The old saying goes “There are no referees in politics.” But there are fact checkers — Politifact, FactCheck.org, The Fact Checker. These “independent” seers like to think they’re defending the truth. But Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have figured out how to use them to spread lies.
Many of these fact checkers peer into the words of both major parties and do their best to suggest that both sides are the same – despite the fact, for instance, that the GOP’s nominee Mitt Romney has more “Pants on Fire” rulings than any national politician.
Rarely are fact checkers as unanimous and righteous in their condemnation of a falsehood as they have been of the Romney campaign’s claim that the president took the work requirement out of Welfare. It’s a flat out lie. But it’s also the first ad that has moved the dial for Romney. You may have listened as a Romney pollster, when confronted with that fact that the attack is false, said, “We aren’t going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”
Instead of letting fact checkers edit their campaign, Romney’s team has a better use for fact checkers: campaign surrogates.
The “birther” scandal shows that debunking lies does little to quell the lie and much more to spread it. It’s a tactic Mitt Romney has used effectively for a year now as he’s accused the president of “apologizing for America.” That never happened. But to debunk the lie, you have to repeat it. It’s classic “He’ll look like hell denying it” politics.
Although modern politicians are generally too smart to repeat lies about themselves, the Romney camp knows the fact checkers will. So how do you dictate what the media will be talking about tomorrow? Make purposely deceptive statements about the issues you want to highlight.
What are Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney’s biggest weaknesses? Medicare; the auto bailout; a hugely unpopular Congress and Ryan’s record of voting for Bush-era surplus-blowing policies.
So Ryan systematically made an “attack by assertion rather than accusation” about each of these issues. By making these attacks in deceptive ways that either ignored or left out crucial facts, he forced the media to repeat his assertions.
From the morning Romney announced Ryan as his running mate, the candidates have been making the assertion that the president funneled – or sometimes “robbed” — $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. This assertion is a classic half-truth in several ways. The money comes from savings that extend the life of the program. Ryan voted to keep the cuts but not to fund ObamaCare.
But you see? We’ve fallen into the precise trap that Ryan set.
While you and I and the fact checkers debunk his half-truth, we’re ignoring the larger issue. Ryan makes huge cuts to current seniors by gutting Medicaid now and then turning Medicare into a voucher program that passes the costs on to seniors. Point: Romney/Ryan.
The best part of this super-sneaky strategy is that it’s fool-proof. Republicans can admit what they’re doing, yet fact checkers and incredulous Democrats still fall into the trap. “Not only was everything Congressman Ryan said factually accurate, but by the Chicago folks highlighting this, they’re advancing our argument,” Sean Spicer, the chief spokesperson for the RNC, said today.
And I have to admit they’re right. Look at the one GM factory in Jannesville that Ryan brought up, deceptively blaming the president for its closure today even though it was scheduled to close during the Bush Administration. We’re doing it again!
Instead of talking about the dozens of GM factories the president helped save or the hundreds of thousands of industrial jobs that the auto rescue protected, we’re talking about one that’s closed. Point: Romney/Ryan.
Instead of talking about how Paul Ryan’s budget increases the deficit, we’re talking about how he voted against Simpson-Bowles. Instead of talking about Paul Ryan’s role in this incredibly unpopular Congress that held the debt limit hostage for a debt deal they won’t even honor, we’re talking about the U.S. credit rating.
These lies are clearly strategically placed, which becomes obvious when you think about what Ryan was really arguing. He wants fewer cuts to government? He wants the government to decide which factories stay open? He wants to protect the poor but cut tens of millions of them from Medicaid?
These aren’t his beliefs, they’re his smokescreen. As long as we’re parsing his words, we’re not talking about how harmful his vision for America actually would be. And that’s obviously what Paul Ryan and the GOP want. The entire convention theme “We Built It!” is based on a deceptive misquote from the president.
It’s nearly impossible to imagine the president lying the way Ryan or Romney do. But if he doesn’t find some way to break through to the truth, the real referees in politics — the voters — may end up being swept up in the tide of lies.
Photo Credit: AP/J Scott Applewhite