Political Animal


August 09, 2012 2:30 PM Will Mitt Romney’s Bet on Lying Pay Off?

By Ryan Cooper

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Paul Waldman’s jaw drops at the Romney ad team’s total disregard for the truth:

Now, let me be absolutely clear about something. I’ve been paying very, very close attention to political ads for a long time. In my former career as an academic I did a lot of research on political ads. I’ve watched literally every single presidential general election campaign ad ever aired since the first ones in 1952. I’ve seen ads that were more inflammatory than this one, and ads that were in various ways more reprehensible than this one (not many, but some). But I cannot recall a single presidential campaign ad in the history of American politics that lied more blatantly than this one.

Kevin Drum agrees:

This is what’s so striking about Romney’s campaign…Romney has flatly claimed that Obama said something that, in fact, a John McCain aide said. He’s snipped out sentences from an Obama speech and spliced the two halves back together so nobody could tell what he did. Then he did it again to another Obama speech. And he unequivocally said that Obama plans to drop work requirements for welfare even though he’s done nothing of the sort.
This really is a post-truth campaign. It’s different. It’s one thing to be nasty. All campaigns are nasty. It’s one thing to twist and distort and mock. Every campaign does that too. Even the attacks on Al Gore in 2000, as vicious as they were, were mostly media inventions. The Republican campaigns had the distortions handed to them on a platter.
But this is different. This is a presidential candidate just baldly making stuff up on the assumption that nobody will ever know. After all, they figure, who the hell reads Glenn Kessler aside from a bunch of Beltway nerds? And I guess they’re right.

I half-disagree. On the one hand, the political media has been remarkably susceptible to bullying from the right. Ginned-up hysteria and a gullible, cowardly, lazy press has gotten enormous mileage from the right.

But as I was saying this morning, the Romney camp has been caught somewhat flatfooted already by the newly minted power of the left to influence the discourse. Watch Anderson Cooper pin down Newt Gingrich on this Romney ad. Gingrich does the usual squirming, subject changing, and putting forth a squid-ink fog of misdirection, but when Cooper just keeps bearing down on the fact that the ad is blatantly lying, even Newt is forced to say that the ad is okay because, as Paul says, “Barack Obama and those who work for him are, in Newt’s opinion, the kind of people who would gut work requirements if they could, so therefore it’s OK to say that they are actually doing it, even though they aren’t.” Gingrich ends up sounding like a snake.

In politics, moral arguments are powerful, and true moral arguments even more so. The left will be at their strongest handed this sort of red meat on a platter. And Romney’s straight-up bald-faced lying pushes the Republican ability to strong-arm mainstream journalists to the very limit. It’s a slap in the face whose arrogant contempt couldn’t be more obvious. Romney is saying to the press, “You’re stupid, and gullible, and I dare you to call a spade a spade.”

Now, someone betting on journalistic integrity in this country would lose a lot of money. But a lot of people watch Anderson Cooper. Even Brian Williams couldn’t stomach the ad which edited out the part where Obama was quoting a McCain staffer.

Seems to me that we have a decent shot of getting these lies covered for what they are. Worth a shot, anyway. Go for Conor Friedersdorf’s high dudgeon.

Follow Ryan on Twitter and his website; follow the magazine @washmonthly.

Ryan Cooper is a National Correspondent at The Week, and a former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @ryanlcooper


  • DRF on August 09, 2012 3:55 PM:

    The problem is that, when Newt Gingrich lies and Anderson Cooper calls him out on it, most people tend to blame Newt, rather than Romney. What's unique about this campaign is that Romney himself, lies--constantly, shamelessly. And, to date, he's made himself basically unavailable to the press, so he hasn't had to defend his statements. Hopefully, Obama will have an opportunity to nail him on this in the debates.

  • TCinLA on August 09, 2012 3:57 PM:

    Romney's not a liar. He's a bullshitter. A liar knows the truth and tells the lie. A bullshitter doesn't care whether what he says is true or false.

    Go read "On Bullshit" to understand Romney. Bullshitting people is what those in his lines of business (con artists are con artists, whether it's three-card monte or Bain Capital) always do, so it comes natural to him.

  • c u n d gulag on August 09, 2012 4:11 PM:

    "Post-truth" is much to kind.

    It sounds like some sort of an art movement.
    "Yes, after 'Guernica' and WWII, Picasso went into his "Post-truth" period."

    How about, "No-truth," or, "Allergic to Truth?"

    Or, call it "bullMITT!"

    "Ah, he's bullMitting again!"

    I'm really, really tired of this CRAPTCHA bullSHIT!

  • T2 on August 09, 2012 4:12 PM:

    "Romney is saying to the press, “You’re stupid, and gullible, and I dare you to call a spade a spade.”
    No, what he is saying is "the people who pay your salary want me to win and I dare you to call a spade a spade.”

