Political Animal


November 22, 2011 3:50 PM ‘That’s his voice’

By Steve Benen

I really didn’t intend to return to the subject, but the latest defense from the Romney campaign for its transparent lying is too extraordinary to overlook.

To briefly recap, Mitt Romney’s very first television ad of the 2012 campaign pushes a blatant, shameless lie. In 2008, a month before the president was elected, then-candidate Obama told voters, “Senator McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, ‘If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.’” In Romney’s new attack ad, viewers only see part of the quote: “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”

It’s a cheap, deceitful move, suggesting Romney wants to get his general-election strategy off to as dishonorable a start as possible. And what’s the Republican campaign’s response? It’s a doozy.

Romney senior New Hampshire adviser Tom Rath tells CBS News the ad is “exactly what we want.” […]

Pressed on whether it was unfair to lop off the top of Mr. Obama’s comments — which would show the president was quoting the McCain camp — Rath said, “He did say the words. That’s his voice.”

There’s no way around this — the argument is just blisteringly stupid. Yes, Obama said those words, and yes, that’s the president’s voice, but the whole point of the controversy is that Romney wrenched the words from context, changing the meaning and deceiving the public.

It’s why ThinkProgress put together a video of Romney saying all kinds of interesting things, which, when taken out of context, show the former governor calling for higher taxes, insisting that there’s nothing unique about the United States, arguing that government knows better than free people, and rejecting the very idea of fiscal responsibility.

In each instance, to use Tom Rath’s reasoning, Romney “did say the words,” and that is Romney’s “voice.”

ABC News’ Jake Tapper said of Romney’s ad, “[I]t’s not just misleading. It’s TV-station-refuse-to-air-it-misleading.”

Agreed. Romney’s willingness to lie to voters raises important questions about his integrity, but the question now becomes whether television stations will participate in the lie by airing a spot that’s proven to be deceptive.

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
  • Chris on November 22, 2011 3:55 PM:

    ...the question now becomes whether television stations will participate in the lie by airing a spot that’s proven to be deceptive.


  • karen marie on November 22, 2011 3:59 PM:

    Someone should grab Mitt's hand, hit him in the face with it and then tell him to stop hitting himself. What a juvenile!

  • kevo on November 22, 2011 4:06 PM:

    Yeah Romney and his minions are trading a short term duplicitous gain for an eternity of damnation for being such extensive and intensive human dweebs! -Kevo

  • DisgustedWithItAll on November 22, 2011 4:16 PM:

    For crying out loud, call Romney out on it with a Dem ad showing what Romney said and then showing exactly what Obama said. Then conclude IN REAL BIG LETTERS:


    Hit him over and over with it. Problem solved.

  • nitpicker on November 22, 2011 4:19 PM:

    The law does not allow for stations to censor candidates' ads. Period.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on November 22, 2011 4:22 PM:

    @nitpicker: Not sure that's true. Montana TV stations refused to run an anti-Tester ad from Karl Rove ad because of blatant untruthfulness.

  • Ronval912 on November 22, 2011 4:25 PM:

    The Obama campaign should just string together Romney voice saying "I blow goats"

  • Michael W on November 22, 2011 4:28 PM:

    You know, I could almost feel sorry for the guy. If one of the repugs' ABC sock-puppets is calling him out on his, Mittens is not likely to weasel out of it so easily this time.

    It's about f-in' time.

  • bleh on November 22, 2011 4:29 PM:

    I don't know whether the law has anything to say about it. I would imagine that a station's contract with the advertiser does, though.

    Certainly a station can refuse to run an ad, and forego the revenue from doing so. But I would expect that, if a station materially altered the content of an ad, the advertiser would have a case for withholding payment (or demanding it back).

    All that said, nothing would keep a TV station from -- if it wanted to -- running the ad as is, and then immediately afterward show or claim it to be a lie.

    Any way you look at it, though, the ad is gonna get around, and Republicans will use any station that doesn't show it as "proof of liberal media bias." In that sense, it's a winner. The question now is, can enough of a stink be made about its entirely and knowingly false character -- it's not just misleading; it's deliberately false -- that it ultimately costs Romney -- whose character is already suspect -- more than it benefits him.

  • Danp on November 22, 2011 4:34 PM:

    This ad proves Romney is not ready for prime time. Even Bush and Rove wouldn't do something this stupid. Romney may have finally disproven the adage that no one ever underestimated the ignorance of the American public. They may not all take it to be a disqualifier, but no one will be left wondering whether Mitt has any integrity.

  • -syzygy- on November 22, 2011 4:41 PM:

    ---And this twerp, (if he wins) is going to pick the next set of Supreme Court justices.

  • Anonymous on November 22, 2011 4:43 PM:

    The biggest question about Romney, in the view of the GOP base, is whether he has any scruples whatsoever. The ad is Mitt's way of showing them that they have nothing to worry about. I think the word for what Mitt is doing is "signalling."

  • Michael on November 22, 2011 4:47 PM:

    Oh, sure....YOU say it's a blatantly dishonest lie. But that's just one side of the story. Real reporters like Ron Fournier and Paul Kane would know better. And that's what Tom Rath is counting on.

  • arkie on November 22, 2011 5:10 PM:

    Do you think that the Romney campaign thinks it can get away with this because Stewart and Colbert are taking a break this week?

    Captcha: otaors comedians which translate as "comedians who do a better job of reporting the truth than so-called "professional journalists"".

  • dcshungu on November 22, 2011 5:15 PM:

    Romney is running to become the Mis-Leader of America; why should he bother with such arcane concepts as ethical conduct when they are not required for the job he is running for?

