The Creepy Small Lies of the Romney Campaign

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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?

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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