Big Red Lies
Does democracy stand a chance against the Republican Party's dishonest strategy?
Published: September 12, 2012
Facts are stupid things."
Ronald Reagan misspoke, of course, when he said that at the 1988 Republican National Convention. He meant to quote John Adams' famous line, "Facts are stubborn things." And yet, over the past few years, the party that reveres St. Ronnie has morphed his slip of the tongue into a guiding principle: Facts can be stubborn all they want, but when they're inconvenient, they're free to be ignored, twisted and distorted, mangled and rejected – subservient to ideology.
Nowhere was that attitude more evident than in Tampa last month at the Republican National Convention, where Republicans turned lying into something of an art form. And then they bragged about it. "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers," Romney pollster Neil Newhouse recently told the press.
And so we'll have an election in which truth has no purchase, in which President Barack Obama's opponents will be free to say that he subverted welfare reform to give your tax dollars to lazy, shiftless types, and stole from old ladies on Medicare to give free birth control to college sluts.
The entire first night of the RNC was built on blatant mendaciousness – the "you didn't build that" rhetoric – based on the statement Obama made that all entrepreneurs have had taxpayer help somewhere along the line, either through the government-created Internet or government-constructed roads and bridges or government-paid teachers who educated them; in Romney's interpretation, this equated to saying, "Steve Jobs didn't build Apple." On the convention's second evening vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's jeremiad contained more whoppers than the neighborhood Burger King.
Ryan, for instance, blamed Obama for breaking a promise he never made to keep open a GM plant that closed before the president took office; faulted Obama for a credit downgrade that Standard & Poor's specifically blamed on Republicans' "political brinksmanship" over the debt ceiling in 2011; and accused Obama of "raiding" Medicare, which is untrue in itself, but is further confounded by the fact that the $716 billion in future cuts to which he's alluding are also in his own budget.
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