Romney’s profound sleaze

Lower than Nixon?

Tom Edsall has a nice, reflective piece on the decline in political morality. (I might have included the breach of long-standing procedural norms in the Congress, but Edsall had quite enough material just sticking to campaign tactics.)

The piece uses the Romney campaign’s astounding level of rhetorical dishonesty – doctoring a quote to make it appear that Obama was saying what in fact he was merely quoting a McCain op as saying – and their willingness to defend outright lying as normal politics, as a news hook on which to hang the larger argument. But that part of the story is worth pondering in its own right.  Do you want, as President, someone who, as a candidate, believed that outright lying is just business as usual?  Neither do I.

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:

11 thoughts on “Romney’s profound sleaze”

  1. I know that in politics, 10 years is a long time. I still find it remarkable that one could write an article about “increasing political sleaze” and leave out LBJ.

  2. Redwave, you might want to review your history and contrast any real lies you feel have issued forth from Obama versus the other jewels mentioned. Be honest with yourself, that would bring peace to many many Americans if they thought that all their fellow voters went in to vote based on a decision driven by actual facts.
    1. Is it demonstrably true that the economy was driven into the toilet by the Obama administration? No, no honest person with a fundamental understanding of consumer level economics and the history of our country the last ten years believes that.

    2. I don’t what else the anti Obma folks call lies I went to and their list of lies is a bunch incomprehensible sentence fragments with no attempt to state what the lie is or who said it. But you get my jist, if you won’t be honest to us at least be honest with yourself

  3. Ebenezer,

    Yes and yes–LBJ is my example because he’s innovative, not because he’s in any way unique.

  4. Edsall’s article is primarily about the institutional merger of lobbying and campaigning, which accompanied the rise of corporate money in politics over the last 30 years. He uses the ethics of the Romney ad as a frame, but it is not clear to what good or relevant effect, as far as his core thesis is concerned.

    Is it interesting that politicians lie? Really. Is it? Politifact has a couple of Barack Obama “lies” on its list of finalists for 2011 Lie of the Year. What are we to make of that? Is he especially dishonest? I don’t think he is.

    We ought to be worried about Edsall’s core thesis: the institutional merger of campaign consulting/management/messaging with corporate lobbying, which has accompanied the rise of corporate money in politics and the neoliberals in policymaking. A key implication, which Edsall misses, would seem to be that public opinion no longer matters to policy outcomes. The 1% run things. Your opinion doesn’t matter. My opinion doesn’t matter. The campaign ads are just for herding the sheep. Does the shepherd tell the sheep the truth?

    1. It’s worth looking at that list. The allegations of dishonesty against Obama are pretty weak tea:

      The Obama administration’s review of obsolete regulations was “unprecedented.” — President Barack Obama

      At worst, this is hyperbole.

      “I didn’t raise taxes once.” — President Barack Obama

      This is, it turns out, untrue. He has raised taxes on tobacco, on tanning salons, and – three years from now – has extended the Medicare portion of the payroll tax to higher earners. The vast majority of taxpayers (i.e. nonsmokers and nontanners making less than twice the median income) haven’t had their taxes raised, but a minority has indeed faced higher taxes, mostly on cigarettes. What Obama said was untrue – but he said it in response to a myth that he’s raised taxes on most Americans.

      Now look at the rest of the list; you’ve got one statement attributed to the noted political figure “facebook posts”, which in any case is more a matter of opinion and ideology than untruth; one attributed to the DCCC that happens to be true (about Republicans wanting to end the program we call “Medicare”), and some hyperbole from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. The other five are statements from major Republicans, including at least three major Republican Presidential contenders, and they are absolutely barefaced lies.

      Note the numbers there: because of their nature, Politifact was compelled to come with five liberal lies to balance five unambiguous Republican lies. They managed this by according attention to “facebook posts”, literally nutpicking the internet, by calling one truth a lie, by toppling in the direction of the fainting couch over two instances of hyperbole, and by nitpicking a statement Obama made in an interview once. The difference is pretty obvious.

  5. Do you want, as President, someone who, as a candidate, believed that outright lying is just business as usual? Neither do I.

    Neither do I. Too bad we’re never offered one who doesn’t.

  6. Isn’t this the whole point of the phrase ‘reality-based community’? Politicians of all stripes can be corrupt to varying degrees, but describing the current right-wing political ethos in the US as ‘sleazy’ or ‘dishonest’ doesn’t really do it justice – what we have is full-on doublethink. We’re talking about a movement that doesn’t just lie for tactical reasons, but is fundamentally inimical to rationality and free thought per se. Who’d have thought it would be the Republicans who brought Ingsoc to America?

  7. Do you want, as President, someone who, as a candidate, believed that outright lying is just business as usual? Neither do I.

    Neither apparently do the Republicans.
    Look at the polls: Even Gingrinch is now stealing Romney’s Christmas.
    Everyone + Everyone knows Mr. Romney is Zelig with nicer hair.
    Hair spray does not make a bowl a jello any firmer…
    Even Fox News holds him in contempt.

    If he were to lose the nomination and run again in 4 years, no one can guess what positions he might then hold.
    Which is all to suggest: Who in the hell wants to have a near beer with a this pin-up phony?
    Answer: No one + No one.

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