I'm sure the Romney campaign wanted desperately for the convention to be about him and his issues. Instead, at least in some circles that hopefully will widen, the unprecedented dishonesty over issues is crowding out the issues themselves.
Of the six claims made at the convention last night (August 28th) to have been rated by Politifact, only one got a "mostly true", when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said that the federal government has added $5 trillion in debt over the past four years.
What Politifact didn't say in its story were obvious caveats that any real journalist would feel obliged to point out, such as the fact that Presidents only propose budgets, they don't unilaterally dictate spending. Congress writes budgets based on those proposals, and if they feel like it, are free to ignore them and do just about anything they want. Democrats in the Senate and Republicans in the House bear virtually all of the responsibility for the current state of spending and debt. And that's not even digging into the truly meaningful details, like the cost of that debt (extremely cheap right now with low interest rates), who owns it (Americans own more than half of all debt) and the reason for it ($238 billion for the Bush/Republican-Obama/Democratic tax cuts and $250+ billion for unemployment insurance as a result of the recession.)
The base claim by Christie, at least, was true. Or "Mostly True", anyway. The rest aren't that pretty. Christie also got a "half true" rating for saying that he gave New Jersey a balanced budget when it actually has a $10+ billion deficit, and saying that taxes were raised 115 times in eight years before he took office when not all of them were taxes or tax increases.
Artur Davis said the PPACA (health care reform) requires middle-class Americans to buy insurance even if they can't afford it, which Politifact said was "mostly false". Americans who can't afford insurance on their own can qualify for subsidies, and expanded coverage under Medicaid. And of course, middle-class Americans who already have insurance don't have to buy any, either.
Michele Bachmann said "A report just came out that if we continue with President Obama's policies, we're looking at over 9 percent unemployment next year in the fourth quarter." It turns out that the Congressional Budget Office said that unemployment might reach 9.1% next year only if current law (defense and entitlement spending amounting to over $600 billion in a single year) remains unchanged. Politifact rated her claim "false", because everyone in Congress and the White House has plans for changing things next year (and every year). Both Republicans and Democrats, including Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, want to avoid the Budget Control Act automatic cuts that the CBO says would give us 9%+ unemployment. I'm actually surprised they didn't rate her claim "pants on fire".
Rick Santorum, not to be outdone by Michele Bachmann, repeated the lie that President Obama has waved "the work requirement for welfare". That one did get a "pants on fire" rating, and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback just admitted that this claim is a lie. But Santorum isn't the only Republican that's been repeating that lie. The Romney campaign has been airing dozens of ads claiming that President Obama gutted welfare reform and waved the work requirement. Politifact gave the Romney Campaign a "pants on fire" rating for those ads, as has FactCheck.org, the Washington Post fact checker, and CNN.
To fully illustrate the contempt that Mitt Romney and his campaign (and Republicans who repeat this lie) are showing for the truth, consider what Romney himself said on August 9th:
You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad. They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they’re wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them.
Politifact, FactCheck.org, the Washington Post, CNN, and even the ultra-conservative Governor of Kansas have all said that Romney's ads about changes to welfare are blatant lies, yet the Romney campaign is increasing ad buys for those ads all over the nation, and his surrogates are repeating that lie at the national convention. Romney's own pollster made the campaigns true stance on fact-checking crystal clear just a few days ago:
Critics have for many years inveighed against "false equivalence" or "false balance" in the mainstream press. This long crusade has finally achieved its grail, or at least a version of it: In this campaign season, political reporters have been shucking the old he-said-she-said formulation and directly declaring that certain claims are false. This new approach was signaled on Sunday, when, as James Fallows has noted, The New York Times, in a front-page story, flatly stated that a Romney ad was "falsely charging that Mr. Obama has 'quietly announced' plans to eliminate work and job training requirements for welfare beneficiaries."
But what if it turns out that when the press calls a lie a lie, nobody cares?
Here in Tampa, the new assertiveness is getting its first test on a big stage, and so far the results are not encouraging. As Ben Smith of BuzzFeed has pointed out, the Romney campaign is simply swatting aside the media's objections to its welfare ad: "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers," said Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster.
But it doesn't stop there. Lying isn't easy when you've got sites like Politifact and FactCheck.org to let truth back into the room. So the right has slowly taken to waging a war on fact checking itself, calling it "the liberal media's latest attempt to control the discourse". And that's one slimy attack on top of another, the myth of the liberal media, the right's original strategy to end journalism and turn everything, including outlandish lies, into legitimate opinion.
The website PolitiFact is going to be truth-squadding the Republican convention speakers this week, delivering verdicts on which claims are “mostly true” and which deserve a “pants on fire” rating. Our advice: Pay no attention to those ratings. PolitiFact can’t be trusted to get the story right.
Things left unsaid: Republicans routinely rely on Politifact ratings when it benefits their cause, happily use their ratings in their campaign ads in those circumstances, and ignore the fact that Politifact will also be "truth-squadding" the Democratic National Convention next week, and have been tracking President Obama's campaign promises for almost four years and have found many of them have been broken. (Along with GOP promises from 2010, which have been broken at a higher percentage. This goes back to the idea that the right *has* to wage war on journalism and fact-checking, because the right lies more than the left does, and in any fair and meaningful fact check of politics, any neutral and unbiased analysis would show that.)
Every politician lies, some more than others. But this is truly unprecedented in politics. America has never seen this level of dishonesty before and one has to marvel at the intensity and consistency of this sustained campaign of lies and propaganda, that even the media is starting to bitch about it. At this point it doesn't matter what Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and their surrogates want to do about taxes and jobs. It's impossible to discuss any of that because that entire campaign is built on lies.