  • T2 on November 22, 2011 5:15 PM:

    you'll never get anywhere trying to reveal a GOP candidate's lies. Lying is a virtue in the Republican Party. Look at Nixon, Bush (WMD's). Any GOP candidate who refuses to lie would be drummed out of the Party. And yes, I know Bill Clinton lied also, so "both sides" do it.

  • TR on November 22, 2011 5:20 PM:

    Romney may win the nomination, but the media is about to give him the Al Gore treatment and the John Kerry treatment at the same time.

  • peachy on November 22, 2011 5:27 PM:

    Stations may refuse to air an ad only if the candidate is not the sponsor. If Romney is the sponsor, then it must be aired as-is. The anti-Tester ad likely was sponsored by a PAC. In such cases the station does have discretion to refuse. BTW stations do not have discretion to add disclaimers to candidate=sponsored ads unless all candidates for that office or nomination are treated similarly. (The only exception is for ads that contain abortion footage.)

    It's a matter of statute: Section 315 of the Communications Act (the same law that gave us "equal time"). Not much flexibility for stations or the FCC there.

  • stormskies on November 22, 2011 5:33 PM:

    meanwhile the vile, evil, duplicit soulless goon is saying this ....

    November 22, 2011 01:00 PM

    Romney: Cut Health Care for the Poor, Not Defense Spending
    By David

    Crossposted from Video Cafe

    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Monday suggested using drastic cuts to health care for the poorest Americans to fund the Department of Defense.

    Speaking to employees of BAE Systems, one of the nation's largest defense contractors, the candidate said that President Barack Obama and members of the "super committee" should agree to scale back the Medicaid program in order to prevent $600 billion in cuts to defense spending over ten years.

    "A doomsday scenario for our military is not the right course, given where the world is headed," Romney remarked. "I would call on the president -- and do call on the president -- to immediately introduce legislation which says we will not have a $600 billion cut to America's military. We should not cut any funding from our base Department of Defense budget. That should not occur."

    "And I would apply the $600 billion [in cuts] that were anticipated being imposed upon the military, I would take those and apply them to other parts of the federal budget," he continued. "And there are a number of candidates for that. One of them, of course, would be to take something like Medicaid, which is our health care program for the poor, and return that program to the states."

    Since President Barack Obama took office, the defense budget has actually grown from $513 billion to $530 billion, according to The Associated Press. Additional spending on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has increased from $153 billion to $159 billion.

    The Congressional Budget Office estimates (PDF) that the total base defense budget will increase to $665 billion by 2028 if there are no cuts. Because the triggered cuts are spread over a 10-year period, overall defense spending would still grow each year, albeit at a slower rate.

  • jdb on November 22, 2011 6:00 PM:

    There is more fun to be had from this: Here is a video of Mitt Romney 'praising' President Obama.


  • Cha on November 22, 2011 6:23 PM:

    That's a great idea, Disgustedwithitall!

  • nitpicker on November 22, 2011 9:39 PM:

    Romney says Americans are lazy.

  • Rob Curylo on November 22, 2011 9:44 PM:

    The best lead-in to that video be the quote "“He did say the words. That’s his voice. -- The Mitt Romney campaign.”

  • Montana on November 22, 2011 11:28 PM:

    I know the Republicans will cry foul -- more horrid regulation -- but hasn't the time come for some sort of truth in political advertising legislation on our airwaves?

    Any of our so-called representatives willing to actually propose such a radical idea to protect the American public?

  • N.K. O'Dell on November 23, 2011 12:10 AM:

    Don't know if anyone else has picked up on this, but Romney's campaign has committed plagiarism by failing to cite Sen. McCain as the author of the quote which Romney's campaign attributed to our President. This, as we all know, is punishable by law. It is especially egregious because it represents a potential candidate for the highest office of our land. If Romney's campaign were formally charged with this crime, that move, alone, might cut down on some of the dirty ads. Also noted is that Romney, himself, stated that he approved the "message."

  • nitpicker on November 23, 2011 8:16 AM:

    @DisgustedWithItAll: Yeah, that's because it was an "issue ad" from a third party. Candidates' ads are protected under the law and cannot be censored.

  • Ted Frier on November 23, 2011 9:36 AM:

    Just as appalling was former RNC Chair Michael Steele's craven and immoral defense of Romney's ad as "just hardball politics," which he claims both sides practice. But when pressed by Bob Shrum to come up with a specific example where Democrats at the highest presidential level had engaged in anything so demonstrably dishonest, Steele was only able to mumble generalized assertions that both sides are equally guilty. Steele by the way also made the same excuses for Romney when his ad men accused Obama as dissing Americans as "lazy."

  • Corvus illustris on November 23, 2011 2:33 PM:

    Romney must have gotten this idea from reading the Bible. It is clearly stated therein that there is no God (Ps 14:1 with the first clause removed).

  • labman57 on November 23, 2011 9:16 PM:

    Once again, Republican politicians and pundits demonstrate that when reality conflicts with their (frequently irrational and hyperbolic) rhetoric, they opt to ignore reality.

    Romney and the other GOP candidates really don't give a crap whether their talking points are factually accurate -- all that matters is whether they can successfully sell their tripe to the American voting public.

    The character and ethical conduct of candidates on the campaign trail is likely a reflection of the manner in which they would run the Executive Branch should they be elected POTUS. If they blatantly lie so easily in order to garner a few votes, they will no doubt conduct themselves in a similar unethical, Machiavellian manner when promoting public policy while in the White House.