Leading with Lies: Romney Marketing Debate Misstatements as Positive Policy

The key misstatements Romney is turning into campaign criticisms:

Today, Glen Kessler of the Washington Post, tracks campaign ads that reproduced Romney’s debate misstatements.

He writes: “When readers ask whether we get annoyed that politicians often ignore fact-checking criticism, our answer is always the same: We write for voters, not politicians. Politicians are not going to change their behavior unless voters begin to make choices based on adherence to the truth.

But this is an interesting case in which Mitt Romney has taken two moments from the third presidential debate — both of which were faulted by fact checkers — and turned them into television ads.

In both cases, Romney also misspoke, making his statements even less accurate. The campaign commercial for the “apology tour” selectively snips out Romney’s errors, but apparently it was impossible to clean up Romney’s error on the size of the Navy.” (see the videos on his blog)

For those that don’t like to click through, the core of the fact check is this: “we question why Romney would continue to seize on such a strange factoid — and the campaign would feature it in an ad — especially after we gave the claim Three Pinocchios, PolitiFact called it “Pants on Fire” and FactCheck.Org said it was “not true.” Romney would have been more accurate to have said “the size of the Navy has remained static for more than decade while the threats and responsibilities have grown.” The reference to 1917 [statistics for navy ships as we entered World War I] is simply straining.

The ad also asserts that Obama defense cuts total $1 trillion. As we have noted before, this includes some $500 billion in automatic defense cuts that were the product of a bipartisan agreement —neither party wants those to take place.”

Why persist in repeating mistakes? When do mistakes become lies?

Clay Bennett cartoon

Once something is fact-checked (in a bi-partisan way, no less!), repeating a misspoken date or statistic immediately becomes a lie. It’s so strange that Romney is leading with lies now — and it only contributes to my confusion about his leadership potential. The stakes are so high. As followers, we need leaders who will name what is actually historically true, and describe programs and policies accurately so we can actually judge their merit instead of descending into fear.

It seems Romney’s speaking to voters who still question Obama’s authenticity as a US citizen and other fearful lies. People may not like Obama’s increasingly pop-culture approach, invoking Romnesia and being a little snarky about ancient and modern warfare. Admittedly, his debate comments and the way he’s milking that phrase for all he’s worth is an unexpected strategy given his general character and dignity.

Lies are more condescending than buzzwords…

But if the President is occasionally condescending about Romney, Romney’s being condescending to the voters by repeating his proven misstatements as if they’re true. This is more than spin — it’s just insulting. He doesn’t even say, “What I meant to say is….” He just quotes himself saying something that’s not true and cuts his clumsy phrasing to make it seem more true. Which it will never be, no matter what he says or how many times he repeats it.

A skillful leader would abandon the faulty statistics and claim the message, summarizing the heart of the message with real facts and figures, if they exist to support it. With every lie, he’s essentially demonstrating that he’ll say anything to justify himself. If he’s made a mistake, he’ll make it again, with conviction.

That’s not leadership, and it’s not spin. It’s a sure sign Romney’s “out of ideas and excuses.” Oh, wait, that’s what he says is OBAMA’s problem, according to the Romney website. Fascinating…

Fact-checkers have found a few things to correct in Obama’s speeches, too. But Obama doesn’t repeat them as if they were gospel. Obama’s calling attention to Romney’s budget calculations and policy structure. And to Romnesia, which is as much a critique of character as a buzzword.

Let’s just call Romney’s campaign strategy what it is — leading with lies. Not a good way to begin anything, much less a run for Commander in Chief.

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