirmative action, and on and on. The angry part doesn’t seem to have a connector – just made up out of whole cloth. Romney should be included in a psychotherapy textbook as the definition of transference.

    This shit works. In poor economic times, those who don't have a lot target those who have less for "stealing" what little is left. Ignorance and fear prevails and the real culprits like the Kochs and Romney are overlooked. The more access and standards that are removed from the educational system, the easier it is to hoodwink the masses.

    Meanwhile, back at the Mustang Ranch, Ryan has his hand down Adelson's pants searching for gold.

  • danimal on August 15, 2012 1:07 PM:

    This would be a great debate issue. In my dream debate, Obama says that Mitt is lying about his welfare policy (which he is, incontrovertibly). Mitt's face gets red as he angrily demands an apology. Mitt would have a hard time factually defending himself in that type of setting, and the press would be forced to really cover the issue.

    I know welfare policy deeply, and there is absolutely no justification for Mitt's claims. It is a lie, a bald-faced lie, and his position will not withstand scrutiny.

  • schtick on August 15, 2012 1:09 PM:

    I saw the first of the Willard attack ad lies yesterday. I don't think it's going to fly in this area because people here aren't that stupid. Some are, but not enough to make any major gains.
    There are people that still believe you can't put in print or say on the news, anything that is a lie. I hear it at the check-out counters at the grocery store and it isn't just the old 'blue hairs' that are saying it.

  • TCinLA on August 15, 2012 1:14 PM:

    As someone who worked as a reporter, I never thought I'd see the day I would think what follows, but today is the day:

    Q. What's 50 dead political reporters?
    A: A good start.

    These scum are about as "good" as the "good German" reporters for the Deutscher Tageblatt were. At least those guys had the excuse that they'd go to a concentration camp or a firing squad if they tried to do their job. These conscienceless scum are simply willing to follow orders for their paychecks.

  • RT on August 15, 2012 2:01 PM:

    Divide et impera.

  • Peter C on August 15, 2012 3:09 PM:

    “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

    We’ve been here before with the Republicans. Last time, it was the ‘McCarthy Era’. Then, a Republican from Wisconsin wielded lies to try to destroy our government and roll back the New Deal. The effort failed because of an appeal to the basic decency of the American Public amplified and publicized by the ‘forth estate’ – a free press with ethics and professionalism. Joseph McCarthy pushed just a bit too far, and when Joseph Welch confronted him with the words, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” in a televised congressional hearing, the national mood turned.

    The Republicans have hated the press ever since, and they constructed and implemented a strategy to neuter and subjugate it. They’d attack the ‘liberal’ media. They’d promote ‘cable media’, which could skirt FCC regulations. They’d gut the ‘fairness doctrine’. They’d create their own ‘news’ network. They’d go to court to secure that network’s right and ability to blatantly lie. They’d buy up stations. They’d relentlessly attack public media. They’d play-up the ‘horse race’ aspect of campaigns and undermine discussion of issues. They’d scream “Bias!” (that they defined as saying anything which ‘offended’ them) at every opportunity. And, they’d eliminate all campaign-finance reform so their disproportionate funding advantage could purchase media dominance.

    Now, they’re ready to try again. They will double down on lies and smears and trust to their captive media to prevent the mood-turning moment. Don’t expect moderation if they win; they have no sense of decency, and they’ve shown it time and time again.

  • JM917 on August 15, 2012 5:09 PM:

    Anyone want to speculate on the chances that, in the first presidential debate in early October, the moderator (Schieffer? Lehrer? no, certainly not Crowley)confronts Romney with one of his mendacious allegations--e.g., the gutting-work-requirements charge--and then says something like this: "Governor, many commentators are saying that you are lying. How do you respond?"

    Romney of course will shamble and obfuscate.

    And then Obama can respond: "Yes, he is lying."

    At least, that's what would happen if we had an objective, honest press and if these "debates" were honest.

  • N.Wells on August 15, 2012 5:55 PM:

    Romney's Chilicothe speech was just one lie and projection after another: he attacked Obama for lying (!), pandering (!), being divisive (!), being out of ideas (!) and on and on down the line. And the crowd applauded.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on August 16, 2012 9:22 AM:

    @Dick Polman, 12:28 pm:

    "At least a few political columnists have written in detail about Romney's welfare lie. Me, for example, last Friday in The Philadelphia Inquirer:

    http://articles.philly.com/2012-08-11/news/33138222_1_welfare-reform-work-requirement-welfare-recipients

    The problem is, how can you keep writing every single day that the lie is being repeated?"

    Thanks for doing this. I would suggest that the way the media should be handling the Welfare, Medicare etc. lies is by mentioning every time they come up, that they are lies, false, and misleading. It would not take very many words. For example, on the Welfare lie, something like: "...Mitt Romney repeated his false and very misleading claim on Welfare/Medicare... " And then provides footnotes, etc. where to find information debunking the lies.

    I also encourage regular readers to contact reporters, editors, etc. via e-mail with corrected versions of their stories. Just take out the offending lines in their he-said-he-said stories and change the sentences to contain the few words per above.

    Any other ideas?

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  • Anonymous on August 16, 2012 12:03 PM:

    welfare is a small phony issue just like "solyndra gate" or "muffin gate" or "fast furious"
    Most people will forget or at least pay little attentions to at the voting booth.

    More alarming thing about Republicans' success in lies about Obama's records is that voters and even newscasters think the opposite of the facts when it comes to job creations, stimulus, obamacare, or deficits by obama.

