The Creepy Small Lies of the Romney Campaign

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

President Obama has gotten at least a little bit of friendly fire from supporters who say that, although Republicans are taking his words wildly out of context, he’s a pro and he needs to be a little more careful not to give them ammunition. But does it matter? David Weigel points to the latest bit of over-the-top mendacity from the Romney campaign, this supposed quote from Obama:

Just like we’ve tried their plan, we tried our plan — and it worked. That’s the difference. That’s the choice in this election. That’s why I’m running for a second term.

The problem with Obama’s claim, of course, is that “our plan” isn’t working all that well at the moment, as Jim Geraghty gleefully points out here. Except that it turns out Obama was talking about tax rates during the Clinton era vs. tax rates in the Bush era. And on that score, there’s a pretty good case to be made that, in fact, the economy did a whole lot better with “our” tax rates than with theirs.

But look: there’s nothing Obama could have done to avoid this. If Republicans are willing to just flat-out lie about what he said, it’s impossible to self-edit your remarks enough to avoid it. We’ve now seen the Romney campaign make hay out of three wild misquotations: 

  • “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose,” which turned out to be Obama in 2008 quoting John McCain. “What’s sauce for the goose is now sauce for the gander,” Romney said in his defense.
  • “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that,” a statement that quite obviously referred to the “roads and bridge” of the previous sentence. This one is so bad that supporters have taken to splicing it together with an earlier part of Obama’s speech and simply removing the “roads and bridges” reference entirely.
  • “We tried our plan — and it worked.”

As Weigel says, “At this point, getting video clips of Obama from Republican campaigns is like getting an article pitch from Jayson Blair. It might tell a good story, but you need to run down the source and triple-check.”

I know I keep asking this, but has any previous campaign ever done this on such a routine basis? I don’t mean to suggest that no campaign has ever been as nasty. Obviously Willie Horton and “creating the internet” and the Swiftboating of 2004 were worse. And both sides traffic in distortions and cherry picking all the time. But there’s something about the methodical small lies of the Romney campaign that seems quite new. And frankly, just plain creepy.

And you can add to that the fact that virtually no one on the conservative side of the aisle has pushed back against this. Among Democrats there would always be at least a modest faction of fainthearted folks who would insist that we shouldn’t descend to this level. But have any Republicans reproached Romney for these obvious lies? Or are they all like Geraghty, eager to jump in with both feet no matter what Romney says?

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate