Is the Romney ad about making Jeeps in China – at long last – a lie too far? Maybe.
From the very beginning of the campaign, I’ve thought that the key strategic question was whether the press would object strenuously enough to Romney’s mendacity to convert it from a winning strategy to a losing one.
Up until now, despite a few flashes of hope, Mitt Romney has largely gotten away with his “all lies, all the time” campaign. The press mostly treats his false claims as on a par with true claims that refute them, on a “he said – she said” basis. (While he looked like a loser, some of them had started to pile on, with lying one of the issues, but Denver stopped that cold; the rules don’t allow personal denigration of someone who might be a winner.)
That acceptance of frank lying constitutes a very bad development in American civic life. But, as my father used to say, you can only stretch a rubber band so far.
Romney made a false claim, based on tweets from a badly written news story, that Chrysler (now a unit of Fiat) was planning to move Jeep production to China. In fact, Chrysler plans to re-start producing Jeeps in China for the Chinese market. Instead of backing off, Romney weaselled and doubled down: he has an ad running in Ohio charging that Obama sold Chrysler to “Italians” who plan to build Jeeps in China.
That’s literally true, but deliberately crafted to invoke the original false claim. The Romney campaign continues to run the deceptive ad. So far, even the most hackish parts of the Fox media/Red blogosphere haven’t tried to defend the claim other than by saying that Obama sometimes applies a little bit of spin to the facts. So he does. But there’s a difference between “spin” and “torque.”
Now comes Joe Gandelman, the paladin of moderation, who is usually decisive only about being undecided. And he is not a happy camper. No siree:
One of the most surprising — and to many of us who are political junkies and/or who worked or work in the news media shocking — features of the 2012 campaign has been the extent to which not only doesn’t accuracy not matter any more in politics but the way Mitt Romney’s campaign gives a half a peace sign to fact-checking. This isn’t just the usual fudging of facts, or the kind of rascally behavior that elicits those smug, amused looks from the political pros on the Sunday shows. This is something deeper.
You’ve almost wondered when the Romney campaign could cross a line and if any line exists.
It turns out it may have and a line does seemingly exist. It was over an ad that made a patently false, not true and I never use the word but I will: lying…assertion, about Jeep exporting jobs to China.
This isn’t a small matter for Americans of both parties or no party. A kid can’t be raised properly without knowing about boundaries and consequences, and for the sake of future American campaigns there have to be some boundaries and consequences in an issue such as this.
Note the key move: Gandelman treats lying as a moral issue, a character issue, not just a story about campaign tactics. He understands the connection Orwell drew between systematic mendacity and tyranny: “Freedom is the right to say that two plus two equals four.”