Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, August 16, 2012


How do you defend yourself?

Booman makes a point that could be important come November.  Romney has taken political lying to a remarkable level.  It started with his selective editing of Obama's remarks, where Obama was quoting the McCain campaign in 2008 to describe his position in 2012.  It was so remarkably dishonest, that even the DC press corps called him on it.

Now, all campaigns spin the truth.  For instance, when the GOP calls Ryan's plan for Medicare an effort to "save Medicare" that's spin.  Medicare will not run out of money, it will just cease to be Medicare.  That's spin.  The Soptic ad is entirely factual, but it makes a case by insinuation.  That's spin.

But Romney has been remarkable in the overall consistency of his inconsistency.  There was the remarkable moment in the GOP debates where he made crap up about his own name.  Alone it means nothing, but within the context of saying things like "Obama is going to end the work requirement in welfare" or "Obama is going to cut $717 B from Medicare benefits" we see a pattern.

Basically, the tactic is as old as Goebbels' observation about the "Big Lie" (and no, I'm not calling Romney a Nazi).  If you keep lying, people get tired of calling you on it.

This is at the heart of Romney's "unhinged" attack on Obama for Biden-being-Biden.  In order to lie as much as the Romney campaign is, you have to work the refs, ie the press.  You have to caterwaul about how mean a meany mean old Obama is.

First, it shows the limitations on the new trend in "Fact checking" at newspapers.  Kessler in particular has been atrocious.  The pathological need for "balance" by saying both sides do it means that Romney can lie constantly and it's all the same because the Soptic ad implies that Romney "is the leading cause of wife-cancer."  Romney won't release his tax returns because they are obviously politically damaging, but Harry Reid is a liar for saying someone told him something.

Second, it leads to the sort of disgust with politics that will drive down voter turnout.  The more people vote, the better it likely is for Obama.  It's at the heart of the voter ID/poll taxes and voter roll purges that GOP operatives around the country are engaging in.  As Jon Chait has noted, this election might be the GOP's last chance to reverse the changes Obama has made (ACA, Dodd-Frank, various regulations) and capitalize on what is looking like the eventual recovery that will come regardless.  Demographically, they are screwed.  But win one more election and see if you can't rig the game to ride out the demographic trends.

I guess we'll see.  But the press has its limits.  Dana Milbank notes that what makes this season different is that, indeed, "both sides do it".  The Democrats are not going to lay down and get swiftboated.  He rightly points out that was what done to John Kerry was just as ugly - if not more ugly - than what is being done today.  Sarah Palin accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists."  What has made this election different has been both the complete POLICY mendacity of Romney - he's lying about factual things rather than just spinning them - and his whining about being hit back.

I think Romney looks weak as hell when he's whining.  His unfavorables are through the roof.  Obama's are still decent.  Romney simply cannot budge the personal unfavorable numbers at his convention.  But in Charlotte, we will see the old Obama, whom people still like.  Therefore, Romney's only hope is to tear down Obama's personal numbers.

Of course, the Ryan pick means that even if he DOES destroy Obama's favorability numbers, he still has to defend Ryan's extreme agenda.

But he'll probably just lie about that.  No, check that, he's already started.

UPDATE: Here's a good example of how well they are fouling the waters:

Mitt Romney is running the first Dadaist presidential campaign.

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