In recovery, the first step is admitting that you have a problem. For Republicans to ever get to that step, they’ll have to admit that they’re capable of having a problem.
Forget the polling data that says vast numbers of Republicans think an organization that no longer exists stole the election, or that one of the most investigated presidents in American history is hiding something, or that the economic crash of 2008 is the fault of the Democratic Party because of a bill passed in 1977.
This is a party that still brags about George W. Bush’s average unemployment rate of 5.2 percent, which is like boasting that the Titanic’s average location was somewhere in the middle of the ocean.
This is a party that blasts “socially liberal fiscal conservatives” for not caring about the debt, as if the world isn’t aware that their real goal — tax breaks, especially for the richest – is the reason we went from surplus to a deficit faster than W. could invade the wrong country.
This is a party that is still defending Mitt Romney’s most ridiculously offensive lie just days before the man who beat Mitt by about five million votes is about to be sworn in… again.
The one enduring honor Mitt Romney won in 2012 was PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year.” And Republicans are still arguing that Mitt was telling the truth when he said that Jeep was moving American jobs to China.
Of course, arguing with PolitiFact is a bipartisan sport. Democrats appreciated that Sarah Palin’s “death panels,” 2009, and Frank Luntz’s “government takeover of health care,” 2010, both took the fact-checking website’s annual prize. And they were aghast when the left won the award in 2011 for saying that voting for Paul Ryan’s privatization plan was a vote to “end Medicare.”
The proper phrasing was “end Medicare, as we know it,” which was objectively true. Ryan basically admitted that Democrats were right when he rewrote his plan to include a trace of the Medicare guarantee and a “public option” for people who wanted to stay on traditional Medicare. Regardless, Democrats may have taken to hyperbole and PolitiFact relished the chance to display “balance.”
But Mitt Romney’s 2012 Jeep lie was a lie that’s rarely seen in politics. It wasn’t poll-tested word play, as PolitiFact’s previous “biggest lies” had been. It was lie so objectively false that a corporation was forced to fact-check the man who said, “Corporations are people, my friend” – Willard Mitt Romney.
It’s a lie so damning that when you read all the way through the “Whoops: PolitiFact’s ‘Lie of the Year’ Turns Out to Be True” post on the Weekly Standard website, you get to an update that basically admits that PolitiFact was right and Romney was lying.
To sum up the lie quickly: As Romney became aware he was losing Ohio and thus the presidency, he became desperate, so desperate that he repeated a meme from the right-wing media that was demonstrably false: “I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep — now owned by the Italians — is thinking of moving all production to China.”
The key word there is “all,” which is rich for so many reasons. First of all, “all” the production of Jeeps in America would have been gone if Romney’s plan to send the company into traditional bankruptcy without federal funds had won. Secondly, Delphi – a company the Romneys have millions invested in – shipped all of its union jobs in Ohio to China.
When Romney was called out on his lie by pretty much anyone paying attention, the Romney campaign never corrected the lie. Instead, it made the same inference in a campaign ad – accusing Jeep of moving jobs to China at the expense of American jobs. The truth, as most anyone in the Midwest can tell you, is that Jeep is expanding in China for the Chinese market as they expand in America for the American market.
Romney picked up his big lie from a conservative blogger and desperately ran with it. Just as the NRA picked up the false story from Breitbart.com that the president’s daughters’ school had armed guards, and put it in an ad.
Now, there are some Republicans on the right who admit that the GOP does have a problem.
The National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru countered Republican conventional wisdom after the election that Romney lost because he wasn’t conservative enough with a stark retort: “Romney was not a drag on the Republican Party. The Republican Party was a drag on him.” In Ohio, for instance, Romney vastly outperformed Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel. It’s a stark assessment of a party that’s on the decline because their message appeals to too few people.
Reportedly Ponnuru’s article was handed out at the House GOP’s retreat — where they decided to retreat on the debt ceiling. Paul Ryan, who seemed to have become a drag on Romney, asked his caucus to lower their expectations and pick their battles wisely.
(GLOAT ALERT: Who could have seen Ryan’s humbling would lead to a break in the deadlock in D.C.? I did, actually, in September of 2012.)
The truth is that the GOP’s unfavorable rating is skyrocketing and the public is in no mood for more crisis politics. Basically Republicans have a huge problem that’s getting worse – and a few of them recognize it.
But until they stop defending their past failures, Republicans’ hopes for the future are increasingly dim. And that’s not a lie.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak