Mitt Romney vs Fact-Checkers: The Welfare Law Dispute

I’ve been amazed at the brazen lies the Romney campaign has trotted out on a daily basis. Every night when I sit down to watch some television and unwind, I find myself staring at the screen with my jaw literally dropped open. Twenty years ago (hell, ten years ago) a politician who stood up and just made up stuff about his opponent would have been laughed out of politics. Yet not only is it not hurting Mitt Romney, it seems to be serving him well. And they’re not backing down from any of it.

“Our most effective ad is our welfare ad,” a top television advertising strategist for Romney, Ashley O’Connor, said at a forum Tuesday hosted by ABCNews and Yahoo! News.

“We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” said Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster.

In short. They’re lying. You know they are. They know they are. And they don’t care. It’s serving them well, and they’re going to keep on doing it. They’re not even pretending this stuff is true. They don’t have to. It doesn’t have be true. All they need to do is plant that seed in the malleable brains of the millions of Americans who won’t do anything as germane as check a few facts, so these ideas become reality in the minds of millions of uninformed, misinformed and generally clueless voters.

The biggest lie among them is that President Obama is gutting Medicare. A half dozen fact-checking organizations and websites have refuted Romney’s claims that Obama removed the work requirement from the welfare law and will cut Medicare benefits by $216 billion. Last Sunday’s New York Times even reported on its front page that Mitt Romney has been “falsely charging” President Obama with removing the work requirement. Those are strong words from the venerable Times. Yet Romney is still making the false charge. Yet the ads continue to be aired.

Former United States Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, asks a pertinent question. How can Romney’s ads remain effective when they’ve been so overwhelmingly discredited by the media? According to Reich;

The answer is the Republican Party has developed three means of bypassing the mainstream media and its fact-checkers.

The first is by repeating big lies so often in TV spots – financed by a mountain of campaign money – that the public can no longer recall (if it ever knew) that the mainstream media and its fact-checkers have found them to be lies.

The second is by discrediting the mainstream media – asserting it’s run by “liberal elites” that can’t be trusted to tell the truth. “I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans,” Newt Gingrich charged at a Republican debate last January, in what’s become a standard GOP attack line.

The third is by using its own misinformation outlets – led by Fox NewsRush Limbaugh and his yell-radio imitators, book publisher Regnery, and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, along with a right-wing blogosphere – to spread the lies, or at least spread doubt about what’s true.

Together, these three mechanisms are creating a parallel Republican universe of Orwellian dimension – where anything can be asserted, where pollsters and political advisers are free to create whatever concoction of lies will help elect their candidate, and where “fact-checkers” are as irrelevant and intrusive as is the truth.

The simple reality is that Democracy cannot survive in such a corrupted environment. When facts and reality mean nothing in a presidential campaign, what does that say about the potential disaster that awaits us if the party that is pushing bald-faced lies winds up in control of the Executive Branch and seats a demagogue in the White House?

The Romney campaign has decided it won’t be dictated by fact-checkers. But a society without trusted arbiters of what is true and what is false is vulnerable to every lie imaginable. The Romney campaign, and by extension the Republican party itself (by parroting Romney’s position), have reduced fact-checkers to partisan hacks by inferring that anyone who contradicts their narrative with inconvenient facts and reality are nothing more than opponents with an agenda.

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