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July 28, 2014 4:22 PM The Lie That Won’t Die

By Ed Kilgore

I didn’t bother to read John Boehner’s USAToday op-ed on his lawsuit against the president. But Brother Benen did, and via him we learn that in the mixed salted assortment of complaints about Obama abusing his authority appears the Great Lie of the 2012 presidential campaign:

And then there’s the claim that President Obama “waived the work requirement in welfare.” This is a lie, and if Boehner doesn’t know that, the Speaker owes the public an explanation for how he can be so uninformed.
We last covered this in March, when former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) alluded to the same falsehood, but in case anyone’s forgotten, let’s quickly review reality.
In the president’s first term, a bipartisan group of governors asked the Obama administration for some flexibility on the existing welfare law, transitioning beneficiaries from welfare to work. The White House agreed to give the states some leeway - so long as the work requirement wasn’t weakened.
That’s not “waiving the work requirements in welfare”; that’s the opposite. Providing governors, including several Republicans, the flexibility they requested to help move beneficiaries back into the workforce is exactly the sort of power-to-the-states policy that Boehner and his cohorts usually like.
But in 2012, the policy inspired Mitt Romney and GOP leaders to turn this into a rather shameless lie, accusing Obama of weakening welfare work requirements. The more fact-checkers went berserk, the more aggressive Romney became in pushing the lie. One can only speculate as to the rationale behind the ugly falsehood, though the Republican presidential campaign seemed quite eager at the time to use the words “Obama” and “welfare” in the same sentence, even after the GOP candidate and his team realized they were lying.

As one of the people who went “berserk” in 2012 over this crap (which for me was especially outrageous having followed and even contributed to the 1994-1996 debate over welfare reform very closely), I’m only half-amazed that Boehner has resurrected it. On the one hand, he’s not in the middle of a tense presidential contest where fanning the flames of the old race-laden welfare debate probably seemed shrewd. But on the other hand, this is an example of how lies that aren’t completely demolished tend to become “facts” to those who repeat them often enough.

In this as in other respects, Boehner is shameless, as in the sense someone who is incapable of shame.

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.

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