There’s nothing new about politicians making deceptive or downright false statements. And neither Democrats nor Republicans have a corner on deceit. But when those who traditionally go all out in support of one party or the other publish criticism of their own standard bearers, we’ve come a long way downward.
That happened in the wake of the Republican National Convention. Not once, but twice.
The Chicago Tribune, our family newspaper while I was growing up, rarely has a good word to say about a Democrat and has staunchly supported Republicans in every election within memory. Yet, Clarence Page, a member of the Tribune editorial board, took Republican campaign managers to task in a post-convention story titled “Team Romney’s War against Facts.”
The author said, “There’s no excuse for the fantasies repeated by myth-building politicians, like the evening’s star speaker, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, even after nonpartisan media fact checkers have found the statements to be untrue.
“For example, Romney grandly promised, ‘I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour.’ Ah there goes the ‘apology tour’ again. The line lives in Republican stump speeches, despite its winning ‘four Pinocchios’ months ago from the Washington Post’s fact checker Glenn Kessler, among others.
“In fact, the president has never apologized for anything on his foreign trips, although previous presidents have.”
Page also singled out a Republican ad concerning welfare as a particularly blatant lie:
“When the welfare ad, for example, says the Obama administration has ended the work requirement in the landmark 1996 welfare reform law, that’s simply false. The administration is offering states a chance to apply for more flexibility in determining their own work requirements, if they agree to actually raise the number of people they move from welfare to work.”
Fox News, perhaps the ultimate conservative medium, posted a column by Sally Kohn, a contributor and writer, which came down hard on Rep. Paul Ryan for statements in his speech accepting the vice-presidential nomination.
Kohn said, “To anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.
“The good news is that the Romney-Ryan campaign has likely created dozens of new jobs among the legions of additional fact checkers that media outlets are rushing to hire to sift through the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth. Said fact checkers have already condemned certain arguments that Ryan still irresponsibly repeated.”
The Fox writer then listed as examples four specific lies Ryan told to the cheering convention audience and millions of television viewers:
1. While Ryan tried to pin the downgrade of the United State’ credit rating on spending under President Obama, the credit rating actually was downgraded because Republicans threatened not to raise the debt ceiling.
2. While Ryan blamed President Obama for the shut down of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, the plant actually closed while George W. Bush was in office.
3. Though Ryan insisted that President Obama wants to give all the credit for private sector success to government that is not what the president said on the subject.
4. Though Ryan accused President Obama of taking $716 billion out of Medicare, the fact is that amount was savings in Medicare reimbursement rates, which should also save Medicare recipients some out-of-pocket costs.
Kohn concluded with a statement that any caring American would endorse:
“Elections should be about competing based on your record in the past and your vision for the future, not competing to see who can get away with the most lies and distortions without voters noticing or bothering to care. Both parties should hold themselves to that standard.”
This week the Democratic National Convention holds the spotlight. Will the speakers stick to facts, thus raising the bar for discourse during the balance of the campaign? Or will they try to better the GOP’s convention performances with a barrage of lies and distortions?
We’ll know when the fact checkers issue their analyses after the speechmaking is over.