Political Animal


September 23, 2011 12:35 PM Building a campaign message around a lie

By Steve Benen

After a long while, I realize there’s very little point in pushing back against a lie. Once it’s been told over and over again, and people either believe it or they don’t, the value of the fact-check is greatly diminished.

But I like to do it anyway, because it makes me feel better.

Here’s the line from last night’s debate that Mitt Romney simply loves to tell:

“The president went about this all wrong. He went around the world and apologized for America.”

If someone makes a bogus claim, he or she is merely wrong. When someone repeats the bogus claim after learning the truth, they’re lying. When someone builds a national campaign message around the obvious falsehood, they’re shamelessly lying.

Glenn Kessler notes reality (again).

Regarding the supposed apology, we have repeatedly called this out as a Four-Pinocchio falsehood. A careful review of all of Obama’s overseas statements found that they had been taken out of context or had been misquoted.

Romney surely knows this. He’s not an idiot.

But this plainly dishonest claim is at the core of Romney’s entire campaign message — it’s in every speech; it’s in every debate; it’s even in the title of his book. And the underlying point of the lie isn’t just over some routine policy dispute — Romney desperately wants Americans to question the president’s love of country. The “apology” claim is a lie, but it’s also an ugly smear.

The fact that Romney repeats this incessantly says a great deal about his character, or in this case, the lack thereof.

Greg Sargent noted this morning, “Nobody seems to care, but the continuing claim that Obama apologized for America is, you know, not actually true.”

The fact that Romney is rarely called out for the lie only encourages him to repeat it.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • c u n d gulag on September 23, 2011 12:44 PM:

    Look we critisize Romney a lot for flip-flopping.

    But he's been consistent on this one issue.

    Consistently wrong...

    But, still, consistent!

  • Grumpy on September 23, 2011 12:47 PM:

    On behalf of all Americans, I apologize to the world for Mitt Romney.

  • ckelly on September 23, 2011 12:50 PM:

    I'm sorry, what was it that Obama supposedly apologized for again? I can't keep up.

  • Al Swearengen on September 23, 2011 12:59 PM:

    How would the GOP find time to castigate the pathological liars that lead their party? So many gay soldiers to boo, so little time.

  • marty on September 23, 2011 1:05 PM:

    “Nobody seems to care, but the continuing claim that Obama apologized for America is, you know, not actually true.”"

    See also:
    "The President spent $800 billion dollars to stimulate the economy and it failed"

    "The President's failed stimulus plan has not created one job"

    That these lying scumbags have been so able to poison the debate with proveable, indusputable lies shows how far down the toilet we've gone.

    If we had any real journalists, Republicans would have NO credibility, and almost NO political power. To think that it's even conceivable we could elect a Republican president so soon after a decade of their utter depravity and mismanagement of our country is sickening.

  • tamiasmin on September 23, 2011 1:07 PM:

    "The fact that Romney is rarely called out for the lie only encourages him to repeat it."

    Rarely, Steve? You've got Glenn Kessler and Greg Sargent right there in your post. Plus you, of course. That's three already.

    (Captcha is offering me Sanskrit (I guess) in Devanagari script (I guess). A gatekeeper with a sense of humor.)

  • bleh on September 23, 2011 1:17 PM:

    Yeah, but see, if he didn't apologize, you just know he wanted to, and he would if he could, cuz he's just that kind of guy. Libruls hate America, and Kenyans have no loyalty to America, and he's a Kenyan librul.

    It's just like executing those guys. Maybe they didn't do it, but they probably did something else. And besides, it stands as a warning to others like them not to do it.

    Americans don't vote facts; they vote emotions, notably their perceptions of "character." And you don't change that by appeal to facts; you change it by showing them dressed up in flight suits, or standing in front of waving flags, or by attacking them relentlessly as suspects and aliens until a little bit of it rubs off.

    Don't attack Romney for getting this fact wrong. Attack him as a soulless liar who will say anything to get elected. That will get traction. Quibbling over particular statements -- much less facts -- just wastes electrons.

  • Ron E. on September 23, 2011 1:33 PM:

    "He’s not an idiot."

    The fact that he thinks a Mormon former Governor of Massachusetts who enacted a universal health care program can win the GOP nomination in 2012 says otherwise.

  • square1 on September 23, 2011 1:41 PM:

    Republicans have been saying this since Obama was first elected.

    Here's what I do know. You can't wait 2 1/2 years to push back against an "ugly smear".

    You can't let this smear be mainstreamed by Fox News and then give interviews and access to Fox.

  • DAY on September 23, 2011 1:47 PM:

    Swiftboating works.

    It may be vile, disgusting and beneath the dignity of democracy loving patriots, but it works.

    Showing my age, I ask: "Where is our Dick Tuck?"

  • sparrow on September 23, 2011 1:49 PM:

    Those on the left really are not the only ones noting Romney's BS. There are actually many on the conservative right that see him as a pandering fraud or at best(gasp!)a RINO. Although the reasons between the left and the right for not giving cred to the man differ, the bottom line problem for him is pretty much the same. It's like he's a weasel that changes his coat with the season. Unfortunately for the Republicans, their alternate choice of clowns vying for the nomination is no better for the general eletionas last night's debate clearly put on display once again, at least in my opinion. I still have a little confidence in most of the American peoples' judgment.

  • T2 on September 23, 2011 2:15 PM:

    quite simply, if this is the best Romney can do, it's pretty weak tea. Now if he said Obama went to Saudi Arabia and walked hand in hand with the Sheik and kissed him....that would be too much. It would also be what George W. Bush did.

  • Josef K on September 23, 2011 2:15 PM:

    The response I hope President Obama gives if/when the Republican's candidate brings this up in direct debate:

    Isn't that what you're supposed to do when you make a mistake?

  • jjM on September 23, 2011 2:23 PM:

    It's never the lie per se, it's the repetition. That was the part about Goebbels' theory that gets forgotten : a lie repeated often enough becomes the 'truth'.

    It's snide, malicious GOSSIP inflated to national level political discourse.

    I recall an Obama WH website called 'fight the smears' or something like that. Never got cited or quoted.

    Gossip Nation. That is now us.

    I just wish the Democrats could figure out some malicious untruthful gossip to drop into the mix just once, and see the GOP curl up with rage. I'm sure there are plenty of geniuses out there who could concoct something just right....

    After the hideous truth about these GOPers seems not to make a dent in public opinion. So manufactured truth may be the only way to get their goats -- come on, imaginative people, get cracking!

  • ottercliff on September 23, 2011 2:42 PM:

    By virtue of the fact that he is the only one on the debate stage who sounds neither ignorant (e.g. Perry or Santorum) nor deranged (e.g. Bachmann), Willard is getting a free pass on the gross exaggerations and outright lies he spouts.

  • cwolf on September 23, 2011 3:35 PM:

    Lemme see? Just going back a few campaigns I seem to recall:
    Missile Gap,
    Peace is at hand.
    The government is the problem,
    Read my lips
    Compassionate conservative,
    They all have/want WMDs !!!
    I will restore the rule of Law
    Lying works, It always has.

  • cat48 on September 24, 2011 2:07 AM:

    Politifact gave him a "Pants on Fire" False for this stupid lie he keeps telling.

  • boctaoe on September 24, 2011 5:55 PM:

    Now Perry's latest ad has picked up this lie and is trumpeting it to the world. It seems only Repugs can be "Red White, and Blue" Doncha know.

  • James on September 26, 2011 7:11 PM:

    Um...isn't it President Obama who has consistently accused his opponents of "putting Party over country"?
    Has he repeatedly and explicitly accused President Bush of being "unpatriotic" since 2008?