    Obama economy created not robust but more private jobs than bush's 8 years.

    Stimulus is 1/3 pay roll tax cuts, others are aids to states to balance their budgets,
    race to the top, infrastructure fund fro smart grids, high speed rails, renewable investments, which all the economists have been saying we needed.
    every money is trackable online. CBO concluded it avoided a depression.

    Obama only added 1 trillion or so to the federal debt, lowest since eisenhower.
    He shrunk the size of federal employees by 7% or so.

    Auto bailouts worked and exports are up. first time in a while trade deficits is reduced. Government saved billions by saving millions of jobs.

    At least people give credit for Obama's success in beating terrorism, handling foreing affairs and education. But too many think he did a terrible job on budgets and job creations. There are things Obama can and should do more to help the economy for sure, but to say that he made it worse is nonsense.

  • yellowdog on August 16, 2012 7:51 PM:

    @DPolman

    "The problem is, how can you keep writing every single day that the lie is being repeated?"

    Of course you can keep running that story--as long as the lie continues. In my imagination, it would look like this:

    "ELYRIA, OHIO: Brushing off persistent questioning by reporters on the campaign trail today, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney continued to insist that President Barack Obama weakened work requirements in welfare. Ignoring clear evidence from independent fact checkers that the charge is false, Romney continues to hammer it home in swing states like Ohio. He restated the discredited charge before a crowd in this small Ohio city today, echoing the theme of ads blanketing the state. "Obama has opened up welfare," the candidate said to a small audience in a city park.

    The candidate's insistence on repeating the falsehood before voters has called into question Mr. Romney's character and fitness for high office. Observers of Mr. Romney have suggested that either he is wilfully lying to mislead voters or he continues to believe facts long proven untrue.

    Marilyn Smith, a resident of Elyria and independent voter who heard Romney's stump speech today, thought it was the former. The 43-year-old computer technician mused, "What's wrong with him? He's got to know what he's saying isn't true. Something's not right about a guy who lies like that--day after day."

    Bradley J. Keaton, a psychology professor at Elyria Valley College, thought the explanation for Romney's mendacity might be more pathological than characterological. Keaton suggested Romney might be suffering under the strain of a long campaign, which is weakening his mental faculties. Keaton said belief in an alternate reality is a warning sign for various personality disorders and mental problems considered pathological by the American Psychological Association.

    Keaton said professional psychologists are skilled in exploring the roots of unusual behaviors like chronic lying. Keaton said, "Sometimes it takes a professional to get to the bottom of hard cases like this. Sometimes, high-pressure situations bring out personality issues that are invisible in day-to-day life. The good news is, therapists know how to help."

    The Romney campaign declined to say whether the candidate had ever consulted a psychologist or received a diagnosis of a personality disorder.

    In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) weighed in, saying a Bain investor had called him in July with a disturbing report about Romney's behavior while he was head of the company. Reid said, "Warning bells were sounding about Mitt's mental state and that's why he had to leave Bain." Reid declined to name the investor or reveal the full contents of the phone conversation.

    The Romney campaign called Reid's comments "mean-spirited."

    For her part, Smith was skeptical about Keaton and Reid's suggestion of a personality disorder or mental strain. "Come on. He's just lying for votes. He doesn't need a therapist. He knows exactly what he's doing."

    Independent fact checkers quickly debunked Mr. Romney's welfare charges when he first made them in mid August. Romney has spent $xx million since August 1 on ads making the charge. Reporters on the trail with Romney have pressed the candidate for days to clarify his remarks, but the candidate stands by them.

    In the scrum today, GCN correspondent Natalie Tierney wondered how long Romney could keep it up. After the speech this morning, Tierney asked the candidate if he planned to pull the welfare ads. Romney, in shirtsleeves and khakis and sporting a confident grin, said, "No. The truth is out there."

    Obama campaign officials, after quickly documenting the clear error of the Romney charges in early August, have taken a largely hands-off position, letting Romney damage his own credibility with voters as he continues to r

  • yellowdog on August 16, 2012 7:53 PM:

    @DPolman, cont.

    Obama campaign officials, after quickly documenting the clear error of the Romney charges in early August, have taken a largely hands-off position, letting Romney damage his own credibility with voters as he continues to resist reality. Reid's charges may now give them an opening to suggest the GOP nominee is coming unraveled. Seth McBride, an Obama campaign operative in Ohio, said this afternoon, "It's hard to watch really--and kind of sad. We thought Romney was a pretty solid campaigner--until he got on this welfare thing. Wow--has he just melted, boxing himself in like this day after day, refusing to acknowledge reality. The more it happens, the more you have to ask, 'What happened to Mitt Romney?'"

    Some GOP critics have begun to wonder about Romney too. Ben Albright, a Rick Perry supporter and GOP donor in Houston, has decided not to give money to the GOP nominee. Albright says, "I just can't put money where Mitt's mouth is these days. The more he gets questioned and gives the same wrong answers, the weaker he looks. Downballot candidates are getting really nervous--but they can't get through to him either."

    Smith, departing the Romney event this morning in a light rain, said as she darted to her car, "Sometimes you get a really good look at a candidate and don't like what you see." The restless Romney team is now huddling, trying to figure out how to squelch questions about the candidate's fitness for office--and hoping there aren't too many Marilyn Smiths who have already made up their mind about him.

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