Given my schedule, I watched, listened to, and read about as much of the Republican National Convention as I could. And my takeaway was that it was the most fundamentally dishonest political convention I can remember.
That's saying a lot, given that you have to factor into that mix the Republican convention of 2004, which nominated the single most incompetent president of my lifetime, George W. Bush. People had to make up nice things to say about him, while also telling scurrilous lies about his opponent, John Kerry (most particularly in the area of his war record--which was one of the greatest weaknesses of the combat-avoiding Bush). The Democratic convention of 1968 was no picnic, either. And yes, I've been watching conventions for a very long time.
But none topped this week's Tampa fiasco. Tuesday of the convention was built entirely on a single lie: the gross mischaracterization of President Obama's simple, factual statement that American businesses benefit from being in America. There were, of course, additional lies thrown out by the speakers, but even if they had all spoken absolute truth, the underlying theme of "We Built It" had already cast the pall of dishonesty over the proceedings.
Wednesday's big event was VP nominee Paul Ryan's speech. I'm not going to deconstruct it here, since it has already been the subject of more scrutiny, based on the number of lies contained within, than any other single speech I can remember. Finally, it seems, the mainstream media are cluing in to the fact that these people are dishonest, and are beginning to report on that, rather than framing it as "Republicans say X, while Democrats say Y." Truth is truth and lies are lies, and Ryan was flinging lies as if he'd been partnered with Mitt Romney for years.
And yes, Sarah Palin warns us to stay away from what she calls the "lamestream media." But that's because she's an idiot. She wants you to bury your head within the ideological bubble of Fox and Rush and Beck and company, where you won't be challenged by any non-approved notions. The fact is that the New York Times and the Washington Post remain two of the best news organizations around, with reporters like Dana Priest and James Risen committing real journalism on a regular basis. These (and other) sources are writing the first draft of history, and to ignore them out of an ideological bias is to rob yourself of real understanding of the world you live in. We need to sample a wide variety of news sources to stay well informed, and the mainstream media should be part of the diet.
Paul Ryan's speech has been called out by the Associated Press, Fact Check.org, the Atlantic, Fox News.com, the NY Times, the Washington Post (and the Post again and again and again and again), the Huffington Post, CBS News, the New Republic, Esquire...the list is too long. Here's a pageful of links, but it's probably incomplete, too. Still, you should take a look, because it's impressive to see just how many well-respected news organizations are calling Paul Ryan the liar that he is.
Thursday night's Mitt Romney speech was longer on warm fuzzies and shorter on detail than Ryan's--but it was, at its core, every bit as dishonest. Since this series of posts is about the worst Romney lie of any given week, I won't go through it point by point (anyway, Steve Benen has already done that).
To me, the worst lie of Romney's speech came right at the beginning, and what makes it the worst is that it's the one his entire candidacy--the overall Republican strategy for 2012, in fact--is based on.
Here's how Gov. Romney put it: "Four years ago, I know that many Americans felt a fresh excitement about the possibilities of a new president. That president was not the choice of our party but Americans always come together after elections."
Maybe Americans always used to come together after elections (though I don't think that's necessarily true, either). But after the 2008 election, not only did Republican politicians not come together, as Americans, to help solve the real crisis we faced, they intentionally blocked the new president's efforts to deal with that crisis.
That's not just my opinion. That is what we used to refer to as a "fact," before the Republican party decided that the word had no meaning.
In a new book called Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives, author Robert Draper describes a Republican confab that took place on the night of President Obama's inauguration. Among those present was VP nominee Paul Ryan. The topic was how to make the president and the Democratic Congress elected with him fail at their jobs. One of those attending, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R/CA) said, "If you act like you're the minority, you're going to stay in the minority. We've gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed the plan several times. He said, "“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
And he followed that up later with, “We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off of these proposals. Because we thought — correctly, I think — that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan. When you hang the ‘bipartisan’ tag on something, the perception is that differences have been worked out, and there’s a broad agreement that that’s the way forward.”
Republican senator George Voinovich revealed the McConnell strategy: “If he [Obama] was for it, we had to be against it. He [McConnell] wanted everyone to hold the fort. All he cared about was making sure Obama could never have a clean victory.”
Longtime senator and new VP Joe Biden consulted some of his former colleagues, people he had worked with across the aisle for years, and described what he was told. “I spoke to seven different Republican Senators, who said, `Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything,’ The way it was characterized to me was: `For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back.’”
