Did the Republican National Convention highlight a new age of political dishonesty?
Most people would agree that finding a politician who lies is as easy as coming across a man who pays taxes. After all, politicians are normally bred in a law school and/or business school and taught how to win regardless of how. But while a legislator who lies isn’t all that new, the method and rate of how they fib has changed in the last dozen years.
With exceptions such as Nixon, Bush Jr. or Clinton who each told a real whopper, lying in politics used to be reserved for incumbents who simply went back on their campaign promises. This election cycle, rather than lying about their own policies, the focus appears to be lying about the other candidate. Nowhere was this more evident than at last week’s RNC.
Before the Republican National Convention started, GOP pollster Neil Newhouse told an ABC News forum in Tampa that “We’re not going let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” Newhouse was referring to a Mitt Romney ad that claimed Barack Obama had “gutted” work requirements for welfare recipients. Obama had simply given that option to certain States that had asked for more control.
So with the stage set, the Republicans wasted no time dedicating a whole night to “We Built This”, taken from a completely out of contex Obama quote. That same night New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said during his keynote address that “we choose respect over love” meaning Americans wanted the truth rather than political pandering. He then went on to say “We have a nominee who will tell us the truth and who will lead with conviction. And now he has a running mate who will do the same”. Less than twenty-four hours later, Christie was made a liar.
The night after the New Jersey Governor spoke those words, said running mate Paul Ryan gave his Vice Presidential acceptance speech. Now, I’ve heard politicians of all shapes and sizes stretch the truth from time to time, but I’ve never heard so much nonsense come out of a single speech. Here is but a sample:
• He blamed the nation’s credit downgrade last summer on Obama even though the agency specifically blamed Republicans for refusing to accept any kind of further tax revenue.
• He said Obama had added more to the national debt than all former presidents put together. Although Obama inherited an annual debt of $1.2 trillion from Bush, the debt has risen by one third making Ryan’s claim impossible.
• Ryan claimed that Obama had broken a campaign promise to save a GM plant in Wisconsin, not only did Obama make no promise, but the plant closed during Bush’s term.
• He accused Obama of doing nothing with the creation of Bowles-Simpson (National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform). Ryan actually led republicans to vote against the plan.
• Ryan also mentioned that Obama had cut $716 billion from Medicare. Obama simply eliminated inefficiencies that were no longer required thanks to the affordable care act. Ryan’s own budget called for the same cuts.
Notice these are all falsehoods about Obama. It’s as if political speech has become an offshoot of television attack ads where making the other guy look bad is more important than making yourself look good.
Paul Ryan’s speech was actually covered half decently in the corporate media; at least once they got their facts straight, even Fox “so-called” News had a couple commentators state that his speech was full of lies.
Mitt Romney for his part did mention a couple of these fabrications during his acceptance speech the following night, but mainly stood clear of talking about anything. He failed to mention climate change, immigration, Afghanistan, social security or financial reform.
It seems even in the information age, the Republican Party is practicing “proof by assertion”, where if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. What’s scarier than the Republicans adopting a strategy used by Adolf Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels is that it just might work; Republicans know that a good part of the electorate are uneducated or uninformed and don’t pursue the facts.
I’m curious to see if this strategy continues in the coming months. I’m equally curious to see if the Obama campaign adopts a similar approach should they start to fall behind in the polls. If this is to be the new way campaigns are run, the people will have to get informed even more than since their word will mean even less than it did before.