I hate to use words such as “lie” in what I hope can be rational, informed political discourse. But there is a significant difference in political speech that is puffery or exaggeration, and that which is demonstrably false. The current campaign against President Obama – it is difficult to characterize it as a campaign for Mitt Romney – is rife with blatant lies that are continually repeated. Let’s look at examples from just last night’s Republican Convention. Much of what follows is from reported accounts. While it was my intention to watch the entire proceedings, I felt the same listless torpor that seemingly affected so many of the televised delegates, and ended up going to bed without even being able to watch until the end Tim Pawlenty’s speech.
- “You didn’t build it” – It’s not bad enough that Obama’s remarks recognizing the help so many of us got – from parents, teachers, etc. – has been blatantly distorted by Romney himself, but it was actually the theme of the Convention’s first full night. A theme built on a lie. Here is what Obama actually said:
“Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something—there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that.” (As quoted in Dave Weigel’s Slate column on August 29.)
- “Obama hasn’t negotiated any trade agreements” – This is a line that Romney has used repeatedly, and was said again last night by either Pawlenty or Rob Portman. It’s not true since there have been agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama, a fact acknowledged by Condoleezza Rice in her remarks.
- “Closing the GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin,” home of Paul Ryan – The plant was closed, but the announcement by GM was made during George Bush’s Presidency. Ryan, the conservative icon in favor of small government, lobbied for saving the plant and voted for the GM bailout. Still, he blamed it on Obama.
- “Failure of Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction plan” – Yes, the bipartisan group did not achieve the necessary votes to advance the plan recommended by the majority of the Commission. One of the negative votes preventing the plan from moving forward was one Paul Ryan, a “fact” not mentioned by the VP nominee as he condemned the President for the Commission’s failure.
- “Lowering of United States credit rating” – Ryan blamed the President for this. The facts? It was lowered following the brinksmanship of Congressional Republicans over extending the debt ceiling at the end of last year.
Unfortunately, this is just a partial list from last night. Tonight, we get the Prevaricator-in-Chief. The over-under on demonstrably false statements made by Mitt Romney is six. I’m going with the over.
But the more basic question is a simple one. If President Obama is as bad as many in the Republican leadership would have us believe, why is it necessary to lie repeatedly about his positions or actions?