We all lived through what happened. Use of the filibuster skyrocketed to historic proportions. The Republicans blocked everything, or tried to. The Democrats theoretically controlled Congress for those first two years, but in reality they only had 60 votes in the Senate for about 5 months (and without 60 votes, the Republicans could successfully filibuster legislation). Then in 2010 they lost the House and more Senate seats.
Although we faced a recession that was quickly steamrolling toward becoming a depression, the Republicans blocked everything, or tried to. President Obama managed to pass a small stimulus, which the Republicans now consistently lie about, telling us that it didn't create jobs. Well, that's another lie, since it did. Courtesy again of Steve Benen and Maddowblog, two instructive graphs:
In an extensively researched new book called The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era, Michael Grunwald explains that the stimulus saved or created about 2.5 million jobs, calling it "one of the most important and least understood pieces of legislation in modern history. The much-mocked Failed-Stimulus was actually a remarkable success."
Nobody thinks the American jobs picture is rosy. It's not where anybody wants it to be. But the fact is that Republicans in Congress blocked jobs bill after jobs bill. They--out of pure political calculation--kept unemployment high. Joblessness is devastating to individuals, their families, and their communities. Poverty destroys nations. And the Republicans in Congress did this to us, on purpose, in hopes of ensuring that President Obama would not win re-election.
And Mitt Romney assures us that "Americans always come together after elections."
Not this time, folks.
They've kept people poor, kept people hungry, because they want to win. Period. Full stop.
And now--big surprise--they're lying about it. Starting with the presidential candidate and working down.
They're lying about his record, his accomplishments, his plans. Why? A couple of reasons. They're lying about the economy because their programs would take us right back to the programs in place when everything went bad. Tax cuts for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street are the main reasons for the crash, and they want to return to that.
And they're lying because it works. Recent polls have shown that there's not much difference in public opinion between support for the Obama Medicare plan and support for the RomneyMedicare plan--people just don't think they're that different. The truth, of course, is that the Obama plan protects Medicare and the Romney plan turns it into a coupon program, in which seniors will be given a voucher for a certain amount of money and told to go buy whatever insurance they feel is right. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman says, "So Vouchercare would mean higher costs and lower benefits for seniors. Over time, the Republican plan wouldn't just end Medicare as we know it, it would kill the thing Medicare is supposed to provide: universal access to essential care. Seniors who couldn't afford to top up their vouchers with a lot of additional money would just be out of luck."
But people don't see that, because the Romney/Ryan folks have been lying so consistently for so long that they have begun to believe the lies.
Romney and his campaign are continuing to push the long-discredited welfare lie, which now features in more of their TV and online ads than any other topic. According to a TV advertising stratetgist for the campaign, “Our most effective ad is our welfare ad. It’s new information.”
New, because until a few weeks ago, they hadn't invented it. Now they have made it up and started spouting off about it. But making something up doesn't make it true.
A few weeks ago, Romney said this: “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.”
But now the campaign is saying they don't care if they're lying, and they don't care who calls them on it. Their pollster, Neil Newhouse, explains, "Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers."
So when fact checkers support their arguments, they're for 'em. But when fact checkers call out their lies, they're nonsense.
We're approaching two very dangerous corners with this stuff.
The first is that the Romney campaign, and the Republican party in general, are running on the basis of having obstructed the president's proposals and then claiming that the president's ideas have failed. The truth is that they haven't failed yet--if you want to see what a failed recovery looks like, look at Greece and Spain and Ireland and other European countries that have tried the austerity measures the Romney/Ryan plans call for, all of which are sliding into a second recession. But the president's plans have not been given a chance to succeed. Do we really want a system of government in which the party out of power does nothing but block the party in power, so that the government will change hands at the next election? That's a roadmap to long-term gridlock. That's how to get such a thoroughly dysfunctional government that there will no longer be any governing done, and America itself will fail.
And the second corner is the truth. If we reward the Romney campaign for its utter dishonesty--if we elect the guy who will say anything at all to get elected, without caring if there's a whit of truth in his words, then we are paving the way for ever more dishonest campaigns.
Truth should matter. Good governance should matter.
If they don't, then America's ideals don't matter much anymore.
These are not corners I want us to turn.