Romney gives “half a peace sign to fact-checking”

Is the Jeep ad – at last! – a lie too far?

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.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

15 thoughts on “Romney gives “half a peace sign to fact-checking””

    1. Tough question. Perhaps there’s a worry that, since all pols spin, the accusation will be flung back at the accuser and at least a little of it will stick — accusers know that the press won’t assess the relative veracity of the various lies.

      There’s also the memory of Bob Dole’s bad publicity when he told George Bush to “stop lying about my record.” Somehow, the charge of lying makes the accuser look like he can’t take the heat or play the game.

    2. The media are afraid to use the “L” word, because if the liar should win election, they will be shut out of all the right parties and lose access to the good unnamed senior officials.

  1. Governor Romney wanted to let Detroit go bankrupt (his editorial, not mine).

    Mr Romney wanted to let home foreclosures hit bottom (his words, not mine).

    He says we can’t afford FEMA and we should turn it over to the states. (his words, not mine)……..

    The Governor is a very dangerous man. Certainly the wrong type of leader for these precarious times.

  2. From a Bloomberg article on 10/22/12: Fiat SpA (F), majority owner of Chrysler Group LLC, plans to return Jeep output to China and may eventually make all of its models in that country, according to the head of both automakers’ operations in the region. Romney is telling the truth.

    1. From the same Bloomberg article: “Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Manley referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.”

      Jeep wants to create new markets in China and is looking at building plants there to serve that market.

      Romney lied–and so did you.

    2. You are either a total idiot or, like Romney, well versed in the art of propaganda which is if you keep repeating total lies it has an impact, given that many individuals are ill-informed

  3. Usually, the word “liar” is forbidden in referring to posters or other commenters, as part of RBC’s “play nice” rules. But in this case, in the spirit of the post, I’m going to let it stand as a mere statement of fact.

    As far as I know, this is the first comment by andybinga. If it’s also his last, that would be just fine with me.

  4. That short-lived little blip of backbone and honesty from journalists when Romney was clearly on the ropes is a hugely important news and history story.

  5. I think the Norm Coleman thing on Roe is a new frontier in dishonesty for Team Red, which is really saying something.

  6. Funny, we wonder why the press won’t call out liars as such, and then the host says that we’re not allowed to either.

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