So Mitt Romney runs a Pants-on-Fire campaign ad which splices President Obamaâ€™s three-year-old words to deceive voters. Romney campaign officials rather gleefully defended these dishonest ads. Barely a fortnight later, the plutocratic unsentimental venture capitalist Romney let slip, â€œI like to be able to fire people.â€ And both Democrats and opposing Republicans operatives were off to the races.
What Romney actually said was this:
â€œI want individuals to have their own insurance,â€ he said. â€œThat means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also means if you donâ€™t like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.â€
Much of the ensuing storm was disgraceful Pants-on-Fire campaign stuff. (See Aaron Carroll for a sensible response to the actual substance of Romneyâ€™s argument.) Yet Romneyâ€™s in no position to complain, having proved to be such a nasty and deceptive campaigner when this suits his purposes. Itâ€™s not just the specific dishonest campaign ads. Itâ€™s not just Romneyâ€™s specifically refuted, yet repeated, claims about jobs he created at Bain Capital. Itâ€™s also the repeated insinuation that President Obamaâ€™s been traveling the world apologizing for America. Itâ€™s the dog whistle suggestions that Barack Obama doesnâ€™t love or understand America.
So when Romney becomes the victim of a nasty cheap shot, itâ€™s hard to be sympathetic. As Shakespeare once put things: â€œWe but teach bloody instructions, which, being taught, return to plague the inventor.â€ Maybe this bad karma doesnâ€™t matter now, anyway, given Romneyâ€™s New Hampshire victory.
I feel sorrier for the voters. Americans deserve a political and media system that would do more to filter out misleading claims, and that would force candidates to display greater integrity and rigor in proposing how they would guide this nation during very tough times.