By Robert Reich
This post originally ran on Robert Reich’s Web page, www.robertreich.org.
Over the weekend, Romney debuted an ad in Ohio showing cars being crushed as a narrator says Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.”
In fact, Chrysler is retaining and expanding its Jeep production in North America, including in Ohio. Its profits have enabled it to separately consider expanding into China, the world’s largest auto market.
Responding to the ad, Chrysler emphasized in a blog post that it has “no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China.”
“They are inviting a false inference,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on political advertising.
This is only the most recent in a stream of lies from Romney. Remember his contention that the President planned to “rob” Medicare of $716 billion when in fact the money would come from reduced payments to providers who were overcharging — thereby extending the life of Medicare? (Ryan’s plan includes the same $716 billion of savings but gets it from turning Medicare into a voucher and shifting rising health-care costs on to seniors.)
Remember Romney’s claim that Obama removed the work requirement from the welfare law, when in fact Obama merely allowed governors to fashion harder or broader work requirements?
Recall Romney’s assertion that he is not planning to give the rich a tax cut of almost $5 trillion, when in fact that’s exactly what his budget plan does? Or that his budget will reduce the long-term budget deficit, when in fact his numbers don’t add up?
And so on. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” says Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster. It is not even being dictated by facts.
There are two lessons here. First, lies financed by deep pockets are hard to refute, but they must be refuted. Otherwise, there is no accountability in our democracy. So far, the American media have not adequately refuted Romney’s lies. They seem to believe that dissembling is permissible, or that pointing out this extraordinary lying machine is itself an act of partisanship.
Second, anyone who tells or countenances such lies cannot be trusted to hold the highest office in our land, because he has no compunctions about feeding false information to the public. In recent memory we’ve had a president who told us there were “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, when in fact there were none. We dare not risk another George W. Bush.
Robert B. Reich, chancellor’s professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, was secretary of labor in the Clinton administration. Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including the best-sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest, “Beyond Outrage,” is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.