‘Practical politics’ of Romney/Ryan campaign unfettered by facts

“The whole aim of practical politics” said H.L. Mencken, “is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

With a cynicism that only Mencken could appreciate, the Romney/Ryan campaign appears to have decided to base its entire campaign on such imagined hobgoblins.

Putting the worst spin possible on the other party’s achievements — even when this involves shading the truth — is a long-established political tradition. But the Romney/Ryan campaign has set a new low for truth in campaign claims.

Familiar Romney charges that have been found to be misleading or substantively untrue include the charge that Obama removed the work requirement from welfare, that Obama “stole” $716 billion from Medicare to support Obamacare and that the stimulus was a failure.

Despite the fact that independent sources, fact checkers, a host of journalists and even some Republicans have debunked all these allegations, they remain essential Romney talking points.

For example, Politifact said it has labeled the claim that Obama raided Medicare “mostly false” countless times, “still putting no halt to the attacks.”

But the real essence of the Romney/Ryan campaign became apparent in Vice President nominee Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech. So transparent was this tissue of misdirection that it left Matthew Dowd, a prominent Republican, complaining, “At some point, the truth should matter.”

Dowd, chief political advisor for Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Sunday, “Paul Ryan so stretched the truth, and I like Paul Ryan, I have a lot of great respect for Paul Ryan, but [what] he said about closing the GM plant, which closed before Barack Obama took president, [and] about the Simpson-Bowles bill which … he opposed, and then all of a sudden … faults Barack Obama for [it] … He was trying to convey that Barack Obama was responsible for the closing of that GM plant and that isn’t true.”

Both sides resort to these tactics, Dowd said, but he conceded Republicans were more likely than Democrats to fabricate charges.

Fox News contributor Sally Kohn characterized Ryan’s speech in three words: “dazzling, deceiving, distracting.”

The first of these categories recognizes Ryan’s skillful performance. His “primary job … was to introduce himself and make himself seem likeable, and he did that well,” Kohn said.

Under “distracting” Kohn listed many of the substantive issues facing the nation that Ryan did not mention because virtually his entire speech was spent distorting Obama’s record.

But it is the “deceiving” that made this speech so disturbing to Kohn. “To anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts,” she wrote, “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.”

Referring to the auto plant closing story that disturbed Dowd, the Huffington Post said, “It was just one of several striking and demonstrably misleading elements of Ryan’s much-anticipated acceptance speech. And it comes just days after Romney pollster Neil Newhouse warned, defending the campaign’s demonstrably false ads claiming Obama removed work requirements from welfare, ‘We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.’ ”

Romney/Ryan have dispensed with facts to pursue Mencken’s “imaginary hobgoblins,” seeking to instill the fear and insecurity they hope will bring them into power. Make the elderly fear losing Medicare, the worker fear the immigrant and the middle class fear the poor; then ride the wave of fear into power.

The decision facing voters in November should transcend party differences. It represents a choice between an actual record, with its real shortcomings and significant achievements, and a fantasy of dark and subversive forces undermining democracy.

Bill Grant lives in Grand Junction. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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Last evening, current Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick exposed Romney’s failed gubernatorial record.  Except for “RomneyCare” (which Mitt now disavows), Romney left a mess in Massachusetts akin to what George Bush bequeathed President Obama.  Consequently, Republicans cynically avoid and/or distort both his and the President’s actual record.  As Patrick observed, “Romney was all about getting the job, not doing it”. 

Romney has been running for President for six years, but was too arrogant or unpatriotic to close his offshore accounts and/or clean-up his tax returns for release—which Ann admits contain “ammunition” so damaging (felonies?, amnesty?) that he is compelled to forswear his own father’s exemplary precedent of releasing twelve years of prior returns. 

Romney has no military experience whatsoever, but parrots uninformed and provocative jingoistic rhetoric reminiscent of Bush-era “Neo-Cons”—who brought us the Iraq War, did more damage than Bin Laden, and now advise Romney-Ryan.

Romney also has no foreign policy experience – unless you count his two-year “mission” in France (of all places!), his four overseas accounts, the SLC Olympic Village, and/or his embarrassing trip to London, Israel, and Poland.

Just as Mitt Romney is unqualified to be President, Paul Ryan is even more unqualified—with even less foreign policy and/or military experience (consisting of voting to cut foreign aid and to invade Iraq).

While Romney’s spreadsheet approach to evaluating the U.S. auto industry as a potential Bain Capital investment led him to proclaim that it be allowed to go bankrupt, President Obama’s (and Bush’s) sounder judgment was to save it.

While Ryan (and intimidated Democrats) reflexively voted to give Bush-Cheney a “blank check” in Iraq, Senator Obama insisted that it was “the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time”. 

What more can we conscientiously ask and/or demand of President Obama – white skin?

Bill Hugenberg

As perhaps first noted by Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville in his classic “Democracy in America” (1840), but as political scientists often suggest, our version of democracy rests on the most improbable of unstated assumptions – that regardless of race, intelligence, education, material success, upbringing, and/or religious convictions, the conglomeration of our citizens’ votes will end up making the “right choice” in any given election. 

We make that entirely unrealistic assumption – not because we are convinced that it is true and/or or wholly reliable – but because we reject monarchy, oligarchy, plutocracy, theocracy, and all forms of totalitarianism, and conclude that history has produced no more fair and dependable way to make political decisions than “one (wo)man, one vote”.
Like some Founders before him, de Tocqueville predicted the consequences of extreme partisanship and feared that “the judgment of the wise would be subordinated to the prejudices of the ignorant”.  While our representative form of governance was intended to leaven extreme partisanship – by electing responsible citizens willing to compromise to advance the common good – that check-and-balance is broken.
As George Romney wrote Barry Goldwater in 1968:
Dogmatic ideological parties tend to splinter the political and social fabric of a nation, lead to governmental crises and deadlocks, and stymie the compromises so often necessary to preserve freedom and achieve progress.
Unfortunately, the GOP has fulfilled the prophecies of both de Tocqueville and Romney.
While (by definition) almost 50% of the electorate has below-average “IQ”, Democrats trust that the innate common sense of even “low information” voters can sift through the cacaphony of conflicting information, allow for “spin”, and distinguish truth from fiction. 
However, Republicans are spending millions to promulgate outright lies – repeated even though fact-checked and debunked – thereby subverting the entire electoral process.
De Tocqueville attributed the prosperity of America to the “superiority of its women”. 
We’ll see.
                Bill Hugenberg

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