    "we have a decent shot of getting these lies covered "
    No, we have a decent shot of getting a bald-faced liar as President of the United States.

  • Josef K on August 09, 2012 4:14 PM:

    If Romney manages to get into the White House after all this, our politics may never recover. Forget Nixon and his plumbers and dirty tricks; we're seeing a political party disregard every possible convention and standard of rational behavior in full view of god and everyone!

    The worst part is there's really no way to stop this. Even calling Romney and surrogates out won't stop them; there's a large enough slice of the electorate that want to hear and see this crap. Even if the press collectively decide to give Romney the silent treatment from now until November, it won't stop him. He has too many backers and too many avenues through which to disseminate his lies.

    Bad as the last 12 years have been, I fear we're on the cusp of something far, far worse.

  • Ron Byers on August 09, 2012 4:21 PM:

    As much as I hate to say this, at least John McCain had some integrity and class. His campaign people knew when to tell Sister Sarah when to shut up. Nobody in the Romney camp from the candidate on down stands for anything beyond "just win, baby, win." The game has become larger than the job.

    I mean, how does Romney intend to govern if elected? Who will believe anything he says. He can't plan on putting 1/2 the country in reeducation camps can he?

  • Celui on August 09, 2012 4:22 PM:

    Good Grief, Ryan! You're doing what a 'real' journalist should, ought, must do: tell the truth according to the facts. Love your statement: On the one hand, the political media has been remarkably susceptible to bullying from the right. Ginned-up hysteria and a gullible, cowardly, lazy press has gotten enormous mileage from the right. 'Gullible, lazy press....' Wow! that does describe so much. But, then, Charlie Peters, Paul Glastris, Ed Kilgore, Steve Benen, Ryan Cooper, Blue Girl--you all have the fire to ferret out the truth, tell it publicly and stand behind your facts. Just as a lie becomes loud the more it's told, the TRUTH can become louder, more prominent, more focused the more it's told. So--don't be cowardly, lazy or inept: TELL THE TRUTH! And let it redound to the hilltops!

  • Jack Lindahl on August 09, 2012 4:25 PM:

    There has never been any meaningful consequence to lying, so why bother telling the truth? Our "lamestream media" (hehehe) has long given up on its fundamental purpose - i.e. to inform voters - in favor of hobnobbing with policy makers, so truth telling no longer has value for politicians or is of interest to reporters.

    Not that politicians have ever been known as upstanding citizens, but still ...

  • Gummo on August 09, 2012 4:29 PM:

    I can't believe I'm the optimist here, but I think we're going to see even more of Romney unraveling as the campaign goes on.

    The man has spent his entire life surrounded by sycophants and servants. He's never had to answer for his actions or words before in his entire life, even when he was committing felonies (by impersonating a police officer). We see it over and over again, the haughty disdain that he should be answerable for anything -- the whole "I've given you 2 years of tax returns to look at, peasants, and you'll not only like it, you'll say thank you!" attitude pervades everything he does. That we throw his "largesse" right back in his face angers and confuses him.

    In fact, he's utterly confused that we're not groveling and handing him the crown he so obviously thinks is his by divine right.

    It all comes back to a point made elsewhere on the internet over & over again: the more people get a look at Mitt Romney, the less they like him.

    All the billionaire money in the world can't fix that.

    So I think Mitt's problems with truth, reality and likeability will only grow as the campaign heats up.

  • N. Bates on August 09, 2012 4:31 PM:

    Well said, Ryan, although getting this across is indeed dicier than it looks (as commenters have noted.)

    Fine minds make find distinctions.

  • T2 on August 09, 2012 4:39 PM:

    I think everyone is missing something - Mormon's are told that lying is permissible in order to advance the Church. Mitt knows he is lying and he thinks it is OK, God's Work.
    Just Google: Mormon lying for the Lord
    I wonder what the general public would think if that happened to get on NBC or CBS?

  • SadOldVet on August 09, 2012 4:53 PM:

    Ginned-up hysteria and a gullible, cowardly, lazy press has gotten enormous mileage from the right.

    Cowardly and lazy and working as part of the Corporately Owned Media doing what their republican masters want! They know where their next paycheck is coming from and it ain't from the great masses of the working classes.

    Romney’s straight-up bald-faced lying pushes the Republican ability to strong-arm mainstream journalists to the very limit.

    We only wish that this was correct! The Corporately Owned Media has a full well of "False Equivalencies" to draw upon for their repuknican water carrying.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on August 09, 2012 5:25 PM:

    Josef K:

    there's a large enough slice of the electorate that want to hear and see this crap.

