What Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan say on the stump with complete conviction and sincerity is, in reality, a gumbo of stock phrases laced with shameless prevarications and falsehoods.
Both can look an audience or an interviewer dead-on and nimbly craft an audacious lie, their mien so serious, their certitude so unequivocal that they are rarely challenged.
And when confronted, Neil Newhouse, the Romney campaign pollster, during a breakfast discussion at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, said, "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers. The campaign stands by its ads." In other words, they're entitled to their own facts and sophistry. No corrections will be offered. Just rinse and repeat.
Early last spring, the Romney campaign constructed the first of what has been an egregious lineup of distorted ads. Romney had been highlighting the nation's rising unemployment numbers, a litany of foreclosures and, of course, the national debt. His ad showed footage of Obama, speaking to a large audience, saying, "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose."
Our economic recovery is under way, but it is glacial. For many it's in irons. But the ad clip used came from a speech Obama delivered in 2008 and he was quoting his opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who said, "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose." So much for context and accuracy. Obama was photoshopped, so to speak, and Romney and cohorts knew then as they know now: The ad is a lie.
Consider Romney-Ryan insisting, with an earnestness that is breathtaking, that President Obama has robbed Medicare of $716 billion over 10 years in order to fund the Affordable Care Act. Both insist that Medicare will, therefore, be diminished. It's a lie in a different font. Truth: Rules were changed regarding Medicare providers, not recipients, and Medicare will remain solvent until at least 2024.
The Romney campaign asserted in an ad, and on the stump, that Obama gutted the welfare-to-work program, disabling the work aspect of the equation. It's a lie. But this accusation does something profoundly insidious: It blows what is commonly known as the dog whistle of racism, suggesting that those who receive welfare are minorities, especially blacks, when in fact the majority are white. And consider that we have been in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Millions have been and are out of work. And the only thing separating them from falling off a financial and emotional cliff has been the safety net of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and unemployment insurance. To raise the specter of welfare as a handout and not a hand up is craven, for any decent person understands that most Americans would gladly work if work could be found. The safety net is not a hammock.
By now you have likely heard the Republican refrain, taken from an Obama speech and twisted, "We built it!" What Obama was pointing out in a campaign speech was a profound truth: While individual initiative is vital to any entrepreneurial startup endeavor, it succeeds in a context of the common good. Roads and levees, bridges and parks, libraries and water treatment plants, public schools and police stations and firehouses are not built by large or small businesses. They exist because it is what we do together. When Obama said, "You didn't build that "…" he was reminding us of the common good, not denigrating the efforts of individuals to pursue their dreams.
And there was that moment when, on his home turf in Michigan, Romney exclaimed, "No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised." When asked about the comment later, he disingenuously insisted it was simply a joke.
Implicit in that comment was the attempt to continue the manifestly fraudulent tale by conservative fabulists that Obama is not one of us, not an American, and represents the foreign and the strange. He is the "other." Some 30 percent of Republicans still believe he is a Muslim.
Tangentially, in the recently released movie "2016: Obama's America," the lie of the "other" is amplified. The film creates a narrative of half-truths and outright distortions that reinforce an enduring conservative-tea party subtext that Obama is a Kenya-born, anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist (whatever that means) socialist and ultimately against all that America represents in the world.
It is not coincidental that this bespoke documentary mirrors those, like Romney, who fly the birther flag and are willing to say and do anything to regain the White House. In the words of Mitch McConnell: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Whatever it takes.
Chris Honoré lives in Ashland.