Friday, August 10, 2012

Lies Are the New Truth

Paul Waldman wrote Lies Are the New Truth:

"I've been paying very, very close attention to political ads for a long time. In my former career as an academic I did a lot of research on political ads. I've watched literally every single presidential general election campaign ad ever aired since the first ones in 1952. I've seen ads that were more inflammatory than this one, and ads that were in various ways more reprehensible than this one (not many, but some). But I cannot recall a single presidential campaign ad in the history of American politics that lied more blatantly than this one.

You can get the details on those lies here or here, but it's something quite rare in politics. Usually candidates deceive voters by taking something their opponent says out of context, or giving a tendentious reading to facts, or distorting the effects of policies. But in this case, Romney and his people looked at a policy of the Obama administration to allow states to pursue alternative means of placing welfare recipients in jobs, and said, 'Well, how about if we just say that they're eliminating all work requirements and just sending people checks?' I have no idea if someone in the room said, 'We could say that, but it's not even remotely true,' and then someone else said, 'Who gives a crap?', or if nobody ever suggested in the first place that this might be problematic. But either way, they decided that they don't even have to pretend to be telling the truth anymore.

To get back to Newt, here's what happens when someone is questioned about it. Newt's argument is—and I'm not exaggerating here—that although the Romney ad makes false claims, that's OK because Barack Obama and those who work for him are, in Newt's opinion, the kind of people who would gut work requirements if they could, so therefore it's OK to say that they are actually doing it, even though they aren't."

Kevin Drum commented: "This is what's so striking about Romney's campaign. As Paul says, it's common to twist and distort and cherry pick. But Romney has flatly claimed that Obama said something that, in fact, a John McCain aide said. He's snipped out sentences from an Obama speech and spliced the two halves back together so nobody could tell what he did. Then he did it again to another Obama speech. And he unequivocally said that Obama plans to drop work requirements for welfare even though he's done nothing of the sort...But this is different. This is a presidential candidate just baldly making stuff up on the assumption that nobody will ever know."

Ryan Cooper followed up: "I half-disagree...It’s a slap in the face whose arrogant contempt couldn’t be more obvious. Romney is saying to the press, “You’re stupid, and gullible, and I dare you to call a spade a spade.” Now, someone betting on journalistic integrity in this country would lose a lot of money. But a lot of people watch Anderson Cooper. Even Brian Williams couldn’t stomach the ad which edited out the part where Obama was quoting a McCain staffer. Seems to me that we have a decent shot of getting these lies covered for what they are. Worth a shot, anyway."

Paul Krugman in Culture of Fraud. "The big story of the week among the dismal science set is the Romney campaign’s white paper on economic policy, which represents a concerted effort by three economists — Glenn Hubbard, Greg Mankiw, and John Taylor — to destroy their own reputations. (Yes, there was a fourth author, Kevin Hassett. But the co-author of “Dow 36,000″ doesn’t exactly have a reputation to destroy).

And when I talk about destroying reputations, I don’t just mean saying things I disagree with. I mean flat-out, undeniable professional malpractice. It’s one thing to make shaky or even demonstrably wrong arguments. It’s something else to cite the work of other economists, claiming that it supports your position, when it does no such thing — and don’t take my word for it, listen to the protests of the cited economists."

"Simon Wren-Lewis wonders what could have possessed Mankiw and Taylor to sell their souls this way. I won’t pretend to have a full answer. But surely part of it is simply that they have been caught up in the vortex of the broader Romney campaign — a campaign that has made fraudulence part of its standard operating procedure. Remember, Romney spent months castigating President Obama because he “apologizes for America” — something Obama has never, in fact, actually done. Then he spent weeks declaring that Obama has denigrated small business by claiming that businessmen didn’t actually build their own firms — all based on a remark that was clearly about infrastructure."

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