    Large enough to fill the coffers of News Corp or large enough to elect Romney? I'm actually naive enough to think there might be 2-3% of the electorate who would change their vote over the perception (warranted) that Romney lies all the time, and that 2-3% could convert a close election into an Obama landslide.

  • hells littlest angel on August 09, 2012 5:26 PM:

    Romney is on a trajectory to lose this election, spectacularly. I expect him to drag the teabaggers in the House to hell with him.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on August 09, 2012 5:32 PM:

    T2: I try to avoid painting anyone with a broad brush based on their religion. Heaven knows I don't want to be blamed for all the excesses of evangelical Christianity.

    But I found a link on Lying for the Lord on MormonWiki.org, and this sentence jumped out:

    'When prompted to discuss an issue that is potentially embarrassing to the Mormon religion, Mormons often make an appeal to the impropriety of discussing such "sacred" things. Practically speaking, what is often explicitly appealed to as "sacred" is treated as "secret"'.

    Sound familiar?

  • T2 on August 09, 2012 5:43 PM:

    well, yes it does, EqualOC. It sounds like Mitt Romney. I don't know if I was wielding a broad brush or not...but there seems to be ample reason to believe lying to advance LDS is acceptable to them. Interesting that you bring Mormon's and Evangelicals up in the same post as I'm sure your realize that Evangelical's consider Mormonism a "religious cult", not a Christian religion. Nevertheless, they apparently feel that they'd prefer to vote for a "white cultist" rather than endure another term with a Negro.

  • Andrew Sprung on August 09, 2012 5:57 PM:

    In support of the thesis here, there is evidence that he fools no one. Larry Bartels and Lynn Vavrek, in their study of independent voters, reported this:

    "64 percent [of undecided Republicans] think Romney “says what he thinks people want to hear,” while only 8 percent think he “says what he believes.” (The corresponding percentages among other Republicans are 45 percent and 39 percent.)" (link: http://nyti.ms/MVhFBg )

    So: A higher percentage even of decided Republicans believe that Obama was born outside the U.S. than believe that Romney "says what he believes."

    Most Republicans will vote for Romney because they hate Obama and believe Romney is publicly committed and accountable to the party's extremist platform. But most of them know he's a liar and a pander. Imagine what the numbers must be among Democrats.

  • Mitch on August 09, 2012 5:57 PM:

    @T2 & EoC

    All of my kin are hardcore evangelicals, and they have recently begun having major changes of heart when it comes to Romney.

    They have never liked him, due to his Mormonism. Yes, they do consider LDS a cult, probably influenced by Satan. But they were going to vote for him anyway.

    Lately, however, they have decided to not vote at all. They - clueless Fox News watchers in Appalachia - have noticed that he lies constantly. They have noticed that he has offshore bank accounts, that he's shady about his taxes, and that his business career was a bit too centered on laying off Americans and outsourcing work overseas.

    I have heard from several friends and family members in Kentucky that their CHURCHES are discussing how the GOP has gone off the rails, and apparently does little more than worship money and prop up the rich while telling everyone else to stuff it. These are ALL small-town, evangelical, "real 'murcan" types. These are people who watch Fox News more than any other channel . . . but even they are starting to see the truth.

    So who knows? Maybe now that America is getting to know Romney as well as we political junkies know him. Maybe a lot more people feel the same way as my folks.

  • Frank Wilhoit on August 09, 2012 6:48 PM:

    They're not lies. They're stories.

    Lies are false. Stories are neither true nor false, but more or less evocative or persuasive.

    This observation does not make the situation any better, but the distinction is important.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on August 09, 2012 7:16 PM:

    Mitch: Anecdotal stuff like this makes me think the devil's pact between conservative Christians and the super-rich may be about to break apart. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Rick B on August 09, 2012 7:25 PM:

    @T2 4:12 PM:

    What's happening is that a lot of hot air is being spent on what voters are told without separating out the question of the power elites are manipulating those voters. Talking about the power elites is still very close to forbidden. The Koch brothers have been so blatant that they have become subject of that kind of discussion, but they are just the tip of the iceberg.

    It seems to me that any "post truth period" eliminates the very basis of democracy. Post truth means post democracy. All that matters is money, power and media connections.

    @Gummo 4:29 PM:

    Romney has never worked in an environment in which he himself was not the sole autocrat in charge. This is OK if you can limit the challenges that you face. Finance is one of those limited environments. Politics and war are not. There the leader has to depend on good staffers and on his own ability to assemble, train and use a complex staff and on his ability to take staff advice.

    If Mitt had ever been in a military staff he could have done that. He hasn't subjected himself to that level of complexity and he will not be able to learn how in the next 90 days. You will notice that the screwups became much more frequent when it was no longer the Republican hot house of conservative ideas being fought over. Now the unknown has to be dealt with and Mitt can't adapt to anything that complicated.

    I expect continual screwups for the rest of the campaign. Usually it will be someone speaking off the top of their head with no knowledge of how what is being said effects the overall campaign.

    It's not just Mitt, either. This is something most conservatives have a hard time dealing with. "Authoritarianism" is just so much simpler. It's also an assured failure in the process of happening.

  • you go girl on August 09, 2012 10:29 PM:

    I agree with Ryan there is a change in the air.
    More and more people are reacting negatively to the Romney penchant for lying lies... it is laughable at this point.
    I want to say he walks like a sissy.
    I feel bold to post what I want.

  • c00p on August 09, 2012 10:39 PM:

    There has been some worry among some Republican circles that evangelical Christians wouldn't accept Romney because they don't accept Mormons as Christians. But what the Romney ad campaign displays is something else: it doesn't matter whether or not one accepts Mormons as Christians because Romney is a "bad" Mormon anyway, unless blatant dishonesty is something the LDS approve of. (And I don't believe they do...)

  • you go girl on August 09, 2012 11:16 PM:

    LDS honesty--lying for the lord. Oh yes, there is lying.



  • James M on August 09, 2012 11:49 PM:

    @hells littlest angel on August 09, 2012 5:26 PM:

    "Romney is on a trajectory to lose this election, spectacularly. I expect him to drag the teabaggers in the House to hell with him."

    I know that nothing is more deadly than complacency and you should never take anything for granted. That being said (and 'just between us chickens') I am with hells littlest angel: I just don't see how Mitt Romney can win!

    He has alienated women, practically all minorities, the LGBT population (leaving anyone out?). His economic plan, which he calls the core of his campaign,is a joke. He doesn't seem to have any grasp of national policy issues at all. How is he going to survive the debates? His speeches are wooden and uninspired. He seems to have a gift for insulting almost everyone he meets and has shown almost no ability to connect with people on an emotional level. His campaign staff has made blunder after blunder.

    He has allowed himself to be 'Bainboated' and 'Reided'(I made that one up) over the summer and will now never be able to rid himself of the image of being an entitled, secretive and shifty guy.

    But, above all else, nobody, and I mean nobody, seems to like the guy! I suppose he is loved by his wife and children (not so sure about Seamus*...) but I can't think of anyone else to put on the list.

    * (In fact, the minute I heard that story I knew that Mitt Romney could never be President. A guy who would strap his dog to the roof of his car on a trip to Canada?)

  • jpeckjr on August 10, 2012 2:34 AM:

    I knew that Mitt Romney would not be elected President when he said he was not going to attend his wife's Olympic event, didn't even know when it was scheduled, said it wasn't important. He disrespected his wife in public and that hurt him with both women and with husbands who treat their wives with respect.

    People are beginning to see he is both a jerk and a liar.

  • Bob on August 10, 2012 7:43 AM:

    Romney's latest bumper sticker...

    MITT ROMNEY: "In compliance with all applicable laws and regulations."

    Now that's a campaign to get excited about!

  • Marnie on August 10, 2012 8:17 AM:

    while your are giving credit to the LSM for calling out Repocon lies give a nod to those left leaning bloggers and a whole country full of cdentyerist and leftie commenters who have thrown truths and valid arguments into the faces of the liberal media to the point where the liberal internet media has no choice but to follow our lead and the LSM media to stagger slowly behind.

  • leopold von ranke on August 10, 2012 9:14 AM:

    Sadly, most voters don't care, and the press will go with its time-honored dictum, "When the [lie] becomes "fact," print the [lie].

    Aber bloß zu zeigen, wie es eigentlich gewesen ist.

  • Dark on August 14, 2012 8:41 PM:

    "On the one hand, the political media has been remarkably susceptible to bullying from the right. Ginned-up hysteria and a gullible, cowardly, lazy press has gotten enormous mileage from the right."

    The above lines are patently false. Obviously the author has not been paying attention to MSNBC, ABC, CNN or CBS.

    In addition the author has not done his due research. The report regarding withdraw from work for welfare requirements came from the Heritage Foundation. Should there have been more due diligence the ad most likely would not have been done. I say such in the hope the irresponsible ads coming from the left do not bear a tacit endorsement from the Obama campaign.

    Curiously the author doesn't mention how The President campaigned on reducing the deficit by half only to see it grow from $10T to $16T +. How he made a central part of his campaign to close the GITMO detention center yet signs a law for indefinite confinement for civilians (and GITMO detention center is still open). He promised transparency in government yet cited executive privilege on "Fast and Furious". He promised a government to follow the rule of law yet chooses which laws to enforce and even usurped the powers granted to congress by the constitution via executive order.

    Should the author actually be non-partisan instead of shilling then he may be worth reading. Until then he is a waste of